What are Parcels 12 and 13 and what is the issue?
Parcels 12 and 13 are two narrow strips of land located just north of Civic Center Drive between Beverly Hills Civic Center and the border with West Hollywood. The properties are fenced because the soil has been identified as having elevated arsenic levels and because the City requires that vacant properties be fenced. On Nov. 21 and 22, 2015, trees were removed from the property, raising concerns about health, noise and aesthetics.
Who owns the parcels and who is responsible for the maintenance?
The land is privately owned by Beverly Hills Land Company (BHLC). The parcels both include portions of a public right-of-way owned by the City of Beverly Hills (the City). The BHLC is responsible for maintaining both parcels, including the right-of-way, pursuant to a maintenance agreement with the City.
Who is responsible for cleaning up the contamination?
The previous owner Union Pacific Railroad is responsible for cleaning up the arsenic contamination on the property. The State Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) is responsible for overseeing the mitigation of the arsenic contamination.
How were the parcels contaminated?
The land was used as railroad right-of-way, and DTSC has indicated that arsenic associated with weed control probably was used when the railroad was active.
What did the City do to address health concerns?
Since the removal of the trees, the City has been working with the BHLC to ensure compliance with any additional recommendations the DTSC believes are necessary for public safety. To date those recommendations are that the soil be treated with a special soil binder to minimize fugitive dust and that the parcels be fenced and maintained off limits to the public. The work was approved by the DTSC and has been completed. In addition, the City ordered soil and air testing.
What were the results of the testing?
Test results taken by City consultants after the removal of the trees indicate that there is no current risk to the community from being in the vicinity of Parcels 12 and 13. In addition, there is no evidence that suggests that contaminated dust migrated outside of the parcels as a result of the removal of trees. Street dirt samples taken on Civic Center Drive showed levels of arsenic below naturally occurring levels in Southern California. These samples were taken by a City consultant, Rincon Consulting, and were analyzed by an independent laboratory that is recognized by the State under its Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program. A scientific study by UC Riverside found that arsenic in Southern California generally can be found at levels of 11 parts per million. A separate study by DTSC scientists of soils located at Los Angeles Unified School District schools suggested that a level of 12 parts per million appeared to be a natural level in those soils. Both of these studies demonstrate that the levels of arsenic found in the dirt samples taken from the street immediately adjacent to Parcels 12 & 13 are below those naturally occurring, or “background,” levels of arsenic.
Air and surface wipe samples taken on Civic Center Drive showed no detectable arsenic present. The City retained a separate consultant, PCR Environmental Services, which took air samples at two locations over a three-day period, one upwind across the Parcels and the other downwind. The laboratory determined that no detectable levels of arsenic were found in either the upwind or downwind samples. PCR also took six wipe samples from fencing and other solid surfaces located on the Parcels and from vegetation immediately adjacent to the Parcels. After testing these samples, the laboratory determined that no detectable levels of arsenic were found in either the upwind or downwind wipe samples.
The City’s environmental consultant, Rincon Consultants Inc., also sampled shallow soils on both parcels in early December. As previous testing had indicated, those samples did show some levels of arsenic above naturally occurring levels, which is why the property is fenced.
Copies of the air and soils reports were sent to DTSC and are available on the City’s website at www.beverlyhills.org/parcels1213.
Why were the trees cut down?
The owner had the trees removed on Nov. 21 and 22, 2015 because of a private arborist’s report, commissioned by the owner, that identified the trees as potential hazards from uprooting and falling limbs. The City’s arborist reviewed the report and generally agreed with the assessment.
Did the owner have a City permit to cut down the trees?
A permit is not required for removal of privately owned trees on non-residential property. Removal of trees on public property requires a public notification process. However, the tree removal company was required to have a public right-of-way permit to close a lane of traffic to do the work. That permit was not obtained.
Will the remaining trees be cut down?
Trees still remain on the southern portion of Parcel 13, some of which are in the City’s right-of-way. The City arborist has evaluated the trees and concluded that some of them are a danger to the public and should be removed. However, there will be a complete public outreach process before this takes place; the DTSC will be involved and a tree replacement plan will be developed.
Why was the Farmers’ Market relocated?
The Farmers’ Market was relocated to Third Street for two weeks as an extra precaution until all the work to secure and seal the parcels was complete. The Farmers Market moved back to the original location on Dec. 20.
Is the owner going to develop the property?
At this time the City does not have knowledge of owner’s future plans. Nothing has been proposed yet to the City. The property is zoned for transportation uses, so the only “by-right” use is for rail. The City Council could, by a vote, approve it for use as parking, but anything else would involve a zoning change which includes an extensive public hearing and environmental review process to ensure community input.
If you have additional questions, please email the City at email@example.com or call 310-285-1034.