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Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 - 8:45am
Today we're honored to share this in-depth look at Chiquita Landfill in the perspective of the nation's largest landfills, from Val Verde resident Sara Sage. -MD
Photo taken by Val Verde resident during a tour of Chiquita Canyon Landfill. 
Reproduced with permission from Erica Larsen-Dockray ©2014
For over a decade, Apex Landfill in Las Vegas and Puente Hills Landfill in Southern California were back-and-forth contenders for the title of ‘Nation’s Largest Landfill.’ At some point, Puente Hills was recognized as the largest. Operated by Los Angeles County, Puente Hills became a reliable repository for much of Los Angeles’ refuse, accepting a motley category of unwanted items such as outdated couches, empty hair-coloring bottles, construction debris, shredded automobiles and expired cheese. Puente Hills’ management asserted that they adhered to their “Good Neighbor Policy” and that they were “helping neighbors, and the environment in tons of ways.” Outside of the hackneyed, groan-worthy pun, their motto seems trite, if only for the scope of the project. Residents near the Nation’s largest landfill regularly complained of odors, traffic, noise and negative environmental, health and economic effects while it was open. They were mostly ignored.
“Puente Hills Landfill,” by Britta Gustafson, © Licensed under Creative Commons, Wikipedia.
On October 31, 2013, the Puente Hills Landfill closed for good. A couple of years before its agreed-upon closing date, the San Gabriel Valley of Governments petitioned to keep it open for another 10 years. Communities nearby fought hard and eventually won. Despite their victory, residents near Puente Hills will continue to deal with issues such as fugitive gases and other health and environmental issues for decades and generations to follow. In fact, closed landfills still carry significant risks of spontaneous explosion and unhealthful, carcinogenic gasses.
With the landfill’s closing, it is likely that the County is looking for another Puente Hills within its boundaries and is eyeing Chiquita Canyon Landfill for that purpose. It is not widely known that many projects such as the LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study, the Boyle Heights Mixed-Use Community Project, and the 100 West Walnut Project in Pasadena (City of Pasadena, “100 West Walnut Planned Development: Environmental Impact Analysis,” SCH No. 2013071018, Page IV.L.3-8, June 2014) cite that their waste needs could be accommodated by Chiquita Canyon Landfill’s pending expansion in their planning documents. Newhall Ranch’s Landmark Village relies on Chiquita’s remaining capacity and refers to the planned Chiquita Canyon Master Plan Revision in a footnote in 2011. Since many County projects have moved forward based on the assumption that Chiquita Canyon Landfill will succeed in obtaining an expansion permit, in effect, it seems that a decision has already been made – and without the bother of the CEQA/EIR process, or a hearing with the Board of Supervisors.
Another conflict in this permitting practice is that homes in the Newhall Ranch project will be built right up against the landfill, closer than any home in Val Verde. The expansion could provide a way for those homes to be built – and paradoxically endanger the people who will reside there.
So what happens statistically if you live near a landfill? Well, the results from multiple peer-reviewed studies are worrisome, indicating increased risks of decreased immune system function, asthma, leukemia, liver cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer and birth defects. Despite health complaints by Val Verdeans and not a single air quality monitor in the town of Val Verde, residents are dismissed and lectured frequently. We are aggressively invited to tour Chiquita so that we can witness first-hand the Disneyland-of-All-Landfills over the hill.
In practice, people have little to no recourse to mitigate health concerns after a landfill is permitted and approved per County, State and Federal law. It is even harder to impose regulations on Chiquita, since it is owned by a publically-traded corporate entity and not by the County. The company does not provide an air monitoring program to the town of Val Verde, nor is it required to per County regulations. Many people ask why Val Verde does not use the mitigation money to pay for an off-site air quality monitoring program; the fact is that the mitigation contract with Chiquita Canyon bars the town from using the money for any purpose that is potentially damaging to the landfill.
According to the current Conditional Use Permit at Chiquita, the small community of Val Verde could potentially host 1.56 million tons of trash per year. With increased waste comes increased risk. Ideally, there should be stringent and fair policies to alleviate the effects of living near landfills, especially when we impose massive financial, safety and health risks on nearby residents. Is it possible for a municipality to effectively deal with its waste while aggressively protecting the well-being of all of its citizens?
Some countries such as Sweden and Austria send a miniscule percentage of their refuse to landfills: 1% and < 1%, respectively. Compare that to the United States where we send 69% of our total waste to landfills, well above the EU average of 38%. I will spare readers a speech about what we all can do to help. We all know how we can reduce waste and our impact on the environment – but we don’t. At least not enough.
When you ask communities to support and host landfills, you are not only asking them to bear the consequential risks of accepting waste that they did not generate, you are also asking them to accept the burden of bad policy. When residents complain loudly and municipalities run out of places to bury trash, it is time to reevaluate how we change our legacy of irresponsibility and our lack of problem solving.
Just South of the Newhall Pass is Sunshine Canyon Landfill, one of the largest in the State of California. Sunshine Canyon recites the good-neighbor rhetoric and even distributes a quarterly publication called Neighbor-to-Neighbor. Many years ago when the City of Santa Clarita was fighting a potential landfill in Elsmere Canyon, the City agreed that they had too many good neighbors. Many were concerned that Santa Clarita Valley would be known as “The Valley of the Dumps.” Today, the Santa Clarita Valley could be called, “The Valley Between the Dumps,” as it fills in the 10-mile space between the two of the State’s largest landfills.
Today, Apex Landfill in Las Vegas holds the title of the largest operating landfill in America. They accept waste at the rate of approximately 10,500 tons per day, a staggering amount. So, what is the scope of the expansion proposal for Chiquita Canyon? Chiquita Canyon Landfill proposes to expand their footprint by 40%, and most significantly, double daily tonnage to 12,000 tons per day – 1,500 tons more per-day than Apex Landfill accepts, the largest landfill in the nation.
Newhall Ranch is the largest-ever proposed development in the history of Los Angeles and it will sit on the lap of possibly the largest landfill in the country. By contrast, Apex Landfill is located in a remote, uninhabited area. In 1997, when Chiquita was granted their last expansion, the area was relatively rural. Today there are more neighborhoods, commercial and mixed-use buildings, including the popular K-12 charter school SCVi – which will be approximately one mile from the landfill if the expansion is approved. The landfill in Val Verde is rural no more.
We should question the wisdom of governmental policies and practices that readily mix heavy industry such as landfills with residential zoning. Home is supposed to be a place where we are safe and protected. Instead of discrediting the dissenting residents who live near landfills, value their insight and use it to improve industry and to reexamine governmental policies. Spare them the good-neighbor rhetoric and speak to them with concern and respect. Most importantly, make sure that the well-being of citizens is a priority above the financial interests of big business as we build the largest landfills in America.

