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Convenience Won This Round

Given the not-in-my-backyard culture of Los Angeles, you would think Granada Hills residents’ efforts to stop the expansion of the nearby Sunshine Canyon garbage dump would attract widespread sympathy.

But the response from city councilors who don’t represent the San Fernando Valley and from just about everybody who doesn’t live in Granada Hills has been a shrug or the reminder that our garbage has to go somewhere. Think of it as NIMBY in reverse, a your-backyard-not-mine reflex.

The Los Angeles City Council last week approved a major expansion of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill by a 9-5 vote. That was closer than previous votes only because City Councilman Hal Bernson, who represents Granada Hills, was able to convince four other Valley council members that their backyards are at least close to his.

Browning-Ferris Industries, which runs the landfill, is said to have state-of-the-art equipment, and the landfill must comply with federal, state and county regulations, as well as with more than 250 new conditions imposed by the City Council. But a dump is a dump.

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Even aside from health concerns and fear of soil or water contamination is the reality of dust and odors, of countless plastic grocery bags snagged in trees and shrubs. Living next door to a landfill is, inarguably, a nuisance.

That is one reality. The political reality is that it is less trouble to keep a landfill already in place operating (and expanding), even with neighborhood opposition, than it would be to fight the battle to open a new landfill, starting from scratch.

And maybe Granada Hills residents get a shrug because, after all, the dump has been there a long time, in one form or another--longer than many of the houses. Why, if they’re complaining, did they choose to move there?

For the same reason, of course, that Los Angeles keeps generating more garbage--because more people keep coming here. That, and the belief that, having closed down once, the dump would not open again.

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We are not sold on the idea of shipping our garbage elsewhere, especially to desert areas that are too readily seen as wastelands already. But we are also not convinced that landfills and housing can continue to coexist in ever-more-crowded Los Angeles.

In the end, the best solution is to look at such conundrums from a regional rather than a not-in-my-neighborhood (but yours is fine) perspective. Unfortunately, the City Council, though it delayed the vote once, passed up the opportunity to make a convincing case that expanding Sunshine Canyon is the best solution, not just the most convenient.

Such issues as garbage disposal should be looked at from a regional perspective.


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