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HUNTINGTON PARK : Concrete Recycler Wins Renewal Vote

November 20, 1994|SIMON ROMERO

Over the objections of 50 residents complaining about dust and noise, the Planning Commission voted to allow a company that recycles concrete into road base to continue operating for another year.

Commissioners voted 3 to 1 on Nov. 2 to renew Aggregate Recycling Systems' conditional-use permit. Residents of Cottage Street, who for months had fought to halt operations of the company across the street at 6208 S. Alameda St., have appealed the decision to the City Council.

"I can't believe they'll just go on making noise like normal," said Esperanza Marquez. "It's really making our lives miserable."

Since the company opened one year ago, residents have complained that their lives have been disrupted by high levels of dust and noise.

Aggregate owner Sam Chew said the company has taken steps to reduce problems.

Chew said he has replaced the mufflers on two large loaders, reducing the noise they emit.

"We don't have those sounds anymore," Chew said. "As for the dust, there's no problem there either. We keep the dust piles watered down all day long."

The company also operates a large crusher for recycling used concrete into road base, but Chew said that machine is not responsible for the noise.

After the January earthquake, the company operated into the night crushing large amounts of concrete debris, Chew said. But once business from the quake tapered off, the company stopped operating at night, he said.

Chew said other companies in the area may have been sources of the dust, and that passing trains could contribute to the problem.

"Initially, any start-up isn't going to be perfect," Chew said. "There may have been a dust problem, but it might not have come from my property."

Following the commission's decision to renew the company's conditional-use permit--which will go before the City Council Dec. 5--several residents cited a litany of complaints about the company's operations.

Oscar Avila said his child's asthma has gotten worse since the company opened. Linda Marquez said she has tossed and turned for 12 months, unable to sleep properly. Armando Ruiz said he is embarrassed to entertain guests at his home.

"There's nothing wrong with businesses like this coming to the city and giving people jobs, just not 15 feet in front of my house," said Ruiz, who rents a house across from Aggregate at 6120 Cottage St.

Residents have filed four complaints against Aggregate with the city since May. Two alleged that the company did not clean up dirt left in the street by trucks hauling concrete material, and two alleged that noise and dust emissions were excessive.

Henry Gray, assistant director for community development, handles code enforcement for the city. He said the conditional-use permit requires Aggregate to maintain 100 feet between material-moving equipment and the company's property line between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. to prevent excessive noise at night.

Gray said the South Coast Air Quality Management Districts will begin monitoring emissions by the company if the City Council does not overrule the Planning Commission.

But such requirements have not satisfied residents, environmentalists and a neighboring business.

"Now we're looking at alternatives like filing a public nuisance complaint to halt operation. . . . We've also discussed the need for an environmental impact report to be done," said Carlos Porras, who helped organize the Cottage Street residents on behalf of the Los Angeles-based Citizens for a Better Environment, a nonprofit group that targets environmental concerns in minority neighborhoods.

A neighboring business, Commercial Enameling Inc., is also appealing the Planning Commission decision. The company says dust from Aggregate could potentially damage recently enameled bathroom fixtures.

Chew said he would like to meet with residents again to discuss their concerns.

"The commission's decision was a good signal for businesses in this city," Chew said. "On our end, we're constantly improving wherever we need to."

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