A gentle breeze often blows through Carson's Centerview neighborhood, ruffling the carefully landscaped shrubs, the pine needles and the fern tree leaves.
Residents know the breeze as a pleasant little zephyr that brings cooler temperatures from the ocean to the west.
The neighborhood also knows it as the wind that smells a lot. And residents shut their windows when it is particularly bad--even in the summer heat.
A possible explanation for the odors lies about a quarter mile to the west along Main Street and Broadway, dusty industrial streets that are a vivid contrast to the manicured lawns of Centerview. Warehousing operations are mixed with light manufacturing, and many firms in the area are users of chemicals.
Carson officials, who recently conducted a citywide survey of firms storing or using chemicals, learned that the area also has the city's highest concentration of hazardous materials, according to a report by community development director Patricia Nemeth.
Nemeth said officials do not know if the odors are caused by hazardous chemicals. She added that the finding underscores the importance of land-use planning as part of the control of hazardous substances.
Meredith Scurry, a 22-year resident of the 300 block of Centerview Drive, said she was not surprised to learn that nearby firms use hazardous substances.
"I'm sure it is hazardous with all the odors we get out here," she said.
Clyde McClay, who lives down the block, said he frequently smells chemical odors.
"Today it smelled like something was burning. They got a lot of industrial plants in the vicinity. We get this nice breeze and we get the other thing, that smell," said McClay, who also has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years.
"It is a foul smell. . . . We have to close up the windows."
The two neighbors are divided on whether a new state law requiring firms to disclose data about hazardous materials and come up with emergency plans is a good idea.
"I haven't made up my mind," said Scurry. "There are some things that are uncontrollable." She said she was afraid that attempts to control hazardous materials would end up costing jobs.
"Do you want to eat?" she asked.
But McClay thinks the law is a step in the right direction.
"We are all fighting for clean air," he said. "If we let the big companies slide by, we still haven't got clean air."
Jim McCartney, district manager for Vangas Inc., said he welcomes the new law. On the Vangas property on South Main Street are four high-pressure, 30,000-gallon tanks for storing liquid propane.
"Vangas, which is owned by Suburban Propane Gas Co. of New Jersey, are fanatics about safety," he said. He said out-of-town company officials, in addition to local fire safety officials, scrupulously inspect his operation.
"We are so regulated in this industry," he said. But he added that the law is needed because "you get these little operators. With them, it is very hairy. It is very dangerous."
Nemeth said the case of the Centerview neighborhood makes the point that control of hazardous substances should involve land-use planning as well as fire safety and public health considerations.
"Most jurisdictions have viewed this as a firefighters' or health agency bill," she said. "I think it is all that and then some. There are some land-use ramifications to this bill.
"On each property that has a concentration of (hazardous) materials, it can have ramifications on adjacent properties. We need to be looking at the long-term effect on growth and not just how quickly do the firefighters respond."
Knowing the distribution of hazardous materials will help the city in its land-use planning, she said.