Citing traffic congestion and other concerns, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission voted Monday to deny a permit for Sunshine Canyon Landfill to combine its county and city operations.
The landfill, operated by Browning-Ferris Industries, currently has separate permits from the city and county. The city permit allows BFI to dump 5,500 tons per day in the portion of the landfill in Granada Hills, and the county permit allows the firm to dispose of 6,600 tons per day in the county portion.
A combined permit would have allowed BFI to dump all of a day's trash in one area, including unused land between the city and county operations.
BFI, which can continue operating the landfill in two separate areas, is likely to appeal the decision to the county Board of Supervisors.
The vote was hailed by neighbors of the landfill who believed the new county permit would have been less restrictive than the city operating license.
"This is a major victory for the community because it shows the county commission is listening to us about the lack of protections for the community," said Linda Lye, an attorney for a coalition of neighborhood and environmental groups.
Planning Commissioner Pat Modugno, who lives in Santa Clarita and said he finds himself caught in traffic whenever he drives to the San Fernando Valley, said that if the city developed more transfer stations and recycling facilities, fewer trucks would have to go to Sunshine Canyon Landfill.
He was not moved by BFI's offer to spend $60 million to reduce the effect of the landfill on traffic and the environment, saying it was unclear that the proposed measures would have sufficed.
For Commission Chairman Wayne Rew, the decisive factor was that the permit would have set boundaries for the landfill but would not have set criteria for when it would shut down, either by a deadline or a requirement to close it when capacity reached a specific tonnage.
Opponents of the landfill also complained that the new county permit would no longer allow the city to serve as an enforcement agency, giving that role exclusively to the county.
Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith, who was leading a delegation of city officials to Arkansas on Monday to look at alternatives to landfills, praised the Planning Commission "for having the courage to uphold hard-fought conditions and restrictions, as well as recognizing the city's independent right to determine its land-use controls."
The city portion of the landfill is in Smith's district.
Greg Loughnane, BFI's district manager, said traffic issues had been addressed in county environmental studies and the firm's offer of $60 million for mitigation.
"There are operational efficiencies, including less equipment to operate at the landfill," Loughnane said of the rejected combined operation.
He also said the permit would have been better for the environment because the landfill would have needed fewer trucks and other equipment as a unified operation.
Loughnane also noted that county supervisors had asked BFI to secure a new county permit when the city gave the firm permission to expand into Granada Hills in the 1990s.