State Refuses Mayor’s Request, Won’t Extend Public Comment Time on Cleanup of Contaminated Development Site Past Mid-May

City hires environmental consulting firm to analyze the proposed cleanup plan

Published : Monday, April 29, 2019 | 4:42 AM

The state’s Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) has refused a request by Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek to expand until July the review period on a work plan to remove toxic substances from the soil beneath a local storage facility that could be torn down to make way for a housing development project.

“DTSC has advised that while it will not extend the comment period as requested by the City, it will do so until May 14th,” according to a City document.

City Manager Steve Mermell is scheduled to provide the Council with an update at Monday night’s meeting.

A proposed mixed-use project at the site, located at 3200 E. Foothill Blvd., would include the construction of eight separate residential and mixed-use buildings, subterranean and above-ground parking structures, and landscaping. The proposed buildings would include a total of 550 apartment units and 9,800 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

The property is currently occupied by the Space Bank Mini Storage storage facility. In the 1920s the site housed a furniture company, and was later bought by Caltech, which used it for research into jet propulsion in the 1930s and maintained it during World War II.

The U.S. Navy purchased the property from Caltech in 1945 and used it for classified projects and torpedo testing during the Cold War.

A recent environmental assessment, and other on-site environmental tests, indicate the presence of “hazardous materials in the soil and soil vapor, and potentially in groundwater beneath the property.”

Critics of the project living nearby called on Tornek to place the project back on the Council agenda.

Those residents were joined by Councilmembers Victor Gordo and Gene Masuda, who represents the area where the project would be built, who also want the development to be reconsidered by the Council.

“… Although the developer promised the City repeatedly that he would do a “thorough and full cleanup of site contaminants” – where hundreds of families and children will live – the documents released last week by California Toxic Substance Control was never, and will never be, tested for RDX and TNT (explosives and propellants that are carcinogens and neurotoxins) which were used in 71% of weapons manufactured and tested onsite,” said opponent Dr. Kristin Shrader-Frechette, a Pasadena resident and an environmental professor at the University of Notre Dame.

The City has hired environmental consulting firm Alta Environmental to review the Draft Removal Action Workplan and provide comments to the DTSC by the May 14th deadline.

The consultant will review all publically available environmental studies of the project site.

The City will post the consultant’s report on its website.

“Although DTSC is the regulatory body that has the legal authority to determine and enforce the appropriate site clean-up, staff believes it is important to ensure the Removal Action Workplan be as accurate and comprehensive as possible to address community concerns and ensure that the health of those who will ultimately reside at this location be protected,” a City report states.