Judge Postpones Start of Construction to Expand Sunshine Canyon Dump

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A judge Friday temporarily halted the beginning of construction on the expansion of Sunshine Canyon Landfill into 200 acres of Los Angeles County-controlled land above Granada Hills.

Construction was set to start Monday--two weeks before a lawsuit opposing the dump expansion is scheduled to be heard.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sohigian issued a temporary restraining order halting the project at the request of the city of Los Angeles, which is suing Los Angeles County and Browning-Ferris Industries, the landfill's owner.

The order stops BFI from beginning grading, removal of an oak forest and other preparations needed to ready the hillside land for dumping trash.

Sohigian's ruling will likely delay BFI's plans to begin accepting trash at the site in January by at least several weeks.

The landfill property straddles the border between the city and unincorporated county territory. A week ago, the city permit allowing BFI to dump up to 4,500 tons of trash a day on its property expired. But earlier this year, county supervisors agreed to permit the use of 200 acres of hillside land in the county's jurisdiction for an expansion of the dump.

The city sued to stop the expansion, claiming that the environmental impact report on the project did not adequately address alternatives to the expansion or what effect the enlarged landfill would have on water quality in the area.

Sohigian's order halts work on the expansion until at least Oct. 16, when the lawsuit is scheduled to be heard.

This month, BFI obtained permits required to begin construction, and the company planned to start the project Monday, said Steven Weston, an attorney representing the county and BFI.

Deputy City Atty. Keith Pritsker said that after BFI informed the city of its plan he asked Sohigian for the restraining order, arguing that the scenic canyon could be irreversibly damaged if construction began and the city was eventually successful in its lawsuit.

Weston unsuccessfully argued that construction should be allowed to proceed because the county is facing a serious crisis in landfill space.

He said the 4,000 tons of trash a day that had been dumped on the city side of the landfill until Saturday are being taken to three other already overburdened landfills.

However, Pritsker said that city studies conclude that the shortage of landfill space is not as extreme as BFI claims.

"We've got maybe four or five years to work out the rough edges and look at the environmental issues," he said. Mary Edwards, a Granada Hills resident and member of the North Valley Coalition, which has opposed the landfill expansion, praised the judge's order. She said that if construction was allowed to begin there would be less public resistance to the expansion.

"The judge needed to do this," she said. "They were going to take out the trees even before the case was going to court. They are trying to destroy the beauty of the canyon so no one will mind that they start filling it up with trash."

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