Angry Residents: Testing Not Enough at Space Bank Development Site

Published : Monday, April 8, 2019 | 7:08 PM

District 4 Councilmember Gene Masuda (at left) and District 5 Councilmember Victor Gordo shown as they made statements about the Spacebank development project during Pasadena City Council meeting on Monday, April 8, 2019. Images courtesy KPAS

Angry Pasadena residents called on the City Council on Monday to bring the Space Bank development project back to that body after two councilmembers declared they could no longer proclaim the project safe.

District 5 Councilmember Victor Gordo and District 4 Councilmember Gene Masuda, where the project is located, made statements before public comment. City Attorney Michele Bagneris put a stop to Gordo’s comments before they created a substantive discussion. The Ralph M. Brown Act which regulates open meetings in the state prevents councilmembers from deliberating matters not on the agenda.

“Not one member of this council contemplated that this would be an unsafe project,” Gordo said. “I firmly believed when council acted to approve the project we would have a safe site and we don’t have that information.”

“Our council has a responsibility to the safety of the residents and to make sure the residents concerns are addressed,” said Masuda.

The planned site for the four-to-five-story, mixed-use development is located at 3202 East Foothill Blvd. The site is currently occupied by the Space Bank Mini Storage facility.

At a meeting nearly 100 constituents on March 29, Masuda asked the Department of Toxic Substances Control to extend the public comment to July 8, but instead only received a 20-day extension to April 28.

Local residents claim the DTSC is only doing partial testing and is not testing for cancer-causing toxins.

The site housed a furniture company in the 1920s. It was later purchased by Caltech, which used it for research into jet propulsion in the 1930s and maintained it during World War II. The Navy purchased the property from Caltech in 1945 and used it for classified projects and torpedo testing during the Cold War. The research center consisted of approximately 60 buildings which included testing laboratories, machine shops, a foundry, and storage buildings, including one for classified materials.

In July a divided council approved the project despite overwhelmingly opposition from residents living in the area with
Councilmembers Victor Gordo, Tyron Hampton and Gene Masuda voting against the project.

“I have a personal interest here as a member of PCC Board of Trustees. We put the PCC Education Center right across the street from that site,” said Jeanette Mann.

Mann said that at that point it was not known that the site was contaminated.

Mann said it was outageous to build at the site. There must be a complete cleanup and it must be done by an independent agent, Mann said.

Gordo and Masuda called for the issue to placed on the City Council agenda next week, but Tornek could not take up the item due to the possible Brown Act violation.

Tornek committed to write a letter to the DTSC and investigate the matter.

“I think its well known the DTSC is a lapdog to the developers,” said local Gary Smith. “To let them do the stuff they plan of doing to the city is obscene.”