LA County Designates `Green Zones' to Restrict Large Industrial Businesses

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan today for ``green zones'' in 11 unincorporated areas of the county that have been disproportionately affected by polluting businesses.

In the newly designated green zones, zoning regulations will prohibit certain heavy industrial uses and set stricter standards for other industrial, recycling and solid waste operations, as well as gas stations.

Supervisor Hilda Solis commended the plan and called out a particular scrap metal business in the Florence-Firestone area.

``Over the years, the county has investigated multiple complaints of violations against Central Metal, including illegal storage of hazardous waste, contaminated soil piles, failure to minimize hazards and unpermitted expansion of operations,'' Solis said. ``Residents have also reported foul odors, metallic taste in mouth, loud noises, severe vibrations and increased truck traffic caused by this facility.''

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report from August states that the dirt on the Central Metal site was found to have hazardous levels of lead and arsenic.

The agency is conducting an investigation, including soil testing in surrounding residential areas, to determine if the site is eligible for federal cleanup funding.

The Regional Planning Commission has designated parcels within the following communities in East and South Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley as green zones: Avocado Heights, East Los Angeles, East Rancho Dominguez, Florence-Firestone, South San Jose Hills, Walnut Park, West Athens-Westmont, West Carson, West Rancho Dominguez-Victoria, West Whittier-Los Nietos and Willowbrook.

The new standards will be retroactive in some cases and apply to all future developments.

During public meetings, several community members who live near industrial businesses called for even more green space and larger buffers between the affected operations and residential neighborhoods and schools.

Representatives of the business community raised concerns about the new standards, with some operators objecting that they have always followed the rules.

Supervisor Janice Hahn said even industrial uses that comply with current regulations can be a risk to residents.

``Toxic pollutants near homes and schools are a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of our communities,'' Hahn said. ``I understand some of the business owners that called in and felt like they were good actors, and why are they being punished.

``But I would say even good actors who operate these kind of industrial uses can have accidents. ... It's nothing personal, it's just that it doesn't belong next to homes and our schools,'' Hahn continued.

The new regulations are part of the board's focus on ``environmental justice'' and include more restrictive countywide policies related to recycling and waste management operations.

The necessary documents will be drawn up by county counsel and brought back to the board for final approval.

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