An advertising agency that wants to build a $15-million office complex in Venice has hired a public relations firm to go door-to-door to keep residents and merchants informed of cleanup effort at a coal tar dump that are delaying the project.
The agency, Chiat-Day Inc., wants to avoid a lengthy hearing scheduled by the state Department of Health Services.
"We are undertaking the community relations campaign, which we feel will be more effective than a public hearing," said Steve Hunt, vice president of Chiat-Day.
The agency contends that the hearing, which could take up to 90 days, would delay construction of the building until December, during the rainy season. "Once the rains start, it's going to be a mess," said Jay Chiat, chairman of the agency.
The agency's proposal to build a three-story, 75,000-square-foot complex at 340 Main St., was suspended in March when workers discovered the foul-smelling, contaminated soil. The contamination was a result of dumping by a gas manufacturing plant 70 years ago.
In July, county and state health officials stopped excavation after workers in nearby buildings complained that fumes were causing nausea and headaches.
Southern California Edison has assumed responsibility for the cleanup because the gas plant was its subsidiary.
The site will be covered with dirt until tests of the soil have been taken by an independent laboratory and a public hearing held on the test results and cleanup plans.
Chiat-Day is asking the county and state health departments to forgo the lengthy hearing and let it inform the public about the cleanup.
State health officials said they are considering Chiat-Day's request to waive the hearing but will not make a decision until all soil tests have been taken. The results of the tests will be known next week, a county health official said.
Concern for Health
"Our main concern is the health of the public," said Jim Smith, program manager for the toxic-substance control division of the state health services.
"The law does not require a public hearing," Smith said, adding that the residents and workers in the area need to be informed of potential health hazards.
Ad agency spokesmen said Chiat-Day is trying to hasten the cleanup so it can move its office to Venice. The agency has headquarters in the Biltmore hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
"We would like to develop on the site because most of our people live in the area," Chiat said.