The recycling center at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) has received a number of satisfactory reports from a variety of city and county agencies, university officials announced recently.
The school’s waste management facility, which has received statewide acclaim for its dedication to recycling a great deal of the solid and green waste generated by the university, has been the flash point for a simmering land use dispute between LMU’s administration and several homeowners on nearby McConnell Avenue for the better part of a year.
Longtime property owners have accused the university of operating a recycling center that is not in compliance with city regulations, while LMU officials have consistently stated that they believe the facility is not subject to statutes that pertain to public recycling centers and that they have broken no laws.
In a letter issued by the university Wednesday, November 21st, school officials referenced a series of reports issued by various municipal and county agencies that have inspected the recycling center, which is situated 12 feet from the property line of some of the McConnell Avenue homeowners.
The Local Enforcement Agency, a part of the City of Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Department, visited the campus in September and found no improprieties in the facility’s operations.
“All premises were observed to be orderly and free of trash, litter, debris and rodent harborages,” wrote Wayne Tsuda, the Local Enforcement Agency director. “No odors were detected and no signs of accumulated dust were present, equipment appeared to be well maintained and clean and rodenticide in bait stations were observed along the eastern property.”
The report also states that no violations under state solid waste laws and regulations were noted, and “no activities requiring a solid waste permit were observed.”
One of the main reasons the agency visited the recycling center was to see if it needed a permit to continue operations, said Darlene Fields, the Environmental Affairs Department director of administration.
Following two complaints about odors from the facility in October, the South Coast Air Quality Management District sent an inspector to the university. The agency did not issue the facility a citation under its public nuisance statute because not enough complaints were lodged.
“We typically don’t cite for public nuisance unless there are at least five or six complaints,” explained Tina Cherry, of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Public Affairs Department.
The letter also mentioned reports from the city’s Department of Building and Safety and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
“We run a good operation that is within the law,” Kathleen Flanagan, vice president of communications and government relations at LMU told The Argonaut.
Residents on McConnell Avenue counter that the agencies are called out during times when the recycling plant is not operating at its loudest and that university officials have ample time to clean the facility prior to inspections.
Deanna Robinson, who has lived on McConnell Avenue for 43 years, has complained of unpleasant odors and refuse emanating from the facility for nearly a year.
“I have written several letters to [LMU president] Father [Robert] Lawton about the smells and the noise,” she said. “This has always been a quiet street until [LMU] built the recycling center.”
Members of the McConnell Quality of Life Group, which consists of several homeowners who believe that the plant is not in compliance with city regulations and have sought assistance from City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to intervene on their behalf, were dismayed when a meeting with members of the Los Angeles Department of City Planning scheduled for Tuesday, November 27th, was cancelled that day.
According to Linda Kokelaar, who serves as the homeowners’ spokeswoman, the residents were scheduled to discuss how they and LMU officials could work through their problems through mediation.
“We’re waiting to see when we can meet again,” said Kokelaar. “Each time that we see progress, it seems that we take ten steps backwards.”
As a subtext to the ongoing controversy, a flyer that was attributed to the McConnell Avenue homeowners who are contesting the recycling center was circulated earlier this month encouraging residents not to donate canned goods to a food drive that a LMU fraternity was sponsoring.
“Please consider NOT donating or supporting any causes by Loyola Marymount University or its students until LMU begins to treat the residents of Westchester with consideration and respect,” the flyer reads.
Both Robinson and Kokelaar say they do not know who circulated the pamphlet and while both believe in donating to worthy causes, they feel that the author of the flyer is entitled to express an opinion regarding the recycling center.
“People have a right to say what they want and to protest or oppose things that they don’t believe in,” noted Kokelaar, an educational therapist.
LMU officials, however, believe that the leaflet was somewhat out-of-bounds.
“Our feeling is that this has gotten out of control,” said Flanagan. “This is an issue between the administration and the neighbors.”
Flanagan feels that the food drive and the problems with the recycling facility are separate and should be viewed that way.
“Do I believe that [the McConnell residents] have issues regarding noise and smells with us?” she asked. “Yes, I do.
“But (the canned goods drive) is for a good cause. As my mother used to say, [the flyer] was uncalled for.”
LMU officials remain optimistic that there can be an amicable resolution to the dispute over the recycling center’s location and proximity to homes, although no meetings with the property owners on McConnell Avenue have occurred since August.
“Absolutely,” Flanagan replied when asked if she was still open to meeting with the McConnell group. “I’m willing to see if we can find a resolution [to the dispute].”
Robinson also hopes that the controversy surrounding the recycling center is settled soon.
“I think that this has gone on too long,” Robinson said. “I personally feel that if [LMU] wanted to be good neighbors, than they should act like good neighbors.”