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Rezoning Proposal Aligns Residents Against Industries : Land use: Seven manufacturing and industrial businesses at base of Whittier Narrows Dam would be affected by the reclassification.


PICO RIVERA — Kruse Road resident Helen Gonzales can't sleep.

Sometimes the rumble of diesel trucks at the fertilizer company across the street keeps her awake.

Other times, especially in the summer or after a heavy rain, she says, the pungent odor of steer manure wafts through her bedroom.

But the 66-year-old retired nurse has no plans to move from her one-story stucco home in the northeastern part of Pico Rivera. Instead, Gonzales wants the City Council to designate the strip of industrial land behind her home for residential development.

Gonzales was one of a handful of Kruse Road residents who complained to the City Council at a recent public hearing about the industry in their neighborhood. The council took no action at the hearing but plans to consider the issue again on Monday.

But even if the land-use change is approved, it would not help Gonzales soon. Businesses located along the north side of Kruse Road would have 20 to 40 years to vacate the land to make way for up to 210 new homes on the property adjacent to Whittier Narrows Dam.

"We knew (Whittier Fertilizer) was there when we moved here in 1982," said Gonzales, who lives with her mother and sister, "but we never thought it would be this bad. I think it's a good idea to have houses there. It's a great neighborhood except for the trucks and the smell."

Around Gonzales' home are neatly kept houses that were built in 1967, years after the industrial zone had been established. At the end of Kruse Road are newer, more expensive homes that rattle when trucks pass by. Neighbors from both ends of the street have banded together to lobby City Hall to get rid of the businesses.

About half of the 25-acre tract is zoned for industrial use. Seven manufacturing or industrial businesses are located there, including the fertilizer company, a manufacturer of heavy cleaning equipment and a car-impound lot.

"We've been here 62 years," said Whittier Fertilizer owner Bob Osborne. "We wouldn't be able to continue if we had to move."

Osborne and other Kruse Road business owners also point to the potential health hazards associated with high-voltage electrical transmission lines that run above the area.

The Kruse Road area is within 200 feet of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power transmission lines.

An attorney for the business owners told the council that approving the zone change would be "extraordinarily irresponsible" and would open Pico Rivera to lawsuits if the transmission lines were shown to cause cancer.

Studies have linked the electromagnetic fields created by the lines to leukemia, lymphoma and cancer of the nervous system.

A "prudent avoidance" policy adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission in January, 1991, urged cities to avoid "unnecessary new exposure to electric and magnetic fields" in considering development sites.

"There are (health) risks to anyone who would live in that area," Osborne said.

An environmental study prepared for the city also cited significant potential health risks from the transmission lines and said "until conclusive findings are made, a conservative approach would conclude that significant adverse impacts to human health may occur" should a housing development be approved.

Despite the health warnings, Planning Director Ann Negendank has recommended that the City Council approve the zoning change for Kruse Road and amend the city's General Plan to allow houses to be built in the area.

"There is no definitive scientific body of knowledge that says residential housing should not be built near transmission lines," Negendank said. "We believe that the proper use for that land is residential," which would give the area consistent land use, she said.

Should the housing be approved, Negendank said that the city will employ the "prudent avoidance" guidelines set by the PUC, including orienting homes away from the transmission lines.

Negendank also said city officials would be required to continue an environmental review in the area as more scientific knowledge becomes available.

Residents on Kruse Road and several other nearby streets who favor developing houses in the area said they are not concerned about the power lines.

James Galligan, 30, who has lived on Kruse Road for 28 years, said he is tired of the junkyard appearance of the street.

"If they are afraid of the health risk, why don't they just move the lines?" he asked. "I've lived here a long time and have had no health problems."

Galligan's biggest complaint about the industrial zone is the constant truck traffic going to and from the businesses and the dilapidated condition of the street itself.

After years of heavy equipment moving down the half-mile-long Kruse Road, the asphalt is cracked and full of potholes, and dust billows up from every passing vehicle. For residents at the east end of the street near the Pico Rivera Golf Course, the bumpy road is one of only two streets they can use to get to their homes. Most of the truck traffic originates from the west off Durfee Avenue.

"I am always getting stuck behind big trucks trying to get home," Galligan complained. "They tear up the road and make it look terrible."

But to Gonzales, who rarely drives, this is not the most pressing reason to rid the neighborhood of the trucks.

"I just want to get some sleep," she said.

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