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Truck-driving academy riles community in land-use fight By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer Posted: 05/08/10, 9:00 PM PDT | A long-sought plan to convert part of Sylmar's closed Lopez Canyon landfill into a truck-driving academy has run into strong community opposition – pitting powerful public officials and private groups against one another. On one side is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Councilman Richard Alarcon, joined by the Teamsters, who want to create a truck-driving academy on a 1.5-acre parcel of land. Opposing it is county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and a group of residents. "When they closed the landfill in 1996, it was supposed to be left as open space," said Linda Hornick, of Lake View Terrace, who is part of a coalition calling itself the Community Alliance for Open Space, which seeks to block the zone variance being sought by the city. "They can say it's only an acre and a half and eight trucks, but it is not what they promised us." Alarcon, who unveiled the proposal with Villaraigosa in 2008 as part of a job-training effort, said he remains committed to the school. "I think the arguments against it are meritless," Alarcon said. "They say we are making industrial uses in an open-space site. The open-space area, which I created by the way, has nothing to do with this. The area we are looking at, you can't even grow vegetation there. "We already have 30 to 100 trucks a day going in and out of there for 30 years. This truck academy will not add much to it." Academy as a job-creation factor Alarcon said he has received official support from every agency that has reviewed the plan's details. "This is driving me crazy," Alarcon said. "This is ridiculous. During the worst economic crisis and with this high unemployment rate, we are trying to create jobs." Alarcon and Villaraigosa said trucking is expected to be a growth industry into the future, with a need for 50,000 new truck drivers over the next 10 years.

Alarcon said he hopes to expedite hearings on the appeal to resolve the issues. The academy would be funded with a $640,000 federal grant and $100,000 from the Lopez Canyon community trust fund, created to provide amenities to make up for the years when the landfill operated. "It seems like they are good at giving us what we don't want," said Vanessa May, another Lake View Terrace resident involved with the appeal. "They never seem to give us what we would want." The appeal filed with the city late last week asks the full City Council to step in to block the academy. Attorneys for the opposition group, which includes residents of Lake View Terrace, Kagel Canyon and Sunland-Tujunga, said there has been no realistic assessment of the impact on the area. Antonovich has joined with residents to oppose the truck school and has the support of the full Board of Supervisors. "The supervisors would like to see the city live up to its promise to keep open space as open space," Antonovich deputy Paul Novak said. He said the supervisor's office allocated $5 million in 2008 for the Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority to purchase 126 acres of vacant land in Lopez Canyon. "We have done our part. The truck driving academy is an industrial use in the wrong area." Academy as an area disruption Also, Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said he believes the academy would be inappropriate for the area and suggested a full environmental report on the project is needed. The city had sought a "mitigated negative declaration" essentially asking to waive the need for a full study - to allow the project to go ahead as quickly as possible. Hornick said residents have been told recently of long-term plans for equestrian and hiking trails - which were originally promised after the landfill was first shut down. "The real issue is we are not supposed to have industrial uses in the middle of open space," Hornick said. "There is plenty of industrial land around here where they could go that would not impact our community."

LA Daily News Community Alliance for Open Space article  

Los Angeles - San Fernando Valley newspaper, The Daily News, publishes an article detailing the community's opposition to the trucking schoo...

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