Posted by Mike Devlin   |   1 Comment »
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Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 - 8:30am
  • A Library for Saugus: The city is hosting a public meeting at the Newhall library tonight on the topic of a new library branch for Saugus. KHTS
  • Desperately Seeking a Trolley Pun: The city's folksy hometown trolley keeps rolling, with rider numbers up over last year. (Fun fact: I once spent several hours on that trolley for The Signal's holiday light tour. Those seats are not built for comfort over several hours.) City Briefs
  • Maybe He Did, Maybe He Didn't: 59 years ago today, James Dean had his last meal, apple pie and milk, at long-gone Tip's in the SCV. Or maybe he didn't. It's one of the SCV's enduring urban legends. One thing is true, on this day in 1955, Hollywood lost a young, talented actor with much promise. SCVHistory
  • Writer Feeling Blue After Rimes Concert: A writer for the Jewish Journal blogged that she was asked to leave the Leann Rimes concert at the COC arts center last weekend, with officials reportedly telling her she was a safety concern. Judging by her blog she's not particularly a fan (in a post earlier this year she referred to Rimes as "a stupid, spiteful, idiotic, whore"), so it's a bit unclear why she bought a ticket in the first place. KHTS
  • Doing Some Good: The Domestic Violence Center of SCV trained a new group of advocates and counselors over the weekend. The center will offer the training again in February, and aims to equip those who want to help domestic violence victims. KHTS
  • Let's Hope It Doesn't Get Worse: The state has exhausted its firefighting budget and is shifting funds around. Can we all hope to get through fall without a flare-up? The Signal
  • Symposium to Focus on Drug Abuse: Responding to a continued scourge of heroin, meth and prescription drug abuse in the SCV, Action Family Counseling is hosting a "Drugs Kill" symposium at COC this week. KHTS
  • Did He Call Himself a Lame Duck?: Soon-to-retire Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon agreed with John Boehner that Congressional votes on military action against ISIS should happen after the November elections. Newsmax
  • We Have a Problem: "The recent challenges of ISIS, immigration, the Ray Rice debacle, and a host of other problems have brought to light at least one common denominator. We are quietly becoming a nation where we don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to respond." David Hegg once again knocks it out of the park. The Signal

