More than 500 Santa Clarita Valley residents traveled to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday hoping to block a proposed 460-acre sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon.
The board delayed action for at least 90 days.
In a hearing at the Hall of Administration, about 100 residents who oppose the project told supervisors that the plan by Transit Mixed Concrete Co. to mine 56 million tons of aggregate over a 20-year period will ruin their health and quality of life while laying waste to the environment.
"I read everything I could about this because I wanted to be fair to both sides," Santa Clarita resident Lloyd Hoffman said outside the 750-seat hearing room, which was filled to capacity. "The more I looked into it, the more I started thinking the whole thing was unfair to the citizens of Santa Clarita."
Hoffman arrived at the downtown meeting aboard one of eight buses chartered by the city of Santa Clarita as part of a $1.2-million campaign to stop the mine. The city also provided breakfast, sack lunches, placards, T-shirts and buttons to hundreds of mine opponents.
About 50 supporters of the mine, including many Transit Mixed employees, also attended.
The federal Bureau of Land Management, which owns mineral rights to the property situated about two miles east of the Santa Clarita city limit, approved the project in August. However, Transit Mixed still needs a permit from the county to extract the material.
The county Regional Planning Commission--by a vote of 4-0 with one member absent--denied the permit in December 1999, citing concerns for public health and "unavoidable, significant adverse environmental impacts," among other objections. Transit Mixed is asking the supervisors to overturn that decision.
"This is a sound, safe and much-needed project," said Don Newquist, vice president of Southdown Corp., the parent company of Transit Mixed. Newquist told the supervisors the project had been in the works for a decade at a cost of millions of dollars.
If the project is vetoed, Transit Mixed and Southdown officials say, construction in the San Fernando Valley will virtually cease because the aggregate--sand and gravel needed as raw materials for new homes and roads--will be too costly to truck in from mines in Palmdale or the San Gabriel Valley.
"We have tremendous growth that will be going on for the next 20 to 30 years," Jacque McMillan, vice chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. of the San Fernando Valley, said in support of the mine. "I'm also a Santa Clarita Valley resident. This seems like a case of not-in-my-backyard."
Santa Clarita leaders and opponents of the mine, however, came armed with a pair of city-commissioned studies that refute Transit Mixed's assertions that the region is about to run out of sand and gravel.
"Permitting the Soledad Canyon mine alone in the absence of a more comprehensive plan will make little difference to the amount of reserves available to the region," concluded a report by the Rand Corp. of Santa Monica.
Furthermore, according to findings in a companion study by the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College, the county "is not in serious threat of a shortage of [sand and gravel] at any time during the 21st century."
About 328 tons of sand and gravel are needed to build a 1,500-square-foot home, officials say. At an average retail cost of $8.90 per ton, aggregate accounts for $2,920 of a home's price.
If approved, the Transit Mixed mine would reduce the cost of building a $235,000 home by $117, the Rand study concluded.
According to the project's environmental impact report, the mine would operate six days a week from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. But trucks would travel in and out of the area 24 hours a day at a rate of one every two minutes during the mine's first 10 years and one every 94 seconds in the second 10 years.
The board, in continuing the hearing for 90 days, stipulated that Transit Mixed work with the county as well as local city and town councils to develop an acceptable proposal.
The board must base its actions solely on environmental regulations, said Richard Weiss, of the office of the county counsel. The Bureau of Land Management has already designated the area's land use as suitable for mining.
"If you put [excessive] environmental restrictions . . . that make [the mine] economically unfeasible, that's going too far," Newquist told the supervisors Tuesday.