Last Update: Thursday, December 05, 2013
|Commentary- Residents Resolved to Protect Homeowners and Honorable Fire Fighters|
|Written by Edgar Thomas Rivera|
|Thursday, 26 September 2013 05:26|
Photo Courtesy Beverley Simpson
This empty lot is the selected site for Fire Station 39. Homes surround the location on Oxnard. Rdsidents will live on the North side of Oxnard live in Van Nuys and people who live on the South side of Oxnard live in newly named Sherman Oaks. Residents are concerned about noise and safety and said they were not notified of the decision to locate a fire station in their neighborhood.
On Tuesday night, September 17th, 2013 at the Sherman Oaks Adult Center, a diverse group of extremely articulate residents joined representatives from the office of Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Nury Martinez to express their extensive health and safety concerns over a proposal to build a new Fire Station #39 on land that has extensive and questionable environmental health and safety concerns, and, to make matters worse, would have fire engines blasting their horns a minimum of fifty times a day within feet of their homes (exceeding City sound thresholds), as well as spewing diesel fumes on a community already overburdened with environmental toxins.
The wide-ranging concerns of residents include lack of notification of the existence of the project, lack of transparency, questionable legal protocol, as well as health and safety concerns for residents and firefighters based on the long history of industrial and toxic uses at the poorly selected site.
Noticeably absent were Councilmembers Labonge and Martinez, but Tommy Newman and Jonathan Brand represented Councilmember Labonge's district office and Ackley Padilla represented the office of Councilmember Martinez.
Joining the Councilmember offices, and making presentations that were often vague, misleading, and ill prepared, were representatives from the LA City Department of Engineering. Sitting next to them, was Fire Chief Klafta of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
To the disbelief of residents, Tommy Newman and Jonathan Brand from Councilman Labonge's office brought a stop clock calculated at 2:00 minutes, to measure the time residents were allowed to comment at the beginning of the meeting. When resident Mary Beth Schwartzenberger inquired if City staff would likewise be required to limit their comments to two minutes, Tommy Newman stated "No."
In spite of the limited time provided, the well-spoken and informed residents succinctly outlined their concerns, even quoting bond protocols, as the insulting oversized clock ticked away.
Residents were quick to comment that Labonge's office would never bring a clock and designated timekeeper to a community meeting for his constituents in Toluca Lake, Hancock Park or Hollywood Hills, and that the process and protocol had been insulting. Furthermore the site in question, filled with debris, garbage, and an electrical box with broken wires, has not been cleaned for months despite community requests and the fact that it is on a path used daily by hundreds of school children going to and from school. "Labonge and Martinez need to clean it up now", said one elderly resident.
Tom Olsen, a resident of the effected neighborhood for more than fifteen years, noted that the presentations included one by Jim Doty, an employee of the City for several decades, currently employed by the Bureau of Engineering, Los Angeles Department of Public Works, and the city official who signed off on the Initial Study/ Negative Declaration. Doty told the residents that, while not unheard of, it was "not usual" for a plot of land to be used for a project to be purchased BEFORE the issuance of a Negative Declaration. When Mr. Olsen politely requested that Doty name even one other project that had a similar timeline, Doty responded, "I'll have to get back to you."
Fire Chief Klafta offered that his firefighters would be judicious with their sirens knowing there were homesdirectly across the street. However, when Beverly Simpson, who lives within feet of the proposed site, asked if he could " Please, clarify what the plans are for being judicious." Chief Klafta replied "We will work with you on the noise issue. I'm not going to say it's going to be perfect. I'm not going to say it's not going to be an issue. I can't promise you any of that." When Ms. Simpson further inquired if the law mandated that firemen turn on their sirens when exiting the fire station for an emergency, Chief Klafta responded,"Yes, it is the law".
Tommy Newman explained to the assembled residents that Councilmember Labonge was going to request a sound study, but would not state who would be performing the study, what type of study, or the extent of the study. Neither Labonge's nor Martinez' office offered to perform an Environmental Impact Study, even in light of the highly questionable Negative Declaration, as mandated by relevant CEQA guidelines.
Jeffrey Lynn added, "This is about protecting the health and safety of both residents and firefighters."
At the end of the meeting, residents expressed their dismay as questions and concerns continued to be ignored.Indeed, even a Public Record Act Request surrounding pertinent environmental issues sent in August was disregarded.
"As a result of individuals continuing to defend their bad decisions, a community with several hundred residents continues to be left behind without any concern by city officials. Unfortunately, we still have harmful environmental concerns which cannot be explained away or mitigated by the city. We are still searching for the truth. " said Mary Beth Schwartzenberger
For further information, or to sign the Petition to find an alternate location:
Edgar Thomas Rivera is a San Fernando Valley resident.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 20:40|