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Monday, September 29th, 2014 - 12:54pm
  • Obama's Pledge Detonates a Response: Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon has criticized the President's pledge to eliminate the use of landmines, which the outgoing congressman has called placing politics above military advice. KHTS
  • There's a New Chief of Chefs: The SCV Food Services Agency has hired a new CEO, the very Dickensian-named Lynelle Grumbles, to oversee the agency that prepares 11,500 lunches every day for our valley's students. The Signal
  • Still Serious: The two women struck by a car in Canyon Country while crossing the street last week remain in serious condition in the hospital. The Signal
  • Toyota Drivers Take Note: More than a half-million Toyota Tacomas have been recalled for suspension problems. Daily News
  • Don't Shed a Tear for the NSA: While the government spooks will certainly figure out new ways to do whatever they want, the iPhone 6 is complicating things when it comes to how data is stored. LA Register
  • The Man Has a Point: "Famine could end. Fresh water could become clean and more abundant. Deaths from cancer and heart disease and diabetes and obesity could be reduced. And zoonotic diseases could be largely reduced." Musician and longtime vegan Moby on the toll that animal agriculture is taking on our planet. HuffPo
  • Roundup Time: Luke and Lila team up to give the overview on what's on the November ballot. The Signal
  • Bringing People Together: Pretty cool little story on how SCVHistory brought together some long-lost siblings. SCVHistory
  • Don't Get Too Comfortable: You like this nice, mild fallish weather? Me too. It's not going to last. LA Times
  • When SCV Looks Like Somewhere Else: Nice piece on how much NCIS loves filming here in the SCV. The Signal
  • Endorsement Time: The Signal's editorial board comes out in favor of Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell, while steering clear of any critical commentary on retired Sheriff Lee Baca or candidate Paul Tanaka. The Signal

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Friday, September 26th, 2014 - 1:19pm
  • The Hart of the Matter: Rob Challnor announced he'd be retiring as Hart district superintendent at the end of the year, and the buzz today is around shadowy claims he's leaving within weeks, which the district is denying. Meanwhile, assistant super Vicki Engbrecht is being named as his replacement come Feb. 1. The Signal KHTS
  • Deputies Need Your Help: The Sheriff's Station is looking for the public's help in identifying several suspects in a recent cellphone store robbery. The Signal
  • Brown Signs Off: The Governor signed off on a bill by Sen. Fran Pavley aimed at capturing and using stormwater, which reportedly could be the equivalent of a year's supply of water for Los Angeles. The Signal
  • Cinnabar: Not as Delicious as it Sounds: Minerals make our technological world go 'round, and over the years we've mined some real toxic doozies. Gizmodo
  • No Elephants in the Room: Families take note, Circus Vargas is back in town this weekend. KHTS
  • No Dry Humor: "If it starts raining tomorrow, let me tell you, nothing's going to be done about the drought." In case you needed to be reminded of how bad the situation is in California. LA Times
  • Blow Your Mind: Meanwhile, if you need a reminder how amazing our universe can be, look at these. Big Picture
  • For Your Consideration: "In the 1960s, the typical corporate chieftain in the U.S. earned 20 times as much as the average employee. Today, depending on whose estimate you choose, he makes anywhere from 272 to 354 times as much." Sure to provoke much thought, and hopefully discussion. Or, you know, fiery internet comments. Slate
  • Time to Talk City Stuff: Tickets are on sale for the State of the City luncheon, coming up in a few weeks. SCVNews 
  • Don't Flush It: If you have old, expired medications sitting around, tomorrow is Take-Back Day, when you can drop off your meds at the Sheriff's Station instead of flushing them. SCV Beacon

