Monday, January 14, 2008

Another Important Letter to the Editor

Ms. Jody James, an active environmentalist and a very concerned citizen who knows whereof she writes and speaks, had her letter to the editor of The Daily Breeze printed in its Monday January 14, edition.

Here is her letter:

LPG facility poses threat

When we prioritize the important things in life, safety is No. 1. We often hear our politicians say this too.

Late in November 2007, the Channel 4 evening news presented an alarming report. Using a computer simulation, they demonstrated a rupture, explosion and spreading fire from a (proposed) liquefied gas terminal 20 miles out to sea, north of Santa Monica.

In this scenario several thousand residents would be killed.

A real alarming truth is that in San Pedro there is a 25-million gallon liquefied petroleum gas tank facility, AmeriGas Propane Inc. These tanks sit across from a densely populated neighborhood, two blocks from three schools, the 110 freeway and the Port of Los Angeles.

In a catastrophic incident, the 140,000 nearest residents in Harbor City, Rancho Palos Verdes, San Pedro, Lomita and Wilmington could lose their lives.

Destruction would be enormous.

This site was the subject for congressional action with the Fuels Transportation Safety Amendments Act of 1978. As a public safety concern in the 1970s the Port Master Plan identified these tanks as urgently needing relocation to a remote site.

We remember the creation of "Energy Island" (now called Pier 400). This huge landfill in our harbor was built with the stated purpose of "public safety." The port instead uses it for a container terminal.

After the attacks of 9-11, our elected officials promised to act swiftly to remove serious hazards in our area. Promises of a life-and-death nature were broken again.

For 30 years homeowners groups and later neighborhood councils petitioned the city of Los Angeles to do the right thing concerning AmeriGas. Sadly, Harbor Area residents have seen several mayors, administrations, city attorneys, city councilmen (and women) fail to come through for us. Even former City Councilman Rudy Svorinich has been a consultant for AmeriGas (also for Ponte Vista developer Bob Bisno).

Pleas for help to remove AmeriGas have gone to the city Planning Department, the mayor, all City Council members, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Federal Rail Safety Administration, Homeland Security, the governor, congresswomen, newspapers and also to news and talk-radio producers - to name a few.

Replies to our letters point toward the city of L.A. needing to take responsibility!

As residents, we need to act in our best interests. Time is likely not on our community's side.

Please urge Los Angeles to put our families' safety at the top of their agenda.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn's phone number is 310-732-4515. Urge other City Council members at

San Pedro

There should be no argument, debate, or questioning anything Ms. James wrote. She is one of the most knowledgeable individuals who has been dealing with our local environment for years.

If you hear anyone claim that Jody doesn't know what she is talking about, they would be dead wrong!

If you want expert advise on environmental issues around the Port of Los Angeles and OUR community, you would need to look for further than Ms. James.

If you wish to wonder why the words Ms. James has written are so important as far as Ponte Vista goes, have a look at "Google Earth". You would be able to see the twin Amerigas tanks and the property that we know as Ponte Vista, all being close to each other.

With a populated Ponte Vista and any kind of problem with the Amerigas tanks, not only would so very many people suffer, but two of the major exit routes out of San Pedro and eastern Rancho Palos Verdes would most probably be taken out of service and that would trap not only the injured that would need treatment, it would also cut off two major arteries for residents who need to evacuate.

In a worst case scenario, it really wouldn't matter to folks like me and everyone living in northwest San Pedro and much of the area east of Miraleste Drive. If we were at home during the event, we would most likely parish with either the initial blast, or be consumed by the fires that would rage all around us.

We are not saying that the sky is falling, but many, many individuals in OUR community have been thinking about those monstrous tanks for years now.

This issue is just one more issue that needs a great amount of discussion and dealing with, as far as Ponte Vista goes

Have any of you been witness to what happens when a "Cat Cracker" blows up? If you have lived near the now Conoco-Phillips refinery for a good number of years, you may have remembered the humongous blast and the bright orange glow that filled the night sky.

Perhaps you felt, heard, witnessed, or had your home damaged when the Sanseina blew up in the outer harbor in 1976. That explosion broke the front glass in the old Von's store that is now Henry's. If that blast did the damage it did so far away from northwest San Pedro, the thought of what an explosion at Amerigas, is something that would be horrible to imagine.

No folks, it is not doomsday today, and it most probably be tomorrow. In consideration of placing as many as 1,950 units so close to escape routes of any disaster in San Pedro, we all must think about what is really best for OUR community.


Jim said...

While I can't disagree with all of the dangers mentioned, and I most certainly agree that Ponte Vista should be developed R-1, one must ask why were all the homes allowed to be built in the first place.

The refinery has been there since before time. How about the tanks that used to be where the Home Depot on Gaffey is now? Those tanks really were in peoples backyards. I'm sure the tanks were there first, so why were the homes approved in the first place, and, why would anyone ever buy a home with a time bomb in their backyard.

I'm sure there is plenty of blame to go around for all of the past planning and development blunders, but what is important now is not making the same mistakes all over again.

Having 1400 more homes than what zoning permits on one of the few roads in or out of town is simply unacceptable. 1950 new condos would bring Western Ave. to a hault in normal conditions. I hate to imagine what would happen in a major catastrophy

All this over a greedy developer. Remember Bob, that property you paid way too much for was zoned R-1 when you bought it. Get over it Bob, you can still make millions and millons and millions of dollars on a quality R-1 project.

Thank You

M Richards said...

Thanks for your comments, Jim.

You brought up a very good question as to why was the Westmont tract built. Maybe it would not have been built if there was as much debate as there is with Ponte Vista.

