Irvine city leaders are set to choose how they plan to shut down the All American Asphalt plant on the north edge of the city Tuesday night.
It comes after years of requests from residents and is expected to cost at least $50 million.
The factory has been one of the most controversial issues in Irvine after a Voice of OC article last year put a spotlight on how residents say it has ruined their quality of life and gives them respiratory issues outdoors.
[Read: Irvine Residents Raise Alarm Over Dangerous Emissions In Million Dollar Neighborhood]
The South Coast Air Quality Management District, the government agency responsible for regulating the factory, says the facility isn’t impacting resident’s health.
Right now, council members have two options: Either approve a legal settlement with the company or condemn the site and try to buy it via eminent domain.
But under the proposed settlement, it’s still unclear when the factory would be closing.
While All American is required to find a new potential home outside Irvine in the next 180 days via a city paid consultant, the company then has to produce a plan stating how long it’ll take to move to the new site and what it will cost – and get the city’s approval for the new site.
In exchange for moving out of the city, Irvine taxpayers will pay the costs of relocating and establishing the plant somewhere else, which city staff estimate will cost anywhere from $50-$100 million.
If they can’t agree on a new site, the city and the company would go into a “binding arbitration process,” to speed up a resolution instead of going back to court.
The city’s other option to close the factory is to force them out through a process called eminent domain that would let the city purchase the factory and push the company off the land.
It’s a controversial process used by local leaders for construction of major projects like freeways or other projects that have to go in a specific location.
Officials have to show the private property is necessary for that project and provides a “public good.”
Councilman Larry Agran has been the biggest proponent of condemning and acquiring the land, saying he’s tired of waiting for the settlement negotiations to play out.
“Settlement talks with All American Asphalt representatives and others are unlikely to yield near-term relief from the toxic pollutants,” Agran wrote in a memo to his colleagues last month. “It is more urgent than ever that the Council give appropriate direction … to initiate condemnation proceedings that will hasten the shutdown and removal of the All American Asphalt plant.”
Agran has called for the city to put a “state of the art Conference and Training Center,” where the factory is now, but there haven’t been any details on what that would cost or look like.
Agran did not respond to requests for comment.
In order for the city to take over the land, council members would have to approve a project for the site before they begin condemning the land and they’d need to appraise the property according to a city staff report laying out the necessary steps.
The city also has to show they tried to negotiate with All American before they evict them.
There were less details on a potential timeline for the city purchasing the property through eminent domain, but the city would be legally required to negotiate with All American Asphalt before condemning and purchasing the land.
If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, the courts ultimately decide how much the city has to pay to take over the land.
City staff also say eminent domain is the more expensive of the two options, estimating that it would “run well in excess of $100 million.”
The city council meeting starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, and can be watched live here.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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