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Future of Scholl Canyon Landfill on Glendale City Council's Tuesday Agenda

ACCORDING TO LIZ - The agenda for the Glendale City Council meeting on Tuesday is now addressing the bigger picture issue of “the Future of the Scholl Canyon Landfill” – and, yes, it’s capitalized like this. 

No mention of spending money – at least until the Council has made the more fundamental decision on Glendale’s Wasteshed Ordinance that the residents of both Glendale and Northeast Los Angeles deserve. 

Earlier in the afternoon Councilmembers are looking at a lawsuit filed earlier this year in Los Angeles Superior Court against their city which lists Glendale Water and Power as an interested party. Information is limited but it is a writ of mandamus which generally means one party wants the other to stop… something. 

Could it be the much-despised Biogas Project that was to be constructed on their doorstep? 

FYI, Glendale’s Wasteshed Ordinance dates from the inception of the dump and defines the entities and cities that are allowed to dispose of solid waste in the Scholl Canyon Landfill. These include Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre, and various unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. 

Although the City of Los Angeles was suckered into the dump in 1961, it was barred from using it after a 1987 revision of the ordinance.

Due to heroic opposition to Glendale’s attempts to expand the dump starting in 2014 eventually went down to defeat in 2019 so at current tonnage it will reach its capacity at the end of 2025. [Which is why methane expelled from the dump will start decreasing towards the end of the decade and remove any possible profitability from the proposed biogas plant.] 

At the current tonnage, the Landfill generates approximately $12 million annually for the City’s General Fund. While the powers that be are bemoaning the fact that a cut would imperil important services such as public safety, infrastructure maintenance, parks and libraries, please note that the current income is 1.1% of Glendale’s total 2022-23 budget of $1.07 billion, and 2.2% of its operating budget. I wonder how much they pay out in settling lawsuits against their police force in any given year. 

Back to the subject at hand: 

The four options being considered by the Glendale City Council on Tuesday do not directly address the disposition of the dump. They address how long to keep the dump operating strictly from a financial point-of-view. 

The choices given the Councilmembers are: 

  • to leave the Wasteshed Ordinance as is so, at current tipping rates, the dump would have to close when it reaches capacity probably at the end of 2025 – Glendale would retain its current General Fund income of $12 million a year until then; 
  • to amend the ordinance to restrict use to Glendale only which would allow the dump to remain open for a further 4.5 years until mid-2030 – saving Glendale the cost of shipping and dipping their residents’ waste elsewhere but reducing the income derived from other entities’ use of the dump – a loss of over $8 million annually; 
  • to amend ordinance to allow just Glendale and all users other than Pasadena which would keep the dump operating until mid-2028 with an annual income of approximately $7 million; or 
  • to amend the ordinance to allow just Glendale and Pasadena to use the dump which would get Glendale until mid-2026 before they would have to shut it down but until then Glendale would be the beneficiary of about $10.5 million per year. 

There is, of course, a fifth option – start shutting down the dump right away which will still take years to work out logistics during which time the city coffers can still collect applicable tip fees. 

This would benefit the residents of Glenoaks and Canyon and other nearby areas of Glendale as well as those of northeast Los Angeles who have been impacted by hazardous fumes and particulate matter for years and are equally at risk in the event of fire, flood, earthquake or other catastrophe. 

This may not be on the agenda because not only would tip fee income be phased out faster but Glendale would have to incur additional costs to truck their waste away sooner. This would result in operational increases of over $1.4 million per year for services and transport plus a capital expenditure for new vehicles. 

Of course, with prices rising so rapidly that might actually be a wise investment. 

Not to mention that investing in the future of their own people and those in neighboring communities who might at any time chose to bring costly lawsuits against Glendale for loss of health and quality of living. 

Yes, there will be an increase in congestion and vehicle emissions on local freeways as waste is diverted but this will be partially offset by transition to cleaner vehicles and the hazard reduction to residents of Eagle Rock and Highland Park from the Figueroa corridor access and, to be sure, Los Angeles Public Works Department will not be bemoaning the lack of repairs that will be the result of such a move. 

Furthermore, Glendale would then be obligated to start improving the bio-gas effluvia (50% CO2, 50% methane) impacting adjacent communities sooner rather than later. 

And to FINALLY start converting the dump into a safe recreation environment fit for people, fit for plants (the growing kind), and fit for animals. There are costs involved but the bigger ticket items will be one-time costs and will provide work for local people and a greener future for the community. 

There are actually three alternatives between which the councilmembers must choose on Tuesday – providing direction on the future of the dump based on the four agendized options, or giving an alternate direction (such as starting the procedure to shut it down now), or consider another alternative. 

Glendale City Council still needs to hear your concerns about the dump – loud and clear. 

There are a host of ancillary issues that will arise in the coming months and years but for now let’s focus on shutting it down in the most efficient and effective manner possible. 

And let those with the expertise explore the nitty-gritty as closure becomes more imminent. 

Certain post-closure activities related to landfills are highly regulated at the state and federal level and the City of Glendale currently has almost $53 million set aside for such obligations including in perpetuity operation and maintenance of environmental pollution control and monitoring of air, water and soil related to its use of the land for the past 60+ years. 

Some issues that the City Council may perceive as additional costs and barriers caused by closing Scholl Canyon as a dump are those that they would have to face anyway with increasing concerns about global warming and environmental pollution. 

Proper planning and a holistic approach combined with judicious exploitation of the property which under the agreement between the entities jointly responsible for it is to be dedicated for public purposes. 

Send in your comment in to the Glendale City Council members asap – the meeting is at 6 pm on Tuesday, September 13th

Ardy Kassakhian: [email protected]

Dan Brotman: [email protected]

Elen Asatryan: [email protected]

Ara Najarian: [email protected]

Paula Devine: [email protected] 

You can download the agenda here

You can attend the meeting either in person at the Council Chambers at 613 E. Broadway, 2nd Floor, Glendale, CA 91206 or virtually here

Public comments will be taken when that item comes up for discussion (#8 b); those watching remotely can call in using a number that will be posted on the screen.

 

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)