City Goes on Record with Recommendations for Toxic Site Cleanup, Project Opponents Disappointed

Two outspoken Councilmembers who oppose the state’s draft remediation plan say the City’s comment letter “doesn’t go far enough.”

Published : Monday, May 13, 2019 | 5:29 AM

[Updated] Pasadena’s City Council is set to vote tonight on its recommendations to the state for cleaning up the toxic East Pasadena site proposed for a mixed-use development, just ahead of Tuesday’s extended comments deadline.

Two outspoken opponents, City Councilmembers Victor Gordo and Gene Masuda, said the City’s comment letter “is a good start, but doesn’t go far enough.”

The development is planned for 3200 East Foothill Boulevard, currently the site of a Spacebank Mini-Storage facility but over previous decades the location of U.S. Navy weapons testing.

Testing has indicated the presence of toxins at the site. The controversy centers around which toxins should be tested for, and how — even if — those toxins can be adequately removed before housing can be built.

Decisions about how the site will be remediated fall under the purview of California’s Department of Toxic Substance Control, known as the DTSC.

Residents and City Councilmembers opposing the DTSC’s earlier draft remediation plan have raised a crescendo of objections over recent weeks as the DTSC draws closer to its final deliberations on how to handle the cleanup..


Read the full text of proposed City of Pasadena comment letter to State of California about toxins testing at site of proposed mixed-use development


Gordo told Pasadena Now Friday, “The City of Pasadena must listen to the residents and demand full soil assessment, full remediation and ensure that the (water) table is not negatively affected by toxins. And all of this must occur pre-construction, not post construction.”

Reached Sunday, Masuda said he would like to see “full testing and a full cleanup of the toxic material before the start of any construction. This way we do not put the residents at risk. The focus should be safety first. “

“Complete testing of groundwater should be made on this site as well,” said Masuda.

The DTSC’s Draft Removal Action Workplan proposes excavation and offsite disposal of all soil impacted by metals, polycyclic aromatic compounds, petroleum hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds.

The final work plan cannot be completed until the DTSC’s public comment period ends on May 14.

The draft workplan, prepared by Ninyo and Moore Geotechnical and Environmental Consultants, said that soil and soil vapor confirmation sampling is proposed, to assess the effectiveness of the planned soil removal.

“To the extent practicable, soil removal activities will continue until cleanup goals are met,” said the draft plan.

“If the cleanup goals for metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are not achieved,” said the draft plan, “a slurry cap will be installed at the bottom of the excavation. If the results of confirmation soil vapor sampling indicate residual vapor barriers and venting systems, vapor mitigation will be installed beneath all slab-on grade residential structures.”

City Manager Steve Mermell’s official Pasadena comment letter said that the City generally concurs with the state’s draft plan but wants several additional issues addressed by the developer.

One is that the remediation plan investigate to determine if munitions chemicals RDX and TNT are present at the site.

The City also requested “clarification” of the TPH mitigation measures.

In the event that a slurry cap of vapor mitigation system is utilized on the site, the City is requesting that a land use covenant be required for the property.

Brad Cox, Senior Managing Director of Trammell Crow Company, told Pasadena Now in an e-mail Friday that the company “supported an open and transparent process and welcomed the City’s hiring of its own independent expert to carefully review the cleanup plan for the property and provide advice to the City.”

“It has always been our goal,” Cox continued, “to ensure the final outcome of the cleanup results in a property that is safe for the individuals and families living in the multi-family community and the neighbors in East Pasadena.”

Cox said the company intends to clean up the site to “the highest standard for residential use as recommended by DTSC in their final cleanup plan after their complete review of the residents’ comments and the City’s recommendations.”

“We believe that the City’s requests result in additional information that will help the City and public better understand the extent of the cleanup plan and its numerous safeguards to protect the community and future residents.”

Meanwhile, a local group called Stop Toxic Housing in Pasadena said in a press release Friday, that “For scientific reasons, we want full pre-construction site testing/cleanup, before any teardown/excavation/ development of the site.”

The group also claimed that “land-use law (vesting doctrine) says that the developer’s beginning work on the site gives the developer partial property rights to the land. These partial property rights then allow the developer to successfully sue the city for millions of dollars, and to charge that any additional testing, cleanup, or more protective building requirements, interfere with the developer’s property rights.”

Stop Toxic Housing in Pasadena also demanded “full citizen oversight of this project,” and claimed that “The mayor and city council have approved and promoted this project, partly on grounds on increased tax revenue, and hence have a conflict of interest in choosing who does project oversight. Taxpayers should choose who they want to protect them.”

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