State Finalizes Toxic Cleanup Plan for Space Bank Development, Councilmembers Cry Foul

Published : Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 9:37 AM

Without fanfare, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control has, with a few adjustments, approved its previously proposed clean-up plan for the Space Bank Mini Storage parcel and two City Councilmembers are not pleased.

DTSC spokesman Russ Edmonson confirmed that the cleanup plan for the parcel at 3200 Foothill Boulevard, where a large mixed-use development is planned, has been finalized and approved.

Councilman Gene Masuda, in whose District 4 the project is sited, expressed disappointment.

“We rushed to get 13 questions in before the comment deadline and Councilman (Victor) Gordo and I feel they were not addressed by the state,” he told Pasadena Now.

The two Councilmen sent an Aug. 14 letter to Mayor Terry Tornek in which they took issue with what they called DTSC’s failure to address the City’s requests made during the public comment period and recommended by its consultant, Alta Environment.

Read the Letter to Mayor Tornek from Councilmembers Victor Gordo and Gene Masuda.

Click here


“[T]he DTSC failed to give meaningful responses to most of the City’s 13 requests for stronger analyses and public health protections in the [draft removal action plan],” the letter stated.

The Councilmembers’ missive highlighted three requests made by the City.

One was for analysis or testing on offsite vapor-intrusion from a large urgent-care facility adjacent to the site.

A second was for updated screening levels and cleanup goals that are more protective than the “outmoded, decades-old materials/tests used by the developer.”

The third was related to third-party oversight when DTSC fails to regulate properly.

Gordo and Masuda asked the Mayor that a discussion of the topic be placed on the City Council agenda. There is a 30-day window to file an action claiming DTSC reached an improper determination that the process won’t have a significant environmental impact.

“They [DTSC] waited until Aug. 6, when the council went on recess, knowing we only have 30 days to respond,” Gordo said in an interview. “And Pasadena should not allow that. Particularly when it comes to public safety and that development.”

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

Final approval of the draft Removal Action Workplan, with some adjustments, followed a public comment period that ran from March 8 to May 14.

The site, which abuts the 210 Freeway, has been occupied by the Space Bank Mini Storage Facility since 1978. Prior to that, it was owned by the U.S. Navy as the Naval Information Research Foundation Undersea Center, beginning in the late 1940?s.

The U.S. Navy vacated the site in 1974 and Space Bank moved in.

The project has been controversial from the outset because of its prior uses which include munitions research, light and heavy industrial processes.

In the political realm Masuda and Gordo have led the charge in opposition, expressing objections rooted in concerns for public health and safety.

In July 2018, a divided council approved the project despite overwhelming opposition from residents living in the area, with Gordo, Masuda and Councilman Tyron Hampton voting against.

In the civic realm, opposition was kindled through the efforts of Kristin Shrader-Frechette, a Pasadena resident and professor of biological science at Notre Dame University, who has criticized the remediation plan as insufficient.

Shrader-Frechette has asserted that not enough testing has been done at the site to properly assess the level of cleanup necessary. The strategy of targeting specific hotspots for cleanup, as opposed to a mitigation of the entire site, has also come in for criticism from her and others.

As a Navy research location, she asserted, projects conducted there may have been classified; that likely limits access to information on the use of hazardous substances at the site.

A group called Pasadena Citizens for Responsible Development has posted a petition on calling upon DTSC to require full testing and full cleanup before allowing construction to proceed.

In a mass email the group asked supporters to attend an Aug. 19 Pasadena City Council meeting: “We want you, your friends, your parents, kids, dogs, cats and everyone to join us in demanding that the City sue the State to demand a full cleanup before allowing the development to begin.”

There is no city council agenda for that date as of this writing so, presumably, those opposed to the cleanup plan, as currently constituted, would say so during the weekly public comment period.

DTSC said it received 50 comments from individuals which generated some 240-plus pages of response, all available on the department web site at:

In response to concerns about explosives and, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (RDX) not being sufficiently investigated, DTSC said the Navy’s use was primarily for research and development and that “there is no evidence that functional tests of weapon systems were conducted at the site.”

To comments that groundwater at the locale has not been adequately tested, DTSC said simply, “there is no data indicating groundwater at the site is contaminated or that the site is the source of groundwater contamination.”

Opponents often mention that two municipal wells within a mile’s distance have been shut down by the City but, DTSC said, those closures were for mechanical reasons.

The Department, as a result of the comments, did request additional sampling for RDX and 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT).

The proposed mixed-use project at Space Bank Mini Storage on East Foothill Boulevard would include 550 apartments, subterranean and above-ground parking structures, landscaping and nearly 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Sixty-nine of the units would be affordable housing. There would be 9,800 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Three of the buildings would be four stories, five would be five stories, and all would have a maximum height of 60 feet.

The project includes two acres of combined on-site recreational and open space with a public park, two courtyards, a dog park, a paseo, a fitness center, two clubhouses, and a retail court.

Housing units would be mixed on each level and would include 165 studio units, 165 one-bedroom units, 192 two-bedroom units, and 28 three-bedroom units. Sixty-nine of the units would be affordable, 23 would be moderate income, and 26 would be very low income.

Pasadena Gateway must now do the additional required sample testing and obtain further permits before implementation of the Removal Action Plan.

Masuda said he’d like to see the City Council have a discussion that yields an institutional response to the state’s decision. “We want it clear and we want the clean up done right,” he said.

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