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Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - 12:14pm
  • Lend a Hand: There's a fundraising campaign going on to help the family of the woman, married less than two weeks, who was struck by a car the other night and is still in critical condition. KHTS
  • Students Arrested on Child Porn Charges: As many are already aware, two local students were arrested in connection with the summer's "SCV Purge" that saw nude photos of local teens posted on Twitter. The Signal KHTS
  • The Job Report: With teachers, administrators and social workers back on the job, SClarita's jobless rate fell to 5.2 percent at the end of August, an improvement from 6.3 percent the previous year. SCVNews
  • Building for the Community: The City Council signed off on on purchasing about 6.5 acres of land to build a new Canyon Country community center. The Signal
  • The Drums of War: "Buck wished we’d worked out an alternate approach to withdrawing from that Pandora’s pressure cooker we’d opened. But Bush didn’t have a plan, and neither did Obama; and here we go now, marching off to war again." The ever-polarizing and insightful Gary Horton on the current mess in the MidEast. The Signal
  • Enduring the Meetings, So You Don't Have To: City Council meeting week means anonyblogger I Heart is back with another wrapup. I Heart SCV
  • What's in the Box?: Despite my neverending joke about how they're missing out by not having Box City as a sponsor, the Box City fundraiser this weekend is a really great program for raising awareness and lending some help. KHTS
  • Catch and Release Kill: Seal Beach has signed off on trapping and killing coyotes. Which brings up the question of how we're faring here in dorught-ridden coyote country. Last weekend my in-laws nearly lost one of their dogs to a coyote attack in the wee hours of the morning. Are there any other SCV horror stories out there? NBC

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Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - 8:15am
While we’ve been sleeping, Chiquita Canyon has been making every imaginable move to round up support for their proposed expansion to the once-sleepy landfill.
Reminiscent of the momentary philanthropy of Waste Management some years ago, their name is appearing as a lead sponsor for events all over town. Many of these organizations have repaid the gesture by supporting the dump expansion, even before the public comment period has closed and the environmental impact report is complete. When they're not donating to charity, they’re getting on the good side of politicians. Our city council, which is famous for fighting environmental hazards around the rim of the city has been nearly silent.
Of course, the residents of Val Verde have a very different view. Just recently, a community group of over 100 residents voted unanimously to oppose the expansion. 
Some methods have been more coercive. Last week, the Castaic Area Town Council, a Los Angeles County committee formed to advise the County Supervisors, approved a contract with the dump (on a 6-4 vote) that offered money for programs in Castaic (specifically excluding Val Verde) in exchange for the members’ active support of the expansion. But that’s not the worst part. The money goes away if anyone on the board joins in formal opposition to the expansion. Not just them, but their family members, too. This even applies to the 40% of the council (and their families) that voted against the contract. 
I couldn’t believe this when I heard it, but it’s true. They’re compelling publically-elected councilmembers to give up their First Amendment rights. Money quote (emphasis added):
In the event that the CATC, any officer, director, employee or agent of CATC, including any family members or co-habitants or any person or entity whose residence or business is located in the Castaic Area initiates any appeal of any Project approval, or joins in or supports in any way any appeal of Project approvals, including without limitation an appeal to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, or filing any administrative or judicial challenge to the Project or the EIR or any Project approvals including those required by the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"), this Agreement shall be voidable and of no further force and effect in CCL's sole discretion.
There’s probably a missing comma here, because this can also be read to apply to all Castiaic residents. Either way, the contract is signed. You can watch the video of the meeting here. The audio is rough (I listened with headphones) but it's worth it to see councilmember John Kunak take apart every point offered by Chiquita's lobbyist, John Musella. Kunak, an attorney, voted against the contract.
For a little more reading, see Perry Smith's piece from this weekend, and over at SCVNews, Darryl Manzer was been writing almost daily on the issue.
How Waste Connections Makes Connections
Earlier this year, Waste Connections (the dump's owner) gave $1,000 each to the campaigns of donations to both Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste. The landfill’s lobbyist/pr rep, John Musella, donated another $500. Musella and Chicquita executive Michael Dean were co-hosts of the infamous fundraiser at Wayne Crawford's house that was also co-hosted by digital billboard lobbyists Arthur Sohikian and Hunt Braly. 
Since 2012, Waste Connections and Musella has donated extensively to local elected officals. Some, like County Supervisors, will have a direct say on the dump’s fate. From the others, a little support (or just silence) can go a really long way . Here’s the breakdown:
Assemblyman Scott Wilk: $5,500
Supervisor Mike Antonovich: $3,500
Senator Steve Knight: $2,750
Mayor Laurne Weste: $1,500
Supervisor Hilda Solis: $1,500
Supervisor Don Knabe: $1,300
Councilmember Marsha McLean: $1,000

