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[KB Home’s Runkle Canyon development is now called Arroyo Vista at the Woodlands]

Mary WiesbrockEnviroReporter.com just posted four videos of concerned citizens protesting Runkle Canyon’s development. They are filmed by Brigham Maher, who also addresses the Simi Valley City Council, on October 22, 2007, which can also be seen via the city’s video archive of the meeting.

The videos provide insight into how some feel about Runkle Canyon being developed without a proper characterization and cleanup of the elevated amounts of strontium-90, arsenic, vanadium, chromium and benzo(a)anthracene found in the picturesque canyon. These people are awaiting responses to their comments on the proposed cleanup plan for Runkle Canyon.

As I reported in the July 31 post “The Gloves Come Off,” the Department of Toxic Substances Control is about to approve a Runkle Canyon cleanup response plan. Interestingly, the DTSC project manager for the KB Home/DTSC cleanup agreement, Norm Riley, said nothing about all the public comments he had received about the plan, including the Radiation Ranger response plan comments.

“With respect to the Runkle Canyon project, we have not yet approved the response plan that was submitted by the developer and the developer therefore was not able to proceed with removal of tar material and additional testing prescribed by DTSC until such time as the response plan is reviewed,” Riley said. “My hope is that we will be able to approve that response plan in the next few weeks but I don’t know exactly when it’ll happen.”

So what happened to the comments? Is DTSC going to green-light a response plan without the public seeing what it is? Or is Riley going to approve the response plan it did see that has raised so many concerns, generated numerous comments most available on StopRunkledyne.com, without even considering those comments in response to the public?

If that is the case, there is sure to be plenty of public reaction. If an October 22, 2007 meeting of the Simi Valley City Council is any indication, the citizenry has a lot to say about KB Home’s long-delayed development of 461 homes. I wrote about this meeting in a November 1, 2007 Ventura County Reporter cover story called “Dirty Business – New law cleaning up Rocketdyne for parkland may not stop adjacent KB Home development pushed by Simi Valley City Council.”

Following are selected excerpts of what different folks said, including the reactions of the mayor and city council. These same folks, and others, eagerly await DTSC’s responses to their comments on this controversial canyon and the cleanup response plan.

Brigham Maher:

Regarding Runkle Canyon, I am very curious why you want to kill me? Why do you want to kill my family? Why do you want to kill my friends? And why do you want to kill yourselves in the whole process? Runkle Canyon is contaminated. There’s lots of tests out there stating the facts. It’s right down from the worst nuclear meltdown in American history. You all need to wake up because it really seems to me that you guys want to build on that land; you want KB Homes to build on that land and, you know, that’s going to destroy lives and you don’t even realize it. I mean if there are readings of strontium-90 in that soil to any extent, digging that up and bringing it into the air that we breathe, do you realize what that’s going to do? I mean, do you guys even care? I mean I’m just really curious – I really am and that’s all I really have to say.

Adam Salkin:

I think the only safe thing to do is not to build houses right up against the Santa Susana Field Lab, a site that is known to be one of the most dangerous places in our country, a site that is so dangerous that an agreement has been made by the State not to build houses on it and now I believe that that same agreement for contaminated land that surrounds this site.

“The Good Reverend John” Southwick, Radiation Ranger:

I think you all have strong feelings about what Nancy Reagan used to say. And one of her big points was ‘Just Say No.’ And that’s what you folks have got to do with KB – just say no. This project should not be built without a new EIR.

Stephanie Hyatt:

My family and I own two businesses here in Simi Valley and we feel very, very strongly about the atmosphere that you’ve created for us to work here, to live here, to play here. We’re just very, very concerned about your choices with Runkle Canyon. As a business owner, we would love to see more people in the community but this is not the right thing to do. This is not the right thing to do.

We know the environmental hazards – everyone is reading the paper. We all have concerns about the environmental hazards there. I don’t want the dust coming up and my kids swimming in the pool and that in my backyard. We’ve had many cancers in our family. It’s not a fun thing to do. It just seems like all that the testing that’s been done raises so many questions, so many questions. KB Homes stands to profit so much from this project. Why can’t they do a new EIR to allay our fears and to make sure that it is the right thing to do because right now, to the public, it doesn’t look like the right thing to do.

