Irvine City Council members on Tuesday are set to consider new restrictions on commercial trucking in the city following resident complaints about the vehicles spreading odors in their neighborhood.
The discussions come after years of resident complaints about the All American Asphalt factory in the northern part of the city, where homeowners say the factory’s emissions have ruined their quality of life and they fear for the long term health effects of living near the plant.
Multiple groups, including current and former UC Irvine professors, city consultants and the South Coast Air Quality Management District have studied the factory’s emissions. While the air quality district and the city’s consultants say the air is safe, some of the volunteer professors from UCI say that is far from certain.
At a City Council meeting on Sept. 14, activists showed a time lapse video of trucks leaving the factory in the early hours of the morning. Of the 40 trucks shown, 25 were uncovered leaving the factory, and five turned right toward nearby neighborhoods.
Dozens of public commenters also came out to share their experiences of living close to the factory, with some mentioning the stench from the trucks as they roll through neighborhoods.
Tom Hazzard, a homeowner near the factory, said the morning of that meeting he walked his daughter to school and saw three trucks carrying asphalt drive past him on two lane sidestreets. He also played a video of the third truck passing by.
“It was full of asphalt, it smelled horrific as it went by and I was coughing and sneezing. It had no business in this local neighborhood,” Hazzard said. “AQMD mentioned very casually that they smelled some odor from the trucks as if that’s acceptable. How is that acceptable?”
Currently, the proposed restrictions won’t affect the actual factory’s operations, but will focus on what happens to the asphalt after it leaves the factory.
Following that dialog on Sept. 14, Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilman Mike Carroll asked for a discussion on requiring trucks to cover their beds while driving through the city and potentially require explicit new routes for the vehicles to follow.
“Trucks have been seen driving past schools, along narrow roads, and in other parts of the city where they very likely do not belong,” Carroll and Khan wrote in a shared memo. “There are designated routes for these trucks that the council needs to understand and that must be directly communicated to all relevant parties, including but not limited to the All American Asphalt plant.”
The restrictions would apply to all commercial trucks in the city, according to the letter from Khan and Carroll, and could set a new upper weight limit for residential roads. Those restrictions would be waived for school buses, along with delivery and emergency vehicles.
At the Sept. 14 meeting, Carroll said he wants to have the Irvine Police Department patrol the routes and they should “put the truck companies out of business the minute they roll through…because the fines will be $20,000 or whatever we can possibly do to create that from never happening in the city of Irvine again.”
According to City Attorney Jeff Melching, those restrictions are about as far as the city can go when it comes to regulating the factory’s production.
“There’s just not a tool that’s available to us as a regulator,” Melching said at the council’s last meeting. “We’ve gone through a pretty extensive review of their rights.”
He also briefly mentioned that the city had some options should it choose to buy the land, but did not elaborate. Melching did not respond to requests for comment Friday morning.
The Irvine City Council meets at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. The meeting can be viewed here.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.