Published : Thursday, April 18, 2019 | 4:47 AM
[Updated] Two Pasadena City Councilmembers rejected reassurances by the developer of a former military weapons testing site in East Pasadena that his company can be trusted with the “thorough and safe cleanup” of contaminants, while a City spokesperson said Mayor Tornek mailed a letter last week to the state’s Toxic Substances Control agency asking for another 90 days to study “this critical remediation plan.”
Councilmembers Victor Gordo and Gene Masuda say the site at 3200 East Foothill Boulevard must be more fully tested for contaminants and that any partial testing or remediation is inadequate to protect the public.
Mayor Tornek, in an April 9 letter to the California Department of Toxic Substances, said “the City of Pasadena has serious concerns that the scope of the Draft RAW [Remedial Action Work Plan —Editor] is inadequate and will need to be expanded.”
Both Gordo and Masuda also say the development and its remediation plan, which seemed on track after the Council gave its initial approval in July 2018, now needs to come back to the full Council for a closer look.
The proposed 8-acre-plus housing development would build a four-to-five-story, 550-unit mixed-use development on the site of a former U.S. Navy missile and torpedo testing laboratory currently occupied by the Space Bank Mini Storage facility.
The large-scale project, which has been nearly thirteen years in development, would dramatically alter its Sierra Madre/Foothill Boulevard neighborhood.
Community opposition to what many believe is an inadequate and unsafe remediation plan for the site has crescendoed as the responsible state agency draws closer to issuing its final decision for the site’s cleanup.
On March 29, Gordo and Masuda joined about 100 concerned Pasadena residents at a Department of Toxic Substance Control meeting focusing on the planned cleanup process at the site.
“You have a responsibility to build trust here, not tear it down. This is a lasting decision with lasting consequences,” Gordo told Branch Chief Javier Hinojosa of the State Mitigation and Restoration Program and other department staffers at the meeting.
No representatives for the developer, the Trammel Crow Company, appeared at the state agency meeting.
But when the Pasadena City Council met last Monday, April 15, Brad Cox, the Senior Managing Director of High Street Residential, the residential subsidiary of Trammell Crow Company, was there to make a statement.
“We’ve turned former trash dumps, sand and gravel pits and numerous military sites into productive tax generating assets for the local communities,” Cox told Councilmembers during public comments. “We’re extremely proud of our track record in solving complex environmental issues on properties.”
Cox said Trammel Crow has already spent over $5 million on the 3200 Foothill property for environmental site testing, design and Environmental Impact Review documentation.
“We’ll be spending millions of dollars to clean the property up,” he said. “We have a long track record as a public company in maintaining the highest level of integrity and following through on our commitments.”
Cox also pointedly told the Council “that the site will be not be cleaned up without this project.”
Neither Masuda nor Gordo seemed impressed.
“Those comments by Brad Cox sounded like a selling job by a big corporation that is used to getting their way and he did not give me the impression that he cared about the people of the community,” Masuda reacted by email.
Masuda said he believes the City Council was misled “from the beginning” because the testing of the site is limited to hunting for contamination after 1974.
“A complete testing should be done for activities by JPL and the Navy prior to 1974,” he said. “A policy question for the City Council is whether there should be remediation for contamination as a separate action.”
“This toxic site deserves a full and complete EIR [Environmental Impact Report] and thorough soil testing and to remediate before allowing housing,” Masuda concluded.
Gordo said he was not swayed by the developer’s “bottom line.”
“I am swayed by the residents’ concern for their safety and the safety of their neighbors,” he said.
“It’s shameful that DTSC, a state department whose sole existence is to instill confidence that a site is safe to construct on and inhabit is tearing down the trust it supposed to instill by not giving the residents additional time to review the nearly 500-page document and provide feedback,” Gordo said.
“Why are they avoiding a full review of secret documents and why is DTSC not demanding a full testing and cleanup of this site?”