|State Acts On Quarries; Richmond Has Other
March 8, 2006
As the City of Richmond continues to take no substantive action on the two illegal quarries in Richmond, the State Mining and Geology Board meets in Sacramento to consider ordering each of them to correct illegal conditions (see attachment). Apparently, no one representing the City of Richmond plans to attend to show any interest.
Tue, Mar. 07, 2006
Two quarries in Richmond are in danger of collapsing, but the city has limited authority to act because its mining ordinance has been defunct for eight years.
Frustrated with a lack of action from the city attorney, Councilman Tom Butt wrote an updated version of the law based on a state model and submitted it to the City Council for approval at its Feb. 28 meeting. The council failed to approve the ordinance and the law remains in limbo.
The issue seems to have become a battle of wills between Butt and City Attorney John Eastman, who said the city's mining ordinance may or may not be out of compliance despite numerous notices from the State Mining and Geology Board saying it is. He added that until he received specific direction from the council, he would not review the matter further.
Under California's Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975, any municipality that has quarries or mines is required to have an active mining ordinance designed to protect the environment and public safety.
The state geology board notified Richmond in 1998 that its surface mining ordinance was out of compliance and therefore unenforceable. Despite Butt's repeated prodding over the past year, the city attorney's office has not taken any action to make the law active.
"If the state says we are out of compliance, I'm not saying it isn't true," Eastman said. "I'm saying it's a complicated legal question and I haven't made a determination."
Butt, who has been using his popular e-mail forum to criticize Eastman's position on the issue, said the city attorney is dragging his feet in a way that has become an ingrained tradition among Richmond's city staff. Eastman has been city attorney since November.
"The real question is, Why didn't anyone do anything about this in 1998, or in October 2005 or since Feb. 2, 2006, when I first brought the model ordinance to Eastman's attention?" Butt said. "The problem is that the city attorney is so hung up on procedure, trivia, BS and minutiae that the important stuff slips by."
Richmond has two quarries, one on Chevron property and operated by Dutra Materials and another on Canal Boulevard operated by Bauman Landscape. Both quarries are currently inactive, but in a 2005 report, the state geology board determined that there are ongoing code violations on the sites such as inadequate control of soil erosion and no revegetation of the exposed portions of the quarries where the natural surface has been torn away.
The report also determined that the walls of both quarries are showing signs of possible collapse, making it a public safety issue. At the Canal Boulevard quarry, a 3-foot-wide tear where the quarry rim has fallen away from the hill extends into Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline Park, which is popular destination for hikers. At the Chevron property, the quarry walls could slide into a petrochemical tank farm, which has been constructed in the quarry's wash.
Claims that the walls could collapse are little more than "reckless accusations," said Douglas Straus, an attorney for the Bottoms Family Trust, which owns the Canal Boulevard quarry. Brian Peer, a Dutra Materials manager, told the council Tuesday that he has been trying to contact the planning department to discuss the condition of the quarry, but no one has called him back.
The City Council directed the planning staff to make a report on the condition of the two quarries and return it to council at an unspecified date.
Contact John Geluardi at 510-262-2787 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.