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Influential swing vote, Commissioner Santino, addressed Salkin who sat in the front row of the audience easily identifiable by his long ponytail and backwards-facing baseball cap.

“Well, anyhow I agreed to meet Mr. Salkin, watch a 30 to 40 minute presentation, myself and Commissioner Rice, and we sat in the room to watch it and without any notice to us, you showed up with your cameras and I said ‘You know I’m not comfortable.’” Santino said, successfully controlling his anger. “Now I understand; KB Homes said ‘Can we sit in to observe what they’re going to show you so we know how to rebut?’ I said that’s fair. [In] a court of law, when you present your case, you have to let the opposing team know what you’re doing, okay? Perry Mason is different but in real life it’s not. It would not be fair to sandbag them and just as well I wouldn’t let them do that and they weren’t allowed to ask any questions or do anything. They were merely observers. But my point is I asked you to take away the cameras and we started reviewing your piece there, your report, and what happened? Within five minutes, I had to demand that your cameraman stop because he was surreptitiously filming us. He had his camera at an angle and all the lights were on. Sir, I did not like that. I thought that was very unprofessional and it goes to my point tonight. Again, this is all for the public to see. This is broadcast on the web. It’s archived. People at home can watch it. We’ve allowed you guys to film. Halfway through the meeting tonight, I realize buried in the wires up here is a microphone. No one asked me if this microphone could be up here. Excuse me. And when we’re discussing things in between agenda items, you were recording us. I don’t think that’s appropriate, sir. You did not ask me, I can tell you that.”

The commissioners, this reporter and even the activists in the audience sat in stunned silence. Salkin had managed to destroy the credibility of the community with yet another secretive audio taping of non-consenting adults much as he had done to this reporter in May.

Indeed, this reporter took photographs of Salkin illegally recording the confidential conversation of Norm Riley, the Reverend John Southwick and former Simi Valley resident Frank Serafine March 27, 2008 at a meeting of the former Santa Susana Field Laboratory Workgroup at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.

Salkin did admit culpability at the planning commission meeting. “I didn’t ask you [for permission to audiotape],” Salkin said responding to Santino. “I just put microphones here so we could capture sound, that’s all.”

But that’s not all. The commissioners were clearly angered by the sneaky law-breaking, bold even by Salkin’s slippery standards.

“I am so mad about this, I’m having problems thinking,” Commissioner Mary Bibb said through repeated interruptions by Salkin who was eventually silenced by Planning Commission chair Michael McGuigan who threatened to throw him out of the meeting chambers if he didn’t stop.

“First of all nobody told me that I was being taped and I really really resent that,” Bibb said, voice quavering. “It is illegal to tape somebody without notifying them.”

Within minutes, the commission voted unanimously to recommend granting KB Home the additional five years to build its Runkle Canyon development.

Tonight’s meeting will most likely codify this recommendation. After all, three of the councilmembers were present in 2004 when the original Runkle Canyon EIR was approved by them. These councilmembers, Glen Becerra, Steve Sojka and Barbra Williamson, all voted in favor of the project then even though they neglected to mention that they might have a conflict of interest since they had accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the developer at the time, GreenPark Runkle.

Approving this project will bring full circle the lethargy of government regarding the Runkle Canyon development project. That lethargy did not extend, however, to the hostility that government regulators and politicians have had towards the letter of environmental law and the citizens concerned about it.

Those citizens have a powerful recourse, one where false statements under oath are rewarded with a trip to the pokey. “My feeling is if we go through this five year extension, you have seven years to sue them,” Commissioner Bibb added before she voted for it.

Nine days after the vote, DTSC’s new test results from the windmill well came back positive for the manmade chemicals Toluene and Naphthalene, both toxins though some government agencies here and abroad consider both chemical carcinogenic. It is unlikely that any method of well contamination by these chemicals exists other than them having been introduced to the well manually. That means they had to be poured into the well.

Regardless of potential legal challenges to the city and KB Home, residents can take comfort in the fact that potential future residents and open space users will have ready access to the scientific and political truths about Runkle Canyon via the Internet.

While the developer and government may have failed the community it disregards with hostility, the truth remains. The law of land, like the Clean Water Act, reign supreme in this country. Local traditions of obfuscation, misrepresentation, and gross negligence do not trump the federal laws and regulations of the United States of America.

24 Years of Award-Winning SSFL/Rocketdyne Reporting
June 1998June 2022

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  1. @KB Home Sucks: KB Home calls its Runkle Canyon development Arroyo Vista at the Woodlands. Look here soon for major new developments regarding Runkle Canyon which abuts Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

  2. I think it’s unbelievable that this company is going to be building homes near this site. I think this is a new all time low for this company. I hope there will be lots of protests. http://KB-HomeSucks.com

  3. How much radiation is in the soil in city of Chatsworth?

  4. I note, for the record, that DTSC’s employees issued their No Further Action Letter concerning Runkle Canyon during the final months BEFORE Governor Brown took office in January 2011.

