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Council Unanimously Backs $10-Million Steel-Shredder : Business: A neighborhood group unsuccessfully appealed the decision, which was overwhelmingly popular with residents.


PICO RIVERA — A steel-shredder proposed by a local company would not pose a threat to the community and should be allowed in Pico Rivera, the City Council decided Monday before an audience that grew so large it overflowed to a courtyard outside City Hall.

Most of the 200 people at the council meeting supported the $10-million Weiner Steel project in the 8200 block of Slauson Avenue, although the issue was brought to the council by a neighborhood group opposed to the shredder.

The city's Design Review Board voted in May to allow the steel company to put in a steel shredding machine, but the decision was appealed to the council by Montebello resident Bernard Lehrer, who lives about four miles from the plant, and other neighbors in the area. "It is a technology that doesn't belong anywhere near where people live and work," Lehrer said.

Monday, the council unanimously turned down the appeal. Acting on recommendations from an environmental consultant, however, a number of conditions, including extensive landscaping, will be required.

"I'm satisfied that the public will be protected from any kind of pollution, both air and water," said Councilman Garth G. Gardner.

Steve Weiner, president of Weiner Steel, said he was pleased with the decision and expects the new autoshredding machine to begin operating in about nine months. "The project is an upgrade to modern, state-of-the-art equipment, to take us into the 21st Century," Weiner said.

Weiner Steel has been part of Pico Rivera's economy for years, Gardner said. "They've been here 30 years--it's not like somebody new coming in. In my judgment, they've been good neighbors."

The company currently uses a steel processing method known as bailing and sheering. Weiner said that bailing compacts scrap steel into blocks. Sheering is the process of chopping larger pieces into smaller ones.

The new machine will produce dense, uniform pieces of steel about the size of a fist that are more marketable to recycling plants, Weiner said. The new processor will create no more waste than resulted from bailing and sheering, he said.

Most of the Pico Rivera residents at the meeting said they supported the Weiner steel project because it would help keep jobs and industry in Southern California. Many longtime residents said they also see the plant as a "good neighbor."

Before the meeting, cards were passed out asking people to state whether they were for or against the project. The official tally was recorded at 117 for and 17 against.

Resident Dennis Herzog said: "If they're not allowed to modernize, they'll move. Companies are just moving out of the state left and right."

Several residents who addressed the council said they were not for or against the new shredder but were concerned about its effect on the environment.

John Roberts, a resident of Wilmington, said he lives four miles from a shredder and is sometimes bothered until 2 a.m. The closest Pico Rivera residents are about four blocks away from the plant.

Weiner Steel began preparing for the upgrade and removing old equipment in March, expecting approval from the council. Lehrer's appeal, which sparked an intense campaign on both sides, came as a surprise, Weiner said.

In May, Lehrer distributed flyers throughout Pico Rivera, calling the project a "monster steel-shredding machine, which will pollute our environment."

Weiner, in response, began a flyer campaign to reassure residents that the change should not be feared, he said.

"The people came last night to show their support. They decided for themselves that we are good citizens," Weiner said.

Weiner said Lehrer, who works for an auto-stripping plant in Los Angeles, "may be acting in competitive interest" in his effort to stop Weiner Steel from installing the shredder. Lehrer, however, denied the allegation and said he is simply a concerned citizen.

Lehrer said Weiner Steel has filed a lawsuit against him, claiming that he interfered with the company's right to do business. A company attorney could not be reached for comment on the suit.

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