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Yaroslavsky Woos Boaters, Asks AQMD to Act on Kaiser

August 09, 1987|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

Three weeks after discussing his mayoral ambitions at a cocktail party with about three dozen San Pedro residents and boat owners, Los Angeles Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky has publicly supported them in a battle over air pollution in Los Angeles Harbor.

Yaroslavsky said the action was motivated by pollution concerns, not politics.

In a letter written Thursday, Yaroslavsky asked regional air quality officials to deny operating permits to the port's major coal and petroleum coke exporter. Yaroslavsky said the company, Kaiser International Corp., "is blowing unhealthful and unsightly black dust over an entire community."

Bradley Wanted Permits Issued

Last month, Mayor Tom Bradley, whom Yaroslavsky is expected to challenge in 1989, asked the same air quality officials to issue the permits. Bradley, who has received political contributions from the company and its president, argued that he was satisfied that Kaiser International "shares our concern for clean air."

Boat owners in Los Angeles Harbor and San Pedro residents have long asserted that the 26-acre bulk-loading facility operated by Kaiser International has been the source of dust that pollutes the air and damages their boats. Harbor-area Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores last week demanded that the port step up plans to move the facility away from nearby marinas and recreational areas.

In response to boater complaints, the South Coast Air Quality Management District refused to issue the operating permits last spring, but the company, which denies it is the source of the dust, has continued operating while it appeals the decision. The AQMD hearing board is currently considering the appeal.

In an interview, Yaroslavsky said he does not want to shut down Kaiser International, but he said the company should enclose portions of its operations that cause dust. Kaiser International President Richard E. Holdaway has said that enclosing the facility would be neither feasible nor safe.

Yaroslavsky Says It's Not Politics

Yaroslavsky, who has often attacked Bradley on environmental issues, said his decision to take a public stand on Kaiser International was motivated by his concern for the boat owners and pollution in the harbor--not by mayoral politics.

Yaroslavsky has not officially declared that he will run for mayor, although he has set up an exploratory campaign fund. Bradley has announced that he will seek reelection to a fifth term.

"I don't want to politicize this issue, as it already has been," Yaroslavsky said in the interview. "If the mayor has taken a side, that is fine. He is entitled to an opinion."

Ali Webb, Bradley's spokeswoman, said she would not speculate on Yaroslavsky's motivation for becoming involved in an issue far from his 5th District on the Westside.

"You decide what you think is motivating him, if it is good government, clean air or politics," Webb said in an interview. "From our end, it is certainly his prerogative to look at the facts of any situation and make a judgment. . . . We are not in a horse race (with Yaroslavsky) right now."

Bernie Evans, Flores' chief deputy, said there is nothing surprising about Yaroslavsky's visit to San Pedro or his decision to speak out about Kaiser International. He said Flores welcomes support from other council members on the issue.

"If you are entertaining the idea of running citywide, you have to meet and talk to people citywide," Evans said. "You can't win a mayoral race by staying the 5th District."

Intention No Secret

Boat owners who invited Yaroslavsky and his wife Barbara to the July 17 party said the councilman was very straightforward about his intention to challenge Bradley in 1989.

"There were no ifs, ands or buts," said Bill Meier, a San Pedro boat owner who founded the 300-member Los Angeles Harbor Boat Owners Assn. "He stated that he intended to run and the reasons why he feels it is time for Mayor Bradley to move out."

Camilla Burgher, the boat owner who organized the cocktail party, said she asked Yaroslavsky to visit San Pedro so residents there could get to know him. She said the Kaiser issue came up at the affair and boat owners were eager to solicit the councilman's support.

"We invited him as a guy we want to meet because we are all thinking of seriously backing him for mayor," said Burgher, who lives on her boat at Holiday Harbor marina. "Everybody loved him, and everybody loved his wife."

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