    During that final month, or perhaps earlier, DTSC’s Interim Director Maziar Movassaghi apparently learned that he would not be appointed by Governor Brown as permanent Director of DTSC. In addition, during that same time period Mr. Movassaghi’s right-hand-man concerning Santa Susana Field Lab apparently learned that he would be “given a new assignment” in DTSC’s hierarchy once Governor Brown’s new DTSC Director took office. (The latter fellow was the one who “threw” his deposition in Boeing’s lawsuit against the State concerning SSFL, saying that the Legislature did not need to pass the law Boeing sought to invalidate, that the Legislature wanted to interfere with DTSC’s exercise of its discretion and that in passing the law Boeing opposed the Legislators unnecessarily ignored DTSC and pandered to everyone’s favorite expert Dan Hirsch. To use an old line, with friends like that the Legislature and the public don’t need to look for enemies.)

    I’ve looked at a lot of online DTSC Envirostor documents concerning a multitude of DTSC remediation projects since Governor Brown was inaugurated. The dates of documents posted on Envirostor make it is very clear that back in December 2010 DTSC’s senior employees could be politely characterized as a “making a mad rush” to do as many favors as possible for polluters and their environmental lawyers. The “fast and dirty” issuance of approvals by DTSC staff members in December 2010 crosses a broad spectrum of projects under DTSC’s jurisdiction.

    It’s very sad when State of California or local government employees act in a dishonorable way in protecting the public health, because what they are obviously angling for, in some cases, is a lucrative consulting gig after their “retirement” from the State’s employ. For example, the LA-Ventura Regional Water Quality Control Board’s long time Executive Director is now “in the private sector” and doing legal work for clients whose goals are the antithesis of protecting the publicly owned water supply under the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act. And then, of course, there’s Mr. Riley.

  5. Truly gut-wrenching, this developer debacle. Comments by enviro-reporter and Jennifer are most welcome and shed light on a multi-faceted battle between good and evil, that I find just soooo compelling. Thanks guys, really– THANK YOU.

    Centex Homes on the other side of the mountain from KB suffered the same Riley intransigence a-la-mode now sadly happening simultaneously as we all speak/write. The Good Reverend has seen the mess in Dayton Canyon first hand– KB-Riley may be joining forces with Centex-Riley in order to overtake the unsuspecting public-at-large. Michael, please investigate this angle as well: 62,000,000 parts-per-billion Perchlorate is a lot of salt for junior to play in, I pity those new Dayton families…the Burn Pits are just up canyon; so is Outfall #8 in Happy Valley; and Sr-90, Cs-137, Pu-239/240, TCE, PCE, + MUCH MORE, ad infinitum! Riley has a No Further Action order in place now at both Runkle and Dayton.

    No wonder local real estate brokers covet secrecy over the truth in exposing dirty politics associated with enviromental clean-ups in the area. And with the U.S. Populated slated to grow some 25% to being more than 400 Million by mid-century 2050, the battle ahead will be an epic one, to say the least. Buckle your seatbelts, there will be fireworks in days ahead.

  6. @Jennifer K: Thank you for this comprehensive and thoughtful analysis. Do know that we are presently working on a big piece that will include what happened at the Simi Valley City Council meeting where the council, once again, mocked the community right along with KB Home’s Tom DiPrima for having the audacity to point out that the developers of this property have been trying to test the radiation and chemical contamination found by numerous and voluminous tests conducted from 1998 to 2007, tests that were ignored by the city and developer at their peril. And, unfortunately, at the peril of the possible new home buyers you speak of in detail.

    What neither the company or municipality realize is that this latest round was something other than what they thought it was. And despite the nonsense precipitated by a fauxteur illegally taping the deliberations of the Simi Valley Planning Commission, where there was a real chance at looking at the problems presented by the environmental conditions of the site which were then sublimated into anger at the offending party resulting in a unanimous vote to allow KB Home an additional five years to build (see above article), what actually transpired was something quite useful to the community: KB Home and its paid “consultants” uttered numerous factual inaccuracies that will come back to haunt them.

    This upcoming piece, with photos and videos, will be a real eye-opener, that you can count on. We’re sure that your detailed analysis of this information will be most interesting and useful. In a world of twitter-length blabber, your considered prose is invaluable and without question a must-read especially for the folks who may be impacted by the over 112 tons of strontium-90 impacted dust that construction of Runkle Canyon’s site would cause and the people who may end up buying a new home in the shadow of Rocketdyne.

  7. Assuming for argument’s sake these houses in Runkle Canyon ever get built, the presently vague state of California law allows the home builder to disclose the existence of Area IV (let alone concerns about the property itself) in one paragraph buried in the Final Subdivision Public Report for the project prepared by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) and make no other written disclosure. It will be a DRE staff lawyer who will write a 1″ long paragraph making that disclosure, or approve disclosure language written by the home builder’s “DRE” lawyer.

    If the contamination risk at the project is highest on a newly created large mountainous common are next to Area IV (akin the the Bridle Path tract’s huge common area to the west in the same mountains) then there is even less interest, on the part of DRE to write a meaningful disclosure to new home buyers.

