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Concrete Mountain to Be Razed

June 16, 2004|Jean-Paul Renaud | Times Staff Writer

The massive pile of concrete rubble, commonly known by Huntington Park residents as La Montana, or the mountain, will finally be leveled. And this time it's for real.

The state Integrated Waste Management Board voted unanimously Tuesday to clean up the 5.4-acre-wide, five-story-tall heap. The concrete slabs are the remains of crumbled sections of the Santa Monica Freeway that were damaged during the Northridge earthquake.

"If there has ever been a poster child for environmental justice, this is it," said Linda Moulton-Patterson, board chairwoman. "These people are suffering, and I feel really good about our action today."

La Montana has been a source of contention between Huntington Park officials and the rubble's original owner, who had intended to recycle the concrete and resell it for roadbed. But that never happened, and residents began complaining that the eyesore posed health and environmental concerns.

Residents organized protests, complaining that children were unable to play outside because of dust blowing off La Montana and demanding that local officials act.

In 1998, the mountain's owner, Sam Chew, was ordered by a judge to clear the lot. But Chew declared bankruptcy before the site was cleared, and the trees, bushes and dandelions that had sprung up on the mound continued to thrive.

In 2001, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered the lot's owner, 6208 So. Alameda Corp., to clean the site, but city officials deemed the cleanup insufficient. Repeated orders to clean the site have been ignored, according to a report to the waste management board.

But a regulation passed in August gives state officials the authority to enter private property and clean up illegal disposal sites. Huntington Park officials said Tuesday's action would finally remove the city's unwelcome landmark, which is expected to cost at least $1.6 million to haul away. Officials expect to begin the work in mid-July and complete it by late October.

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