As it seems you remember, not only were the big tanks down on Gaffey, near the Pacific Drive-in, there was also a Standard Oil tank farm between Western and the houses that were built, probably beginning in about 1962 in the area of Taper.

The Amerigas tanks came after both the Highlands and Westmont were built, if I remember correctly.

There was quite a stirrup about the tanks on north Gaffey where Home Depot now stands. They contained much less product than Amerigas does, but if they had gone up, there would have been great destruction, too. Thank goodness they didn't.

The chances that the Amerigas tanks would fail or have something else happen to them is remote and I don't lose any sleep worrying about them.

However, with so many SFRs, condos, and apartments in the area, bringing a development that would have about three times the unit density than The Gardens, seems ridiculous to many folks.

Statistically, we all stand a greater chance of having an airplane attempting to come in for a landing at Zamperini Field (Torrance Airport), crash into our residence, than there would be a chance that something would happen with Amerigas.

As I am sure folks who live on our end of town know that our area is an area where small aircraft line up to land at the airport. The farther north you go in San Pedro, the more folks are underneath the landing pattern of the airport.

While there have been a few crashes of aircraft near the airport, I don't remember anything in the DEIR that illustrated typical landing patterns for aircraft.

It may be just a tiny issue, but it might be an issue that should be discussed.

A light airplane did fall out of the sky into the then canyon just off of Park Western Drive.

One of the main routes to line up to land after flying back from Catalina Island or from touring the coast is just about right up over Western Avenue or somewhat to the east of that.

It may be that a group of concerned folks who have lived in the area for quite some time could get together and come up with a host of issues that could be dealt with in a new EIR for Ponte Vista.

If Bob really wants to build 1,950 units in this particular area, I would hope the decision-makers would want to consider not only the things considered in a "normal" EIR, but also some things that make Ponte Vista such a special area for OUR community and elsewhere.

If someone comes into OUR community and seeks to change the way we live, that person had better dot all of his "Ts" and cross all of his "Is". Bob has demonstrated time and time again, he has done neither for the betterment of the current residents of OUR community.

Jim, I wish you would consider writing a post for this blog. write whatever you wish and I publish it to this blog.

km said...

Fact is that if anything major happens at Amerigas, no one is evacuating off the peninsula. There are only 4 major points of access to the mainland and they will choke quickly. Heck, it's bad enough getting over the VT bridge or getting on to the 110 on a regular weekday morning; can you imagine what it will be like when people are panicked and trying to flee the area? Forget about it.

Keep'em honest said...

Property rights are sacred in our country. AmeriGas, or any company, has a right to use the property as they see fit as long as all laws and safety requirements are met. All of the people who live in this area moved in AFTER the tanks were installed. They had property choice. If someone wants AmeriGas, or any other company to use property differently, they can always make an offer to buy the property. Let's respect what made this country great, the freedom of choice to do as we see best. Finally, we all want Cheap energy and that usually means low cost oil, natural gas, coal and gasoline as well as electricty. But why does everyone say "Not in my backyard"? Again, your free to put your home where you please but if you buy a home with a facility in the backyard, please don't try to pretend it grew there after you moved in.

M Richards said...

Thanks keep'em honest. I will be honest and let you know that those Amerigas tanks were built AFTER the home I live in, the homes in The Highlands, and the homes in the Westmont tract were built.

There are still quite a few residents of the area who were living in their homes before Amerigas built the twin tanks.

Also, the lower tank section of the Conoco-Phillips refinery was also built after most of the housing was built and occupied. My Uncle Chuck was a foreman on much of the pipe-fitting work on the western side of what was the Union Oil refinery.

But you are correct that there are many people and everyone who may move into Ponte Vista that came or will come after the tanks were built. And you are also very correct that it is every one's right to be able to purchase a home near tank farms, refineries, or wherever else housing can be provided.

I would be more happy to see LPG storage facilities in the outer harbor, or even on a human-made island. We already have quite a few high pressure pipelines running under our area. They seem much safer than having tanks nearby, I feel.

Please don't forget, we all live in an earthquake area and the three other "seasons" are floods, fires, and riots.

Yes, many folks choose to live near Amerigas, but that shouldn't stop us from wanting those tanks moved.

Wouldn't that site be a great place to put Eastview Little League?

M Richards said...

Thanks km,

I would have to agree that attemting to evacuate San Pedro would probably be more of a folly than anything real.

Palos Verdes Drive West is one of the only roads in the U.S. that is constantly in motion fast enough to need constant attention.

Of course we all should know that Bob's plans are to put some of the most senior drivers at the northwestern most access out of San Pedro and onto northbound Western Avenue.

With Bob wanting his Senior Section on the north side of Ponte Vista, not only will he put those drivers closest to Lomita, he also puts them just about as far as they can be from the local shopping area. Many of us tried to get Bob to think about putting the Senior Section on the southwest part of his property, but this was just another example of how Bob doesn't really wish to hear from the community or even some of the seniors who actually said they would like to move into Ponte Vista's senior section, if there is one.

km said...

You are right, AmeriGas owns that property- but- large parts of San Pedro were built well before that facility went in, and it was built before the dangers of close proximity to that kind of operation were fully understood. I'm in the part of town that was built mostly from 1890-1920, long before AmeriGas, the refinery or the tank farms in the port. It's not NIMBYism to say that those facilities are dangerous and present a real hazard. What I and I believe, Mark, are saying is that it's irresponsible to put an even greater burden of population around a known hazard, particularly when the probability of evacuating the area is so low.