    DRE’s and various home builders’ practical experience shows that new home buyers RARELY read the Final Subdivision Public Report about a new home project, prepared by DRE, because they are given that report with a massive quantity of home builder generate paper work. As a result, it’s highly likely that new home buyers on the property will not be given enough knowledge to make a rational decision whether or not to purchase a new home or to decide whether buying an interest in a project with “questionable” common area is a wise move. Instead, the Final Subdivision Public Report will be shoved under the home buyers’ noses, along with a DRE form saying they have read the DRE Report. Of course, when the buyers “sign here” they are given approximately 15 separate documents to “sign here” seriatim, and the DRE Report Receipt will be buried in the pile of documents to be signed. Anyone who has bought a newly constructed home knows how the “Sign here, Sign here, Initial here, Sign here” process works at the model home complex, when administered by the builder’s sales agents.

    Of course, as a precondition to approving the Runkle Canyon project the City of Simi Valley COULD HAVE mandated a meaningful, detailed disclosure to potential home buyers of the economic and public health risks associated with owning a home (and part of HOA common area) right near and downhill from Area IV.

    Approximately 25 years ago, there was massive controversy concerning the building, by Shea Homes, of new homes bordering the Spadra Landfill which was so big it was located in both Pomona and Walnut. The city with jurisdiction over the new homes being built “next to Spadra” were required to do the following: (1) Post a blunt notice on the door of the model home complex concerning the existence nearby of the gigantic landfill; (2) Give every person who walked through the model home complex a detailed written disclosure about what went on and was going on at the Spadra Landfill; and (3) Before signing-up any buyer on home purchase documents, give every home buyer a detailed written disclosure about what went on at the Spadra Landfill, including a disclosure that the home buyers could not ‘make the Spadra Landfill stop operating or go away’, even if its noise, dust and smells from decomposition of trash bothered the home buyers.

    I actually saw the sign posted on the door of that model complex and read the disclosure provided to everyone who walked through, when I made a visit to the new home complex at Spadra as part of my work. I was quite impressed with that disclosure approach, as compared with the hidden disclosure procedure followed by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) discussed above. That manner in which disclosure to potential new home buyers was made, concerning an obnoxious nearby land use, was the right way for local government, the home builder and the owner of the landfill to go, when the local government agency decided to let the home building near the Spadra Landfill occur.

    To me, as an ordinary home owner, the radioactive and chemical contamination sitting up in Area IV, which may ultimately be removed (releasing dirty dust into the ambient air) would be far more scary than the dust, noise and smells of a gigantic garbage dump like Spadra. Yet under California’s Subdivided Lands Act and California Department of Real Estate (DRE) Regulations, the DRE is not mandated to order new home builders to provide detailed disclosures.

    Sadly, the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) has a long history of having its Director and staff lawyers pander to the home building and real estate brokerage industry lobbyists. In fact the law firm providing “environmental lawyers” for this Runkle Canyon property has, as one of its partners, a man who was an in-house lawyer for DRE roughly 30 years ago.That DRE lawyer asked the law firm for a job, was interviews and hired, and went directly from the DRE Legal Department into employment by the law firm. Based on his online resume still handles complicated DRE matters for his law firm’s clients.

    In my opinion the chance of “DRE” or the City of Simi Valley protecting the public’s health, mental/emotional comfort and monetary home investment, by requiring actual, meaningful disclosures to new home buyers at Runkle Canyon, in the way disclosures were made to new home buyers at Spadra, is “nonexistent”.

    What’s particularly ironic is when those first “new home” buyers of houses on the Runkle Canyon property go to SELL their homes, other California Legislature mandated procedures will require those home buyers, selling “used” homes in Runkle Canyon, to make very detailed disclosures about Area IV and its potential effect on the Runkle Canyon project common area and homes in the project. That’s a homebuilder/DRE screw job of the new home buying public…new home builders do not have a serious pre-sale disclosure requirement but their “customers” do when the homes are resold.

    It’s just my personal opinion, but ASSUMING that KB (and its silent partner in Runkle Canyon, Lennar California) are 100% correct that their Runkle Canyon property is NOT contaminated with anything from the Santa Susana Field Lab, I still would not buy a home there because I would not want to bear the burden and litigation risk of making a full and true disclosure about Area IV to anyone who later bought such a home from me.

    California is a very sad, dangerous place for new home buyers. All of its statutes, regulations and case law are skewed against protecting the innocent home buyer. That, of course, is due to the lobbying and litigation by the home building and residential real estate brokerage industry.

  8. We’re still waiting for DTSC to present the CA Dept of Health risk assessment for the SSFL site and surrounding areas. And a complete EIS/EIR process to be completed.

  9. Janice Andersen

    I am no fan of development, and I am also a rabid environmentalist. I would prefer that the area remain undeveloped. End of story.

  10. Bravo Michael and Denise Anne! This is extraordinary work.

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