Council Puts Off Vote on Landfill to Feb. 10

Times Staff Writer

After 90 minutes of sometimes testy debate, the Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to schedule its vote on the Sunshine Canyon Landfill contract extension for Feb. 10.

The 8-4 vote was a victory for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who a day earlier had persuaded the landfill’s operator, Browning-Ferris Industries, to push back its deadline for the city to agree to the five-year extension.

The original deadline was July 1.

The significance of the new date is that it will be easier for Villaraigosa to secure the eight votes he needs to extend the contract. All 13 current members have time to make sure they are at the meeting, and one of two vacant seats could be filled by then.


Eight council members have said they would vote for the extension, given that the city has no alternative disposal plan. But it’s still possible one or more could have a change of heart.

In a statement, Villaraigosa said, “One thing is clear: We all share the same goal of getting Los Angeles out of the urban landfill business and out of Sunshine Canyon. Making that shared goal a reality and finding truly viable alternatives to Sunshine Canyon is the challenge.”

Also, the council voted 12 to 0 on Tuesday to begin talks with other firms about the city’s trash, which could include recycling and composting programs and hauling trash to more distant landfills.

Councilman Greig Smith, who represents Granada Hills, was against setting the vote for February. But he later said that the delay could work in his favor if alternatives to Sunshine Canyon could be secured in the next few months.

The trash discussion led to an unusually heated exchange.

Councilman Ed Reyes argued that the discussion was a tale of two cities -- that is, “environmental justice” for Granada Hills, where Sunshine Canyon sits, shouldn’t come at the expense of his northeast Los Angeles district, which Reyes said had its own environmental and planning problems.

“We shouldn’t have your city dumping on our city,” Smith responded as a clearly agitated Reyes paced near his chair.


Meanwhile, Councilwoman Janice Hahn defended her no vote, which some on the council said was a way to kick the shins of Villaraigosa, who defeated her brother in the mayor’s race.

She said she voted against the contract because the city had done too little in recent years to divert trash from landfills.

“Sometimes,” she said, “it takes a crisis in this city to cause our bureaucrats to wake up and smell the trash.”