State to Present Toxins Cleanup Plan for Site of Proposed 550-Apartment East Pasadena Development

Published : Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 5:19 AM

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will conduct a public meeting March 28 to discuss the draft plan for cleaning up toxins at the Space Bank Mini Storage property in East Pasadena., for which a mixed-use residential and retail development has been proposed.

In July, the City of Pasadena approved the project on a 5 to 3 vote. The large-scale project would dramatically alter its Sierra Madre/Foothill Boulevard neighborhood.

Pasadena Gateway, LLC, a division of Dallas-based Trammell Crow Company, is in the process of purchasing the site. According to DTSC spokeswoman Erglae Gomez, the developer is awaiting the property to be declared mitigated and compliant with state law.

The project would entail the demolition of 29 existing structures marking the site. The project would include 550 apartment units and 9,800 square feet of retail and restaurant space. A total of 839 car parking stalls would be situated in a two-level subterranean parking structure.

The draft Remedial Action Workplan for Space Bank Mini Storage is intended to bring the site into compliance with state law, according to Gomez. Space Bank will pay for the remediation.

Publisher’s Note: This article is the first in a series planned about this development. Next, a look at claims by local activists who say the site may never be sufficiently remediated.

The meeting provides a chance for the public to review and comment on the plan. The department will then consider the input, alter or not alter the mitigation program based on that input, and then approve its own plan, according to Gomez.

It is, of course, not necessarily going to unfold in such an orderly fashion as the state has one of the most powerful environmental laws nationally, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and a number of more novel acts such as requirements set out under its greenhouse gas emissions law, that provide openings for lawsuits.

The possibility of a legal hurdle emerging for the development is likely to be higher than for most devdelopments, given the site’s history of industrial pollution.

In a community update announcing the meeting the department noted that, “[N]umerous environmental assessments and investigations have been performed indicating that select areas of the site soil is impacted with hazardous chemicals related to past Navy activities.”

The site soil, the department said, will be remediated prior to the proposed development. That will be followed by further soil surveys and groundwater investigation. The goal is removal of the impacted soils and contaminated infrastructure to “levels that will be safe for residential development,” said DTSC.

The site is located at 3100-3202 East Foothill Blvd and is 9.15 acres in area. According to the department, between 1928 and 1943, it was first developed as a lumber mill, furniture factory, and finally homes, before Caltech purchased it for use in rocket and torpedo research.

In 1945, the property passed on to the Navy Information Research Foundation Undersea Center. According to DTSC, the facilities included mechanical and fabrication shops, an incinerator, carpentry and electrical shops, a paint shop, and foundry.

Additionally, a gasoline dispenser, paint and chemical storage facilities, and a vehicle maintenance shop also occupied the industrial landscape.

Space Bank LTD, a private storage company, purchased the property in 1974. In addition to storage compartments, the site currently hosts light industrial workshops and office space in the old Navy buildings.

According to DTSC, chemicals of concern found in concentrations above regulatory levels include: arsenic; lead; mercury; pyrene; volatile organic compounds (VOCs); and petroleum hydrocarbons. Most of the contamination from these substances is located in the storm drain system.

The remediation itself includes removal of, “approximately 1000 to 2000 feet of clay or concrete pipe from the storm drain system along with associated storm drain inlets, catch basins, seven stormwater seepage pits and four locations of elevated levels of either VOCs or petroleum hydrocarbons or metal contamination,” according to DTSC.

As responsible agency, DTSC, is also charged under CEQA with environmental analysis of the project itself, not just the site, to determine suitability and, it has, “conditionally determined that the proposed project will not result in significant and unavoidable effects to the environment,” according to the update.

The meeting is set for Thursday at Pasadena Community College Room #126 1st floor, 3035 East Foothill Boulevard, from 6:00 to 6:30. Comments can be e-mailed or fax and must be postmarked by April 8, to Nick Ta, project manager, 5796 Corporate Avenue, Cypress, CA 90630.