A long-running political battle over trash in Los Angeles took a new turn Wednesday with the introduction of state legislation that would block county plans to resume dumping in the Santa Monica Mountains.
At the same time, Mayor Tom Bradley said the city will shelve plans for the controversial LANCER trash-to-energy disposal plant in South-Central Los Angeles if studies show the project poses health risks to the public. A city health study is due within two months.
"If those (studies) show it will be a danger to the people, it will not be built," Bradley said at a press conference on the lip of rugged Mission Canyon, one of three Santa Monica Mountain sites proposed by county officials for future trash dumps.
"LANCER is nowhere close to a final decision," Bradley said. "We've got to look at all kinds of options" for disposing of trash.
The mayor made it clear he would support legislation by Assemblyman Terry Friedman (D-Los Angeles) to protect the mountains even if LANCER is never constructed.
Friedman's bill, a new approach for preservationists, would create a state ban on trash-dumping within a 155,000-acre national recreation area encompassing rugged Mission, Rustic and Sullivan canyons. Friedman said he knows of no previous attempt to stop dumping by state legislation. In the past, he said, the battles have been fought on the local level.
No dumping has occurred within that park land since county officials closed partly filled Mission Canyon in 1982.
Friedman, hoping to thwart county plans to reopen and expand that landfill, unveiled his bill at a hillside press conference attended by Bradley, City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky and members of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Homeowners Assns. He then flew to Sacramento and formally introduced the measure.
But the bill drew sharp attacks from Los Angeles County supervisors who say the region faces a trash crisis by 1993, when nearly all existing landfills are due to close. County officials, who say existing landfills in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys have handled a disproportionate share of the region's trash, have cited the Santa Monica Mountains as a prime place to begin hauling trash.
The mountain canyons are considered large enough and near enough to Los Angeles to help accommodate the region's daily flow of trash--nearly 42,000 tons--without huge hauling costs, county officials say.
Supervisor Pete Schabarum, who has spearheaded efforts to place dump sites in the canyons, sees the bill as "political hypocrisy" aimed at exempting affluent mountain communities from accepting a fair share of the region's garbage, according to Schabarum deputy Mark Volmert.
"To throw it in somebody else's backyard is absolutely unacceptable and political hypocrisy," Volmert said.
Time for Change
The bill drew similar criticism from Los Angeles Councilman Ernani Bernardi, who represents northern portions of the San Fernando Valley. The Valley produces less than 50% of the city's trash but accepts more than 90% of the city's trash in landfills, Bernardi said. He said it is time for areas south of the mountains to accept some of the burden.
Friedman said his bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge), is intended to take the Santa Monica Mountains "off the table" as officials begin looking for new dump sites. Friedman conceded he has no immediate suggestions for dealing with the trash. But he defended the bill by saying the mountains provide recreation and scenic beauty for all of the 10 million residents who live--and produce trash--in the region.
To suggest a landfill in those mountains, Friedman said, is "like saying, 'There's lots of space in Yosemite Valley. Why don't we cart it up there?' "