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County files suit over sanitation district’s refusal to build park

LOS ANGELES – Following years of negotiations, Los Angeles County has filed a lawsuit to compel the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County to fulfill their decades-old obligation to fund a long-anticipated regional park on the site of what was once the nation’s largest landfill.

As a condition of operating the Puente Hills Landfill from 1983 until its closure in 2013, the Sanitation Districts agreed to set aside money to pay for the development, operation, and maintenance of the future regional park on the site. Despite their promises, no money was set aside for 20 years.

Following the landfill’s closure, the Sanitation Districts and the county worked together to develop a Park Master Plan, which the County Board of Supervisors adopted in 2016. The planned 142-acre regional park will serve a park-poor region consisting of communities and cities like Avocado Heights, Baldwin Park, Bassett, El Monte, Hacienda Heights, La Puente, Pico Rivera, Rowland Heights, Whittier, Valinda and beyond. 

During the Master Planning process, thousands of neighbors, local municipalities, and key community stakeholders vocalized their enthusiastic support for the Puente Hills Landfill Park they had been promised for decades.

“As a member of the California State Assembly representing the San Gabriel Valley, I authored legislation in 1994 requiring that the Puente Hills Landfill be converted into a public park after its closure. Now all these years later, the promises made to the surrounding communities by the Sanitation Districts must be honored,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “I join with the voices of the thousands of neighbors who for far too long have tolerated living near a landfill with the promise that it would one day become a park. The time to act is now.”

In 1994, as a member of the California State Legislature, Solis authored legislation requiring the Sanitation Districts to fund the post-closure transition of the Landfill into a public park. Subsequent County permits reinforced the provision that the Sanitation Districts would provide the funding for the park in exchange for the County’s blessing to continue operating the profitable Landfill.

Supervisor Janice Hahn expressed hope that the Districts would move swiftly to honor their commitment. “This community lived with a landfill in their neighborhood for decades. They were promised a park when it closed. I am hopeful that we can come to some agreement so that the Sanitation Districts fulfill that long-time promise to the community,” Supervisor Hahn said.

The county’s decision to sue came as a last resort after years of efforts to try to resolve the matter short of litigation. The Sanitation Districts participated in the creation of the Park Master Plan, adopted in 2016, that included the funding and elements of the park. Unfortunately, the Sanitation Districts refuse to provide the necessary funding to construct the Puente Hills Landfill Park.

John Wicker, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, emphasized the importance of creating public space on the former landfill site. “The Puente Hills Landfill Park is an opportunity to transform an environmental liability into an environmental, regional, and community asset,” Wicker said.

The Puente Hills Landfill Park is located within the boundaries of the Puente Hills Landfill, which is owned by the Sanitation Districts, an independent governmental agency separate from the County of Los Angeles.

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