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Officials Miss Deadline to Object to Disney Project

Development: Glendale's environmental report was misrouted at state agency. Contamination is worry.

September 26, 2000|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

State water officials have concerns over possible toxic contamination at the proposed $2-billion Disney Creative Campus in Glendale, but missed a deadline to raise objections because they never saw the environmental documents, an official said Monday.

The city of Glendale released the draft environmental impact report on the project July 6, triggering a comment period for the public and other agencies that ended Sept. 5. But officials with the Regional Water Quality Control Board didn't see the report until Friday, said Dixon Oriola, a senior engineer with the regional water board.

Oriola said the document was apparently routed to the wrong division in his agency.

"The EIR was sent to the board but it took awhile to locate the document," Oriola said. "We have 10 different divisions, and it was sent to the wrong one."

Now that the right people have had a chance to look at it, he said, there are concerns that the report may not have adequately addressed the cleanup of soil and ground water contamination at the 125-acre site, which has been used as an industrial park since the early 1960s.

Oriola said the state might seek more time to review and respond to the environmental report.

"We are still looking at the site and will comment later on an appropriate course of action or on mitigating the contamination," Oriola said. "The area is the subject of an ongoing federal and state Superfund investigation."

The heavily industrialized east San Fernando Valley, including parts of Burbank, Glendale and North Hollywood, was declared a Superfund cleanup site in 1986 because of soil and ground water contamination.

Glendale Redevelopment Director Jeanne Armstrong said she had planned to have the final report, addressing all comments raised during the two-month period, completed by next week.

"If the water quality control board has additional water and soil concerns, they need to raise those issues with us immediately," Armstrong said Monday.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control had previously raised concerns about toxic contamination. In a Sept. 5 letter to Armstrong, the agency said the draft environmental report had not identified all of the potential contamination sites on the property.

The Disney project, which was made public in September 1999, includes plans for a "high tech hub" to be built over the next three decades in east Glendale near the Golden State Freeway.

Disney currently owns 2.4 million square feet at the site, which is bordered by Western Avenue, Flower Street, Air Way and the Golden State Freeway. Plans call for as much as 6 million square feet of offices, sound stages and studio production facilities on the site.

In their pitch to residents and civic leaders, Disney executives have sought to portray a neighborhood-friendly development of four distinctive areas with green spaces and four- to six-story buildings that would be a boon to the city.

But some residents say the city is rushing approval of the project without thoroughly reviewing issues such as toxic contamination.

That concern has been heightened in recent weeks after Times stories that reported increasing levels of chromium 6 found in some wells.

"There's an alphabet soup of toxic chemicals that have been found at many addresses on the Disney site," said homeowner Rob Sharkey. "The regional board and others should be taking a much closer look at this."

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