Conflict of interest on charter school board
Earlier this year, Musella joined the Governing Board of SCVi, a public K-12 charter school located just one mile from the expanded landfill. If that weren't enough, the agenda of the most recent governing board meeting (August 21) shows a discussion and action item related to the landfill expansion, with Musella listed as the presenting board member. I understand that Musella missed the meeting, so the item (minus the action item) appears on the agenda of the board’s meeting today at 4pm.
There is no mention of Musella’s connection with the landfill on his otherwise exhaustive bio on SCVi’s website. Complicating things further is that fellow SCVi board member Greg Kimura also serves on the Castaic Area Town Council. Kimura voted against the contract between Chiquita and the CATC, yet the contract says that Chiquita can pull of its funding for Castaic programs if any of its members participate in formal opposition to the expansion.
So to recap: in exchange for money, Chiquita has demanded that the Town Council actively support the dump expansion and it will pull its money if any member works against them. This is a huge problem when one such member is also a member of a governing board of a public school. This can’t be legal, can it?
SCVi is the school closest to the dump, and closer still if the expansion is approved. If anything, you’d expect the school to be a vocal opponent. But instead, it appears that the school might be considering supporting the expansion. It’s difficult to tell for sure, since their agendas have very little information. With one board member being paid to represent the interests of the dump, and another facing the pressure of the dump’s punitive contract with the CATC, you get the feeling that the deck is stacked. 
A public records request to SCVi sent earlier this week has gone unanswered. 

Posted by Mike Devlin   |   52 Comments »
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Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 - 8:45am
The OC Weekly brings the bad news: Porto's has chosen the location of their 4th bakery, and it isn't Santa Clarita.
In July, the company addressed misplaced rumors about an SCV location with a little tease.

Sadly, it wasn't to be. They've picked Buena Park instead:
The city has big expectations for the coup it scored including $15 million in annual sales. Porto's projects over 2 million visitors a year to its new location. Plans also include a late-night gelato and coffee shop. But forget about all that. The real excitement surrounds the potato balls, medianoche sandwiches, refugiados, and dulce de leche lattes to come!
Sorry, SCV. We did what we could.

Posted by Mike Devlin   |   3 Comments »
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  Recent Comments:
CastaicClay writes:
What about "New Condition #46" from page 12 of the 27 page pdf of the 1997 expansion approval,...
posted: ~ 45 mins ago.
Sheffs writes:
I am wondering why Vanessa's comments are still here under Vanessa Brookman, AngelBeautyQueen,...
posted: ~ 17 hrs. ago.
SantaClaritaDotCom writes:
Guys & Gals, Discuss the issues, stay away from personal attacks, or you'll get kicked off the...
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Greg Kimura writes:
Hi Erin, My comment to the article above are as a resident of Val Verde. I am not speaking for...
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Bonnie Nikolai writes:
I have indelible rights. The Bill of Rights states I have the right to LIFE, LIBERTY and the...
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vanessa writes:
It is not me....
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Mike writes:
What happened at the board meeting last week?...
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Greg Kimura writes:
I forgot one more fact. On September 11, 2014, the VVCA Landfill Committee held a meeting with...
posted: ~ 22 hrs. ago.
Greg Kimura writes:
I would like to post a few facts about the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. - Los Angeles County gave...
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Natalie Tate writes:
We will all have to wait and see if history repeats... I really like how this site lists some of...
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