There are good ways and there are good growth opportunities in this city – this is not one of them. Not yet. It just seems like KB is so quick to just push this project along and it’s in our backyards and all of us will have to really live with the longstanding repercussions of this. We’re not talking about the crowding, the over-crowding in the schools we’re living with; the traffic issues that we’ve tried to deal with, with the traffic manager who has been very helpful to us… We just hope you take into consideration our concerns and demand that KB does a new EIR for us all.

“Toxic Terry” Matheney, Radiation Ranger:

If we hadn’t come forward to stop this thing, that home project would have started last August, been built and right now you would have a situation with toxins in that canyon in homes. We know the toxins are there. You checked it. We checked it. And yet the bill that was just signed, 990, and you guys supported that. To have that Santa Susana Field Lab cleaned up to its utmost. We feel that if it’s good enough for you guys to vote for that to be done on such a large scale up there, knowing that it’s toxic, then we should do the same thing down here. We feel that lives are at stake.

You know, on that EIR, they said they had checked all those heavy metals and that they were all below. Well, let’s say that KB Homes was not lying, that they were true. Well that means we have new toxins flowing into that canyon. We’ve had two earthquakes in just the last few times. How do you know that those tectonic plates haven’t shuffled and some of that toxic goo isn’t coming down here? Or, we don’t even know, according to the meeting we just had down at the [Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center] how they’re going to clean it up.

They all admitted that – the Department of Toxic Substances, Health and Safety – they admitted we don’t really know what’s there or what we have to do to clean it, or have the money to. But what if they flush that soil and try to bring out that trichloroethylene or some of these others. These are cancerous materials that you found and we found.

We ask for a new EIR. We ask for this to be agendized. We want more than three minutes to talk about the safety of the people here in Simi Valley. I know you think that we have a beautiful view that we’re trying to protect but some of you live on Talbert and no we don’t. You have a better view down here than what we have up there.

This is something serious where lives are at stake and right now they would be probably be moving in kids and animals and everything else up into that area that now you know there’s toxins in. You had told us that everything was alright and you said ‘I can’t believe that the EIR would be wrong but I think we owe an obligation to the people – I took an oath and we owe an obligation to protect the people of Simi Valley and we’ll check and see if this EIR is wrong.’ And I think we found that. If nothing else, it is not the same as what it was.

I ask for a new EIR. This is not unreasonable. What would be unreasonable is to try and patch up something that you already know is wrong. It has to affect [the EIR] now that there are those things up there – the wildlife – your own paper said that. The man said ‘it has to affect the wildlife.’ If it gets into the arroyo who knows what it will affect. And it’s headed this way. Gravity does that.


Holden Bonwit:

Good evening Mayor and Council. I’ve never spoken before. I’m not a Toastmaster [and] don’t have any notes prepared or anything but I just wanted to speak out. I think it makes sense to step back and look at the big picture of what everybody for the most part is talking about and really emotional about at this meeting and that’s the Runkle Canyon issue.

If so many people are worried about kids and the air they breathe, all these things; I don’t think three minutes is enough. I mean when we give someone a doctorate in this country, they have to sit in front of a panel and defend what they believe for hours at a time and now we’re going to put our on health at risk for it. It doesn’t make sense.

I’m not going to say to anybody in the room that I’m against KB Homes building homes. I’m really a young adult. I live and work in Simi and I’d love to have my own home. I can’t afford it right now. The more homes built, the better chance I have to get one. A little place would be great – they don’t build them here but, so I’d love that but I don’t think it’s the right place to do it if we’re going to have toxins in the air, you know. The more mountain biking and street running I do, the quicker I die.

I haven’t read all the reports. I’ve just been reading. I’m starting to get into it and read about the issues. Certainly, other citizens in the audience know more than I do but it just seems like we ought to do our due diligence, do our homework on it and try and get to the bottom of it. I was thrilled to hear that you guys did some testing and that was excellent, then I was just totally blown back and appalled – it seems like progress is still being made towards building homes instead of pulling the handbrake and saying ‘Whoa! What are we getting ourselves into?’

I don’t know about you guys but I don’t like eating batteries but cadmium has been found – it’s the same thing. I wouldn’t put it in my body by choice. I wouldn’t blend it up in a blender and make a smoothie out of it and drink it and I certainly don’t want to put it in the air and breathe it. That’s one of so many heavy metals. You’ve heard all of them, strontium, all these (unintelligible). I’m not a chemist either.

I’m an engineer and I know when you set a test limit on something, you do some experimentation; you find a limit. You don’t make up the limit. I mean, to say we come up with a health limit on something, that’s fine so, okay maybe we’re a little bit past the limit, you know, for what’s healthy for a person. First of all that’s not acceptable – that’s why we made a limit in the first place.

