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We Get Letters: Still Against Space Bank

Published on Monday, November 22, 2021 | 10:18 am

In September 2021, nearly 800 Pasadena residents wrote City Council, asking it to reconsider its 2018 split vote that will allow the wealthiest US commercial developer to build 550 apartments on the Space Bank toxic site, but without cleaning up contaminants from testing and manufacturing US Navy weapons.  Residents asked Council to reconsider because in 2018, the developer misled Council by promising full “removal of existing onsite contaminants.” However, we now know that, instead, the developer will leave carcinogens onsite at levels hundreds of thousands of times above what is allowed and merely monitor residents’ exposure to them.  Why?  The developer says cleanup would be “costly.”   Why is the City Council letting the developer get away with misrepresenting site remediation?  Why is it allowing the developer to put Pasadena lives at risk? Below is the letter that many Pasadena citizens sent to their Mayor and Council. –Christina Li, Pasadena Resident

 September 1, 2021

Dear Council Members Tyron Hampton, John J. Kennedy, Steve Madison, Gene Masuda, Jess Rivas, Felicia Williams, Andy Wilson, and Mayor Victor Gordo, 

Toxins at 3200 East Foothill Boulevard are up to a million times higher than allowed by California environmental protection laws. They can cause cancer, birth defects, and damage to the brain, kidneys, multiple other organs, and are especially harmful to children. California regulators called the site “an imminent and substantial” danger. 

Medical scientists throughout the country who are familiar with this case have agreed through their declaration of January 16, 2020 that “The only way to guarantee full public-health protection, especially protection of children from solvents like TCE, is to require full site testing and cleanup before any construction can begin on the former US Naval Ordinance Test Station, Pasadena, California.” 

More than 2,000 residents hope that Pasadena City Council will join us in voicing opposition to allowing such a reprehensible development to come to fruition based on the travesty of Trammel Crow’s claims and the refusal of the DTSC to enforce California’s environmental protection laws. Our position is that we support affordable housing but not toxic housing. 

The fundamental problem is that Trammell Crow is claiming to do full cleanup, but its own scientific documents show the opposite. They claim that because full cleanup “would be a costly and time-intensive process,” none of the roughly 35 site carcinogens would be cleaned up to the highest state standard.

The fact that the state regulator, Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), is not willing to protect Pasadena’s residents is nothing new. California’s environmental protection laws are among the strictest in the country, but its enforcement policies are among the weakest. In short, their regulatory program is inadequate and unresponsive. 

Although Pasadena’s toxic-site problem is fixable, Trammell Crow apparently does not want to spend the money to emend their original plans. Even though it is the largest commercial developer in the country, with $65 billion in assets, it remains unwilling to upgrade its plans for soil and water detoxification. If Trammell Crow is so confident about the quality of its proposed cleanup, why did it require DTSC to remove its liability for site toxins before pursuing the development? If Trammell Crow needs liability protection because of contamination, don’t prospective site residents, site employees, and the city deserve the same? 

In closing, we ask that City Council – 

1) withdraw its July 2018 approval of the Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment (SCEA) and Removal Action Workplan (RAW), which is an appendix to the SCEA 

2) re-assert its authority over the SCEA and RAW, and 

3) require city re-approval of a new SCEA and RAW, after the City Council and city residents have a chance to review the site testing plans for TNT, RDX, and PFAS, and after the City Council and city residents have a chance to review the site cleanup plans for three classes of chemicals, because current cleanup plans are not adequate for these new toxins.

Christina Li is a Pasadena resident living in District 2.

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