County planning commissioners gave Chiquita Canyon Landfill a 30-year extension Wednesday, several hours after a public hearing.
The decision was made an hours-long meeting in which the Los Angeles County Planning Commission held a second public hearing on the issue. This time they held the meeting in downtown Los Angeles but live-streamed it for the public at the Stevenson Ranch Library.
At the end of the public hearing and after questions from commissioners to county staff, the commission approved Chiquita Canyon Landfill’s contract, authorizing them to operate for another 30 years.
John Musella, spokesperson for Chiquita, said the organization was pleased with the approval of the project.
Chiquita has valued working with community members in the past and hopes to reform a relationship with the community action committee in the future, he said.
“We hope that going forward, will be able to resume a cooperative relationship with that community group,” Musella said.
During the course of the hearing, community members were given two minutes each to speak, where 10 speakers in Stevenson Ranch and 15 in L.A. addressed the commissioners. Speakers were limited to those who did not speak at the first hearing on March 1.
Community member Deborah Myers expressed worry with the environmental impact of the landfill expansion.
“I urge you to follow California’s very strict environmental impact laws,” Myers said. “This is a grave concern to me. I believe that the expansion of this project is not environmentally safe.”
Five of the 25 speakers, however, were in favor of the landfill’s expansion, all of whom represented businesses or business organizations.
Santa Clarita Valley resident Louise Logan emphasized the financial gain for Chiquita.
“It is a corporation like any other,” Logan said. “Its goal is to make money.”
Holly Schroeder, the President and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corporation, said she thought the impact on businesses should be considered and said she supported the landfill.
“It seems to be a very well run, flagship facility,” she said.
On the other hand, one speaker cited flaws with the study done on Chiquita Landfill.
Katie Hill, candidate for Steve Knight’s (R-Palmdale) District 25 Congressional seat, spoke from the Los Angeles location. Hill, deputy CEO of nonprofit PATH, appealed to the commission from both a county and local perspective.
“I understand the challenges you all face in looking for regional solutions,” Hill said.
She then cited a letter from NYU and UCI professors to the Board of Supervisors expressing concern with the “flawed environmental analysis” done at the landfill.
“It should be a huge basis for your decision,” Hill said. “Val Verde will bear the brunt of others’ waste.”
Bryan Caforio, Knight’s opponent in the last election, attended the hearing at the Santa Clarita Valley location.
Community member Laurel Taylor said she believed keeping the landfill open was either incompetent or ambivalent.
“Nobody’s hands in this are clean,” she said.
Val Verde resident Amber Elton said when she moved to the area, she believed the landfill would be closed and expressed concern with the expansion at the risk of her family’s health.
“I feel like I have to choose between my health and my home,” Elton said. “My home is being taken from me. Not my house, my home.”
Erica Larsen said she was concerned that hydrogen sulfite was not mentioned in the environmental impact report and recommended that air monitors be put in Val Verde to evaluate the air quality.
“You do not have enough information in this environmental impact report to make an educated decision,” Larsen said. “You are not basing your decision on solid information.”
Valley resident Faye Snyder said she did not believe the discussion was fair.
“This is an appearance so we can look like we’ve done all the proper things,” Snyder said. “It’s archaic. It’s taxation without representation to put it mildly.”
After the public hearing, commissioners took several hours to ask county staff specific questions about the logistics and language of Chiquita’s request.
Among concerns were fees, times of day garbage trucks would be permitted to go to the landfill, how often the landfill would be evaluated, exceptions to tonnage limits for natural disaster clean up and reforming a community action committee.
Doug Smith, chair of the commission, also addressed concern that there was a promise made years ago that Chiquita would close after a certain amount of time.
The landfill’s contract did allow them to reapply, however, which is what the landfill company chose to do, he said.
Smith said he recognized the regional benefits of doubling the size of the landfill, but wanted to address community members’ concerns. He said he did not want locals to have to “take one for the team” on the matter.
“If this were to be approved, what is your commitment and strategy to meet the needs of those who expressed those concerns?” Smith said to a representative from Chiquita.
The Chiquita representative said he could not please everyone, but would take into consideration the grievances of community members.
Chairman Smith also said he wanted to ensure staff recommendations were based on fact and law, not opinion. Staff verified that it was.
Commissioners had not yet made a decision whether or not to approve Chiquita’s request by the end of the meeting.
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