Calabasas City Council member, pollution-hater, hell-on-heels

By Michael Collins

Ventura County Reporter – February 6, 2003

Calabasas Mayor Janice Lee 2002

Because she has been a staunch Ahmanson Ranch opponent and strikes fear into the hearts of Washington Mutual lackeys. Because she has sounded the alarm over the Calabasas Landfill that shows evidence of being polluted by Rocketdyne’s goo. Because she is succeeding in making Calabasas the first “diesel-free” city in the nation. Because she works toward the restoration of the Las Virgenes tributary into the Malibu Creek Watershed and to acquire land along the creek to rehabilitate and restore. Because without her, Calabasas wouldn’t be enjoying Phase I of the Dark Skies Ordinance that reduces light pollution and illumination in scenic corridors to enhance wildlife movement at night, preserve night skies and save energy. Because she is an approachable politician with a wicked wit and an infectious laugh.

Lee has been a Calabasas resident since 1986 and is a community leader, businesswoman and long-time environmental advocate. A City Councilmember since 1999, Lee served as Mayor from 2001 to 2002 and is up for re-election to the Council on March 4. For the past ten years, she has built a coalition of over 82 homeowners groups in seven cities, two counties, and a slew of elected officials and agencies to ensure that the coalition prevails in litigation against Ahmanson Ranch, and that Washington Mutual becomes a willing seller to bring the land into the public trust.

Calabasas voters will decide this March whether to pass Measure A, which would repeal a 5 percent Utility Users Tax which garnered $2.4 million this year, 18 percent of the City’s budget. “The measure was inspired by Ahmanson supporters to take the financial ability away from us to continue challenges against the massive project,” Lee told the Reporter.

In 1997, Lee uncovered two plumes of tricloroethylene, a carcinogenic rocket engine solvent, that are leaking into the Calabasas landfill. She demanded that government agencies undertake testing, which they have. The landfill is of particular concern to Lee since her research suggests that the landfill may have been used as a burial site for Rocketdyne’s highest weapons-grade radionuclides and a toxic soup of chemicals. When perchlorate was recently discovered at Ahmanson Ranch, she immediately formed an ad hoc Watershed Task Force comprised of respected hydrogeologists, geologists and seismologists to investigate and characterize the problem. “When I say ‘no’ on Ahmanson Ranch,” she said, “I mean business.”