Burbank resident Audrey Geiger-Ford has been collecting noise data from the FAA and Hollywood Burbank airport for months. Her findings that airlines are flying planes closer to homes and schools in the flightpath has set off some alarms in the neighborhood near the airport. Add to this that flight paths have absolutely changed and that this could affect more Burbankers than ever before. Also at least one carrier is ignoring the voluntary curfew. This is an ongoing story and there’s much more to report but I wanted to post some resources for readers to check out as soon as I had them.
First up a couple of quick news bits from KFI.
“A highway right on top on our heads.” October 24th
“She has the numbers…” October 25th
Direct download links of the KFI audio here:
I wish I could have made this event at the old Ikea. I didn’t get home from work until 7:15 that evening. So hopeful they will do something similar again. But here’s an interesting viewpoint from Burbankmom.com. This is the blog that always seems to be in lockstep with the development class in our city. This time she’s a bit “sad.” Which is telling. I’m neutral on this project but very concerned for the congestion it WILL bring. I already avoid the Empire Center and downtown is already pretty bad. You can justify this massive development any way you want but the fact remains: I HEART BURBANK will further transform the downtown area into the congested, zoo-like atmosphere of the Santa Monica 3rd Street promenade when it’s completed. No one can argue against that. But of course Burbank Mom makes it sound like any dissent would be akin to “panic”. Do we want all this for a measly one-time 2.5 million increase to the city’s coffers? Remember the sales taxes go to the region not directly to our city. And the idea that Macy’s “owns” San Fernando Blvd. That one sounds pretty fishy to me. Will have to check that out and report back. The best course is to pay attention to the project and keep getting the word out so the people who live in the area can weigh in.
If you live, work or do business downtown OR if your kids go to Burbank High you need to attend this open house for the new I Heart Burbank development at the Old Ikea site on San Fernando. It’s this Thursday from 6pm-8pm. More info here. Be advised they are asking to email or text you news etc. Not singling out these I Heart Burbank people specifically, but you should always be cautious online.
At Tuesday night’s marathon City Council meeting — where the behemoth housing project First Street Village was up for discussion — Councilwoman Sharon Springer asked an excellent question about the cancer risk posed to residents of the 5 Freeway adjacent property. Unfortunately, she didn’t get a straight answer.
In fact, a “scientific” study of how highway pollution might affect future residents of the proposed multi-used development on the corner of First and Magnolia (which was paid for by the developer) was presented to the council in a manner which can only be described as disingenuous at best.
Ms. Springer asked the consultant presenting the study to provide some context so the public might better understand the study’s finding that set the cancer risk posed by exposure to freeway pollution at “60.85.”
Well, the consultant explained, if you said 40 percent of Americans will get cancer in their lifetime you’re talking about 400,000 out of a million people. This number is much smaller — only 60.85 people out of a million.
And while this is true — 60.85 out of a million is a smaller percentage than 400, 000 out of a million — it is equally true that 60.85 is almost double the cancer risk faced by Americans who don’t live next to freeways.
Here are some other points the applicant failed to bring to the city council’s attention:
- Their study did not measure Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM); it used Particulate Matter as a surrogate. This ignores the fact that Diesel Particulate Matter (emissions from diesel trucks) is more hazardous to human health than the same mass of other particulate matters.
- The EPA sets the acceptable cancer risk level at 1 in 1 million. The cancer risk predicted in this study is more than 60 times greater.
- A Harvard study showed that the relationship to DPM exposure and health is linear. Any increase in exposure to DPM causes an equal increase in health risks.
- The US average for air pollution-related cancer deaths is 36 per million. In freeway adjacent parts of LA County where air pollution is most intense that number climbs to 70 per million.
- According to the study’s own findings, the cancer risk to a child between the ages of 2 and 16, living in First Street Village, will be more than twice that of an adult resident. (A cancer risk of 27.62 compared to 13.74)
- This study did not look at the impact of exposure to other toxic gases caused by proximity to the highway which, unlike particulate matter, can not be filtered out.
In a letter to Burbank’s Planning Department the South Coast Air Quality Management District warned, “Cancer risk still remains a significant impact,” despite assurances from the developer that residents could minimize their risk by keeping their windows shut, staying inside and relying on top-of-the-line filtration systems.
That residents will chose to do so — and will instead refrain from using the pool, their balconies and any outdoor building facilities (including the temporary park proposed as an offset to the city granting the development a code variance) — seems, as Ms. Springer pointed out, highly unlikely.
