All council members were present for the Tuesday, Aug. 2 City Council meeting. Open session started at 5:00 p.m. and ended at 10:02 p.m. Here's what you missed:
LA County Flood Control District will create New Pocket Park and Watershed Study on Dominguez Channel. Since the occurrence of the 2021 Dominguez Channel Odor catastrophe, which forced many residents to relocate during the hot summer, the Council has been looking at ways to “turn lemons into lemonade.” With the one-year anniversary of the disaster quickly approaching, and fears of another rotten, noxious smelly-wave beginning to rise, Los Angeles County Public Works Director and Chief Engineer of Los Angeles County Flood Control District Mark Pestrella once again returned to update the public on what to expect of the channel in the short and long-term future, including developing a pocket park by the channel and a watershed study.
The 15.7-mile channel is designed to keep the surrounding area, approx. 72 square miles known as the Dominguez Channel Watershed, from flooding. Long story short, all the water which lands in the watershed gets drained to the channel and flows out the estuary by the Los Angeles Harbor. Pestrella noted that commercial properties owners along with residential property owners pay annually for the benefit of the channel to be flood free. Residents in the City of Carson pay about $28/year for that benefit however, 63% of uses in the watershed are industrial, commercial, and transportation related.
Currently, only storm water is allowed in the channel, but Pestrella points out that in the past sewage water and industrial waste was permitted for a long time. Years of draining hazardous materials and commercial use has resulted in large health disparities for the communities living along the channel, particularly in Carson. According to Pestrella, life expectancy of communities in Carson is 79.4 years compared to 81.3 years in the county and state. “Carson also has very large areas that rank in the top 25% for coronary heart disease [and] asthma statewide. Particularly in the very low-income areas in the northeast and northwest parts of the City. All of Carson ranks in the top 25% state-wide of toxic releases from the facilities we just talked about. It also scores high in particulate matter called PM2.5 concentrations in ground water pollution and soil pollution.” says Pestrella. With heavy pollutants found deep in the soils within the channel, Pestrella suggests that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Pestrella warned the public to continue to expect low levels of odor during the late summer seasons due to vegetation decay in the estuary, “This is a low level smell that typically happens late summer previous to any storms happening, where the reeds in the estuary grow up and begin to decay due to lack of natural flows into system. As they decay, we typically get dissolved oxygen levels that drop and we get anaerobic digestion which produces hydrogen sulfide gas, that rotten egg smell. [Our noses] can smell that rotten-egg smell at 1 part per billion. What the health department has told us… if levels rise anywhere near 30 parts per billion, that we will have people feeling nuisances due to that and if it persists longer than a day or 2… it can cause acute health effects.” But Pestrella assures that because of the incident last year, the county is now well-prepared for the worst-case scenario. In addition to an increase in water-quality monitors and rapid response teams to measure sulfide levels, the county will re-activate emergency management plans if the particle amount rises to harmful levels. This includes acute water quality treatment and possibly relocating communities around the channel. City Council and Pestrella urge the public to call the dedicated 24-hour hotline for any noticeable issues with the Dominguez Channel at 1(800) 675-4357(HELP).
To help improve the channel and the communities surrounding it for the long term, the flood control district plans to establish a pocket park and a Watershed study. The park will be less than one acre, cost $1.5 million and will be located on the east bank of the channel just south of Del Amo Blvd with pedestrian and bike access, vegetation habitats, education signage, and a low-lying levy system. Planning for the park begins fall 2022 and the park to be completed late 2023. The Dominguez Channel Watershed study will be a thorough analysis of the entire 72 square mile area where local cities can collaborate on ways to improve water quality and the aesthetic of the channel. According to Pestrella, the planning portion of the study will cost $5-7 million where $1 million would be utilized for community outreach to ask the public what they like to see what the channel look like. Post the planning phase, Pestrella expects to partner with the City, residents, industry and commercial entities to double-up on amenities and provide passive and active recreation along the channel.
CAM-Carson LLC and City take another try at Cal Compact Landfill Outlet Mall Development. An outlet mall development, which ultimately lead to litigation between the Carson Reclamation Authority(CRA) and CAM-Carson LLC, will be reconsidered as the council approved by title only amendments to the agreements made in 2018. The original deal called for the construction of a 41 acre high-quality, state of the art, fashion outlet retail center of up to 711,500 GBA square feet but was halted when a conflict over the remedial systems and site development improvements lead to the developer filing a $80 million lawsuit known as CAM-Carson, LLC v. Carson Reclamation Authority. Almost a year later, the CRA filed counterclaims, and has been in litigation for about two years. Several months ago, the developer reached out to the City to give the outlet mall another shot.
According to Assistant City Manager of Economic Development John Raymond, the major difference between the agreements is previously the Carson Reclamation Authority was responsible for the cost and construction of remedial systems, slab installation, and other subsurface work on the site. Under the new terms, the developer would inherit the responsibility and cost of this work and insurance premiums, however the CRA will offer $32.5 million to help complete the site improvements. In exchange, the developer and the City would split the sales tax of the new outlet mall 50-50 for 32 years, instead of the previously agreed 25 years (or until the developer makes their recovery amount). The City Attorney pointed out that once completed the outlet mall is estimated to generate $3.6 million of sales tax a year and the project should bring over 1,200 construction jobs and 1,600 permanent jobs, and hundreds of thousands of new visitors to the city each year.
Raymond noted that the CAM-Carson has a three-month due diligence process period, for them to physically go out to the site and evaluate what the remaining costs would be. If the developer determines that the project is too expensive to come back, the City would end the agreement and return to litigation. But if CAM-Carson gives the greenlight, then the City will negotiate a settlement agreement, and the project would proceed into the development phase.
City appropriates up to $30,000 to Co-Sponsor New Filipino Heritage and History month event at Dignity Health Sports Park. Four council members voted to approve a $30,000 budget allocation to help establish a new Filipino Heritage and History month event on October 2nd at Dignity Health Sports Park. The event will feature a festival environment at the arena’s parking lot and an evening concert inside the tennis center. The costs of the entire event is estimated at $125,000 - $130,000 and would require the City to enter an agreement with USA Philippines Business Association, Jeepney Music, and the organization most known for promoting the Black Eyed Peas, the Apl.de.Ap Foundation International. The new agreement would require the City to utilize one out of the two allocated free-rental days with Dignity Health to rent the area at no cost and provide a mobile stage, tables, chairs, various other equipment, and associate staff to set up and tear down on the day of the event. City staff was directed to return to a future council meeting to present to the council license agreements between the participating organizations to work out legal details and responsibilities. Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes abstained from the vote.
*Note: The meeting was adjourned to Aug. 16 at 9 a.m. The regularly scheduled Aug. 16 council meeting was cancelled.
Red Cross Blood Drive: Thursday, Aug. 25, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., at the Community Center