In a move that could make it more difficult for the BKK Corp. to build a hazardous waste treatment plant in Wilmington, a Los Angeles City Council committee last week called for an ordinance that would give the city greater control over construction of such facilities.
The proposed ordinance, requested by harbor-area Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, would require builders of new hazardous waste treatment and storage plants to receive a special permit from the city even if the site is zoned to allow such facilities.
No Review Required
Currently, no special city review is required if such facilities are built in areas zoned for heavy manufacturing, although all operators are required to get a permit from the state Department of Health Services.
Flores, who has opposed plans by BKK to build the treatment plant in an industrial area of southeast Wilmington because of the lack of city control over the operation, said the proposed ordinance was prompted by her inability to block city approval of the plant.
In 1984, the City Council indirectly approved the facility over Flores' objection when it vacated several unimproved city streets that BKK needed at the site. The proposed project would not have needed any city review if BKK had not asked for permission to build on the unused streets.
"We would like to have a thorough review that could block the (BKK) facility at that site, but if that is not possible, we would like to have the opportunity to put some conditions on it," said Flores, adding that she would like to see controls on truck routes to the facility, the amount of waste processed and the origin of the waste.
"When the zoning laws were implemented in the 1940s, we had no idea that we would have this proliferation of hazardous wastes," she said. "A level of review is absolutely necessary."
The planning and environment committee instructed senior city planner David Lessley to draft an amendment to the zoning code that would require builders of hazardous waste facilities to receive a conditional-use permit before they can build their projects. Lessley, who expects to submit the proposed amendment to the city's Planning Commission in about three months, said such a requirement would block automatic approval of hazardous waste facilities by requiring public and environmental reviews of the proposals.
Impact on BKK Uncertain
While Flores hopes any final ordinance would affect the BKK project, BKK President Ken Kazarian predicted that the facility would be exempt since it has already been approved--albeit indirectly--by the City Council. Before giving up the streets, the council required the company to prepare an environmental impact report on the project, a report that was approved by the council and withstood court challenges by a group of Wilmington residents opposed to the project.
"We have gone through every loop you can go through," Kazarian said. "To retroactively say you have to start all over again--I don't think the city attorney would say this was required in a situation like ours."
Jo Ann Wysocki, president of the Harbor Coalition Against Toxic Waste, which sued the city and BKK over the environmental report, said the group would fight to include the BKK project under any new restrictions. She said BKK has "waited too long" to build the treatment plant since it got city approval three years ago.
"Too much time has passed and too many new facts have become known since then," Wysocki said. She said that when the city approved the plant, "it really didn't know much" about hazardous wastes and their effect on the community.
Too Early to Tell
Assistant City Atty. William Childs, who has handled the BKK case for the city, said it is too early to determine what effect any new ordinance would have on the proposed treatment plant. If the ordinance requires a conditional-use permit, however, he said it would probably apply to BKK if the company has not yet obtained a building permit for the project.
Kazarian said BKK halted plans to build the treatment plant during its legal battle with the Harbor Coalition, but he said the company plans to go ahead with the project. BKK applied for an operating permit from the state several years ago, but the company suspended the application because of the lawsuit and it has not yet reactivated it.
Kazarian would not predict when the company would reactivate the state application or apply for a city building permit, saying only that the company will wait until "the economics are right." The company cannot start building without the state permit.
Lessley said that the proposed ordinance will have to be approved by both the city's Planning Commission and the City Council. Flores said she is "hopeful" that the City Council will go along with the conditional-use permit requirement, but she said approval is not certain since the council did not honor her request in 1984 to block the BKK plant when it considered vacating the unimproved streets.