Why it Matters
When it comes to Diesel Particulate Matter (DPMs), cancer risk is only part of the story. Studies indicate it is a genotoxin and suspect it might alter DNA and cause changes at the cellular level. It has been linked to endocrine disruption, decreased fertility and birth defects.
As part of the development agreement, residents of First Street Village will have to sign a waiver acknowledging they’ve been informed of the health implications of their decision to live in the complex and advising them to keep their windows closed and stay indoors as much as possible. This is presumably intended to shield the developer and the city from liability should the predicted health consequences occur.
What might be harder to shield themselves against are the ethical implications of targeting young professionals — the much-desired millennials — with promises of housing that seems appealing on its surface (bike paths, public green spaces, modern conveniences) fully cognizant of the fact that it has the potential to make them — and any children they might decide to have — very sick.
Knowing what we know about the health risks, is building homes for young professionals on this site the right thing to do? Maybe that’s the question we should be asking.
[Editor’s note: This article doesn’t even mention the history of the site where this development sits. Currently there is automotive repair shop that has been there for years and previously there were aircraft related industrial uses. The developer will have to take soil smaples at the site prior to grading to ensure there are no longer any toxins released during construction. More info on pages 60 of this PDF.]
If you believe what Sharon Springer tells you, she is an environmentalist — a promoter of bike paths, recycling and community gardens. But her City Council campaign in being funded by a pro-development political group that’s been at the center of efforts to roll back regulations on big polluters for the last decade.
Strange bedfellows indeed.
According to public records, BizFed, a self-described “pro-business” PAC, which helped defeat a ballot measure aimed at curbing development in Los Angeles last month — and whose efforts to block clean air and water protections have been widely-criticized by environmental groups — gave Sharon Springer’s campaign the maximum donation allowed by law on March 15th.
Ms. Springer, a member of the Sustainable Burbank Commission, claimed in a recent interview that “improving our air quality, managing scarce water, using energy responsibly, enhancing public and diverse transportation options and moving forward on our zero waste goal” are among her central concerns.
Judging from its efforts to block clean air and water protections, BizFed does not share those concerns.
According to the LA Times, environmentalists “expressed outrage” over the group’s successful campaign to keep the Southern California Air Quality Management Board from tightening restrictions on trucks and other “mobile polluters” in February of this year. The PAC lobbied to make compliance by polluters voluntary instead of mandatory.
Environmentalists told the Times, the rollback on proposed anti-pollution laws would “hurt millions of people, including many suffering from asthma, lung, and heart disease and other pollution-related illnesses.”
The PAC also lobbied the LA County Board of Supervisors to reject the “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” parcel tax measure in 2013. “This is a big victory for the business community,” its website declares.
The wave of proposals for mega-development — not just in Burbank but around Southern California –have increasingly put environmentalists and developers (and their supporters in city government) at odds.
For example, according to a report by the LA Times, which was released just last week, city officials throughout Southern California have “flouted” warnings from health experts and allowed “a surge in home building near traffic pollution with little regard to the health implications for future residents.
According to the Times, “for more than a decade, California air quality officials have warned against building homes within 500 feet of freeways. And with good reason: People there suffer higher rates of asthma, heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and pre-term births. Recent research has added more health risks to the list, including childhood obesity, autism and dementia.”
And yet, in Los Angeles alone, the Times found that “thousands” of projects within the pollution zone have been green-lighted recently, The newspaper based its analysis on census data, building permits and other government records.
In Burbank, all of the mega-developments awaiting approval, and many projects like the Talaria, which have already earned the City Council’s approval, are within the “pollution zone.”
Springer, whose campaign has spent lavishly on multiple campaign mailers, has yet to address or disavow the donation from Biz Fed, despite the obvious inconsistencies between the positions she’s taken to win the support of voters and this organization’s aggressive efforts to uproot environmental regulation and forward a pro-development agenda.
In the primary race, Ms. Springer was quick to criticize two of her Council race opponents for receiving an unsolicited campaign donation from a local developer, calling it hypocritical. In that case both candidates refused to accept the monies, citing a potential conflict of interest — and issued public statements explaining their positions. As of this writing, Ms. Springer has not issued a similar statement to the public.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can decrease air pollution or if you have ideas on what Burbank can do to address our air quality please attend this meeting Friday morning at BWP. (RSVP REQUIRED to email@example.com.) The city could receive millions of dollars in funding if we demonstrate a strong commitment to projects that improve our air quality. See the flyer linked below and the MSRC website.
Here’s a map to BWP.