A three-year impasse over a recycling facility between homeowners on McConnell Avenue in Westchester and Loyola Marymount University (LMU) appears to have reached a cease-fire.
The university’s recycling center, which recycles 56 percent of its solid waste and 100 percent of its green waste, was the flashpoint in a neighborhood dispute where passions about the proximity of the facility to residents’ property lines and the noise and smells that the center generated was often laced with incendiary rhetoric and accusations about the legality of the recycling center.
That apparently has come to an end. In a joint press release issued on July 22nd, LMU officials and representatives of the McConnell Quality of Life Group announced that the university had agreed to move its waste management center to the Drollinger parking structure on the northwest portion of the campus.
“Loyola Marymount University and the McConnell Quality of Life Group have been working cooperatively through the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Dispute Resolution Program to resolve issues of concern with regard to the LMU recycling and waste management,” the release states.
“As a result of these discussions, LMU is voluntarily undertaking a series of measures to be implemented now and over the next year with regard to the existing recycling and waste
Kathleen Flanagan, vice president of government affairs at LMU, said that the school’s representatives will seek approval for the new facility at the Drollinger parking structure and incorporate it into LMU’s Master Plan process. The proposal will be analyzed in the environmental impact report for the proposed campus renovation.
“If approved by the city, LMU will relocate the recycling and waste management operations as one of the first two master plan projects,” Flanagan said.
The other project is a new academic building for the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering.
Last spring, LMU announced that it would be seeking a campus overhaul to renovate its on site parking, residential and laboratory facilities through a master plan. The Los Angeles City Council will analyze the EIR and the entire master plan, and the public will be invited to weigh in on the project.
The renovation cannot take place without approval of the council. The two sides had been in discussions since last summer with a mediator at the behest of City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Westchester.
“This came together around last November after the mediation was completed,” Flanagan told The Argonaut. “We have been working on mitigation measures for the existing facility since then.”
Rosendahl said that he is pleased that the university and the McConnell homeowners were able to reach an amicable agreement.
“I remember walking that area when I first became involved in this issue, and I can remember hearing the smashing glass and smelling the odors from that facility,” the councilman recalled. “I’m proud of the fact that the community organized itself and joined together with the university to find a solution, and now we have one.”
Rosendahl’s office arranged the mediation sessions that took place last summer, Flanagan said.
Dan Horwood, who has lived in Westchester for 33 years, said he is pleased that the university and the McConnell group were able to reach an agreement.
“We’re very hopeful that things will get better now,” he said.
Horwood added that the mediation process was very helpful to both sides.
Flanagan said that university officials opted to relocate the facility to another part of the campus after attempts to reconfigure the recycling center near McConnell were not well received by the neighbors.
“We considered enclosing the center at its current location, but the neighbors had reservations regarding the proximity of the building and the noise level,” she explained.
LMU officials have contacted several residents on Altavan Avenue near the northwestern edge of the university to let them know that the relocated waste management facility will be on the bottom floor of the existing Drollinger parking lot and will be shielded by the structure’s concrete walls.
“The geography there and the way that they’re going to build it is such that it won’t be an issue for the neighbors on that side,” Rosendahl said.
The McConnell homeowners indicated their support for the proposal in the release.
“The McConnell Quality of Life Group fully supports the relocation and construction of a new enclosed recycling and waste management area in the Drollinger Parking structure as part of the proposed master plan,” the release states. “LMU and (McConnell Avenue homeowners) will continue to work cooperatively on details specific to the relocation and improvement plans impacting (our homes).”
LMU has also agreed to implement various mitigation measures at the current recycling location in the interim. They include:
… The purchase of quieter waste management and recycling equipment to replace existing equipment;
… An LMU staff member assigned to monitor the area regularly in an effort to reduce sound from employees, machines, and operations. The staff member will be available to discuss issues of concern regarding ongoing operations raised by the neighbors;
… LMU’s facilities personnel to conduct regular training on sound reduction measures for employees who work in the recycling and waste management area;
… A new covered, carport-style enclosure will be constructed parallel to the property line, which is intended to shield noise from equipment and the recycling bin wash area;
… The screening of certain equipment for noise reduction, and adding cut-off timers to certain equipment to reduce nighttime noise; and
… The implementation of a series of increased security measures in the recycling and waste management area to reduce use of this area late at night and early in the morning.
LMU officials say that they hope to begin construction of the new recycling and waste management area next summer, subject to financial considerations.
Construction of a new recycling and waste management area, which would need to commence in the summer because the construction would require changes to the parking structure that must be undertaken when the university is not in session, is expected to take approximately one year.
The cost of relocating the waste management center is estimated at approximately $6 million, Flanagan said.
Rosendahl expressed relief that the contentious debate surrounding the recycling center is over.
“I’m proud of the fact that reasonable people were able to come together and work their problems out,” he said.