It's a question that has mortified City Hall like a recurring tumor for decades: Just what exactly is going on in the abandoned Mission Bay Landfill, which for the better part of the 1950s served as the defense-industry's dump site for millions of gallons of toxic substances?
San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye says it's time 'once and for all' to find out.
The road Frye has embarked on-to determine if the 50-year-old waste site is indeed leaking northerly into tourist-mecca Mission Bay, the San Diego River to the south and even portions of the Sea World leasehold just east-is well-traveled and littered with reams of studies past.
Chris Gonaver, point man in the city's Environmental Services Department, welcomes folks to come by and check out the landfill-related paperwork he's accumulated to date. Advice: Better bring a Power Bar or two and a six-pack of Jolt.
'The stack is about six feet high, unfortunately,' he warned.
Clearly, Frye won't succeed alone. Last Friday, she kicked off the debate with her newly formed Mission Bay Landfill Oversight Committee, a rag-tag band of geologists, armchair scientists, eco-activists, water-quality wonks and boating interests. About the only faction not represented at the inaugural gathering were the dumpers themselves. Smirked the city's Gonaver: 'We're looking at other people to invite to the party.'
Of course, those companies-including Ryan Aeronautics (now part of Teledyne Ryan), Rohr Industries, Solar and the long-defunct Convair division of General Dynamics-might eventually find their asses in court over any potential clean-up measures.
Frye would not rule out pursuing future legal action by the city to remedy what ails an unsightly area that embarrassingly is considered the gateway to San Diego's top aquatic recreational destination. 'We would absolutely have that option,' she said.
For the moment, one company that won't play a role in divining the landfill's present threat to the area and the people who inhabit it is EMCON/OWT, a New Jersey-based firm that has been monitoring Mission Bay Landfill for the city since 1995. Activists, hinting at possible improprieties, note that EMCON has never found evidence of toxic leakage that it couldn't blame on laboratory errors.
'We need to have someone outside of what is going on for an independent study,' said Frank Gormlie, committee member and chairman of the Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization, which staged a gas-masked rally at the site in April.
Because of EMCON's ouster, it could be nearly a year before testing begins at the old dump. Frye gave committee members two weeks to submit their recommendations for moving forward. Stay tuned-and think twice before swimming there.
by John R. Lamb and John Hart
If you're a NIMBY in training and seeking inspiration, you might consider placing a call to the nervous folks in Allied Gardens, home to hundreds upon hundreds of people who don't want any part of San Diego's “City of Villages” approach to the update of its General Plan.
Having made futile presentations on two July occasions to a mob of hostile Allied Gardens dwellers, city planners on Aug. 15 asked the Planning Commissionto support removal of the middle-class community from the City of Villages project.
City of Villages, heavily supported by city Planning Director Gail Goldberg guides future urban growth by emphasizing mass transit between communities and denser neighborhood cores that focus on mixed-use development and encourage residents to walk from place to place. It's sometimes called “smart growth,” sometimes “new urbanism.”
Allied Gardens residents made it clear that they don't want apartments in their suburban single-family-home community-no way, no how. “I think they overreacted, but they certainly don't think they overreacted,” said Planning Department spokesman Lawrence McGwire “When you start putting communities on maps, people look at that and they think it's like a dartboard, and when they see themselves on that dartboard, they see a bull's-eye.”
A call to an Allied Gardens Community Council representative was not returned as of press time.
All the City of Villages map does, McGwire said, is identify sites within communities that might be right for smart growth. By removing Allied Gardens, he added, “we are recognizing that they are not interested in any way, shape or form in having the city work with them to identify potential sites for a village. We're better off focusing our energy on the communities and areas that are interested than fighting fights with people that absolutely do not want this.”
Approved by the Planning Commission last week, the City of Villages plan now heads to the City Council, which is sure to get an earful of opposition from many of the same people who argued against it at the Planning Commission meeting. Opponents say the plan stresses denser development before the infrastructure needed to accommodate it-namely, an adequate mass-transportation system-is in place.
The most poetic negative commentary so far came from Randy Berkman of the River Valley Preservation Project, who laid this gem, among other rhymes, on the Planning Commissioners: “If we build it, they will come-how can smart growth be so dumb.”
City planners have been working overtime trying to convince people that “density” is not a four-letter word. by David Rolland