We didn’t say about this much, we said this much is going to have serious health effects. So I don’t even want to talk about being a little over or under the limit. Now what happens when were 200 times over the limit or 400 times over the limit? That’s crazy. That’s like playing Russian Roulette with 20 bullets in a six-round revolver. It just doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, thanks for you time. I hope that you take the issue to heart and realize that it’s probably not necessarily all of our lives but certainly your children’s lives if you have children and that kind of thing and animals and that kind of thing. It’s not just us; it’s the city that you represent. Anyway, I just wanted to take the time as a voter.

John Luker:

Runkle Ranch is going to built adjacent to the sodium burn pit. I don’t know if you guys know what the sodium burn pit is or was. If you did, I think you’d think twice about this. Based on my research, they took primary reactor core coolant – liquid sodium – pumped it into a pond on the back forty and just let it burn off. The resulting fallout blew in all directions and it has contaminated a wide area up there. That includes Runkle Ranch. If you found any strontium-90, cesium-137, plutonium-238, uranium-235 or any other constituents of chemicals and or rads from this property; the combination is deadly. And all you’re going to need is from three to five years from now a case retinoblastoma to be developed in this development, and I’ll be back here with that child’s mother to address you again.

Christina Walsh:

Don’t make this mistake now. This cannot be undone. When you start digging this up and putting that contaminated dust into the air, you can’t undo it. You are basically re-exposing everybody to the accidents and mistakes of fifty years. And you know better. SB-990 – you supported it; you know better. The Governor knows better. He made a deal that says [Rocketdyne] can only be parkland because it is so contaminated. You cannot make this mistake and think that we’re not going to be back. I really urge to take a look at that EIR and ask for re-sampling, independent sampling and to look in the right places. Look where they know they did it.”

Simi Valley City Councilmember Barbra Williamson:

I have a question for Mrs. Walsh. An Environmental Impact Report was done, what, 2002, whenever Runkle came in front of us but. And people are saying that there are flaws with that Environmental Impact Report. What makes you think that if we do another full Environmental Impact Report that we are going to get results that will be passing as far as the residents are concerned or your group?

(Walsh said 700 sodium burn pit documents released in August 2006 and is new information.)

Williamson:

But if it’s a new find, what’s to say if we don’t do a new Environmental Impact Report and find ‘Oh, there’s something new that we’ve just discovered’ then starting the whole thing over again?

(Walsh says a real independent EIR will find contaminants and then the city should consider making the land “open space.”)

Mary Wiesbrock:

I want to thank you for your support of SB-990. Save Open Space Santa Monica Mountains represents one thousand people in Ventura County.

You do have a legal right to ask for – you have new information of significance – you have a legal right to ask for a Supplemental EIR. Actually in the Subdivision Map Act, you have the legal right because you’re going to have to make a finding that there’s hazards here. You have a legal right to clean it up to also vote no because of the hazards you don’t want to make a Statement of Overriding Considerations.

We would like to put into the record that the environmental work on the hazards area in inadequate. In order to protect public health and safety of existing residents and new future residents, a full health risk assessment needs to be done. This new health risk assessment must analyze the Runkle property in the following areas: air toxics, soil gases, water and alluvial sampling.

All of this should be done in a full grid sampling according to EPA standards, not one sample per every two acres. That is inadequate. Potential exposure studies shall include soil, surface water, sediments, groundwater, soil gas – these people living in these homes – there could be toxic soil gas migrating up into their houses.

Unlike the past Santa Susana Field Lab testing, we want the water sampling to be done correctly. All the past testing that showed that there was no problem at Brandeis was done incorrectly using filters. They filtered out the metals and radionuclides resulting in falsely lowered [results]. And like Ahmanson Ranch, which is also in the SSFL watershed zone, contamination was found there and then the owners sold it as open space. We hope a similar situation happens here. We hope KB Homes sells it as open space to protect public health and safety.

Simi Valley Mayor Paul Miller:

I have no further cards so the public portion is closed. This is not an agendized item tonight so we cannot get into a discussion among ourselves on the dais but I do have a couple of comments I want to make before we go into council comments. This council has said many times that we would not move forward unless we were satisfied that the area was safe and we’re not satisfied.

Right now there is still analysis being done and I’ll speak for the group and you can correct me if I’m wrong – none of us believes that the project should move forward until such time that each one of us feel satisfied that it’s not a hazardous area. I mean we all live here too. We’re residents and we hear your concerns and so we’re not oblivious.

There also seems to be a belief that the council, the city is about to approve the grading permit. Not true. That grading permit has been put permanently on hold and, again, until we are satisfied, we are not going to have any grading done, so I don’t know if the rest of you want to comment on it or not. Okay. We hear you, again, and we’ll continue to work with you.

Simi Valley City Councilmember Glen Becerra:

I want to finish off by saying how happy I am. You know, this council called for Rocketdyne to be parkland a long time ago and I’m very pleased with the announcement and the agreement that was that had by the Governor and by the Boeing Company and that we were able to see that through to secure that land as open space. It’s terrific.

Williamson:

Well, Mr. Mayor I think I will start off with some comments on Runkle Ranch and know that you had made some comments but I have to tell you that I’ve been up here now for a couple of years listening to the concerns about Runkle Ranch and about KB Homes and, quite frankly, I’m a little bit tired of the scare tactics that are over the Internet and flyers that are being published.

You know, this council has really taken an active part in making sure that any decisions that get done with KB Homes and Runkle will be good for all of the community, not just the people who live around it. I get very offended when the council gets thrown under the bus. We have not made any decisions. No grading is being done.

You know we want to hear what the residents’ concerns are and we do listen. We’ve always listened but to make those kind of statements by flyer or Internet to say that we’re on the take – I mean I’m offended and I’m not happy. I think it’s the worst thing you can do for this community. We always listen and for you to put out a publication like that, shame on you. Shame on you. I mean this council is doing everything they can to make sure that everybody gets a fair hearing, not just the residents, but KB Homes too. They deserve that.

We may not approve that project but we don’t know that yet. We’re going to take every step we need to take to make sure that everybody has a fair hearing and a fair say as to what happens with that project. So please, don’t throw us under the bus. Give us some credit. Let us do our job and if we don’t do our job, you can recall all of us. But until that time, please, have some manners. Be respectful. We are of you. Thank you.

Simi Valley Councilmember Steve Sojka:

I want to talk a little bit about Runkle Ranch. First of all, the couple that’s sitting here. I respect you and thank you for coming down here. I know it takes a lot to come down to your city council. You’re busy. You’re running your own lives, probably have kids, things you got to do, other places you could be at this point, but the concern you have to come down and speak to us speaks volumes and I respect that. I also want to tell you too, though, to be careful with some of the people that are behind some of this stuff because it is rhetoric.

They put out flyers that say we’re in the back pocket of the developer, that we’re criminals; that just all we want to do is build all over Simi Valley and that’s not true. We have a slow growth ordnance in place. You look around our community and in the last 10, 15 years, I thought we’ve done a pretty good job of developing it. We’re going to do the same with this and we have pulled the hand brake and the comment that you made is fitting. We saw fit, the EIR said it was fit to build up there and that’s usually the document that this body relies on but then there were some other concerns spread about strontium-90 and some of the other chemicals up there and so we thought, okay, to be safe, to ensure public safety, let’s pull the hand brake on it, let’s hold off the grading permit and do additional tests and go to three outside agencies so that they can look and give their impute back to us, that if this is flawed, let us know because we want to know, or if this is proved science and correct science.

So that’s taken place so I just want to assure you that we just don’t want to develop wherever we can develop. I’ll say this again, it’s personal. My dad died of leukemia; I grew up here in Simi Valley. You don’t think I’m not concerned about this? I’m raising three kids out here. I’ve got my brothers’ nieces and nephews who live here. I’ve got my wife and her sisters and all the other nieces and nephews on that side. So it’s extremely important that we make sure that we’re not going to cause any undue health concern or health risk to this community.

And so, with that being said, there’s two sides to every story and so we have got to weigh that so I just want you to know that but I respect people like you that come down and speak their voice and the concern. Again, but then you have some of them that will spill the rhetoric with their cameras and as you can see now are gone.

And so again there is that balancing act and I think that’s why Councilmember Williamson gets a little frustrated, and I think all of us do, and that’s because; you know I know we asked for this job when we go out and try to be elected but it comes a point where you need to be civil and respectful and professional sometimes they cross that line.

That’s all. That’s the frustrating part on our end. That being said, I think it’s good we are having this dialogue. I think it’s good that they bring this to the forefront so that we can discuss this so that we make sure that whatever we do up there, it’s of safe sound science and that’s all I’m going to say.

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