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L.A. council approves truck-driving academy atop old Lopez Canyon landfill

June 30, 2010 |  7:00 pm

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to go forward with plans to install a truck-driving academy atop a portion of a now-closed landfill in Lopez Canyon. The academy will be permitted to operate for the next five to 10 years.

Opponents and critics swelled the chambers to offer their last-minute arguments on the project. “This is not a referendum on the value of the truck-driving academy,” said Nicholas Krall of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council. “This is about protecting open space.... This is about broken promises.”

Community groups, the Sierra Club, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors had all opposed putting the school on a small parcel of the landfill in the northeastern San Fernando Valley and saw it as a violation of the city’s promise to residents to keep the landfill as open space after it was closed to accepting trash in 1996.

They argued that the city did not look hard enough for other locations.

But supporters saw it as a temporary project that would use probably four trucks and provide free training to about two dozen students, positioning them for well-paying jobs as truckers.

The school would be run by El Proyecto del Barrio and the Transportation Opportunity Program, a nonprofit organization that provides free career driver training and whose board members consist of business, community and Teamster representatives.

“We took people off the streets in 2007 and 2008.... These folks were put into jobs with major employers,” said Terry Bodwin of Unified Grocers, a member of the Transportation Opportunity Program board. Referring to supporters of the trucking school proposal, Bodwin added, “While we’re procrastinating talking about open land, the people in the back of the room are looking for jobs.”

Councilman Richard Alarcon — in whose district the landfill sits — along with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and community and business groups supported the project.

Wary of politicians making promises and breaking them, critics of the proposal said they are still enduring the noise and odors of trucks hauling dirt to cover the defunct dump or feed the mulching facility, which residents agreed to several years ago. The mulching facility has only grown bigger and smellier, they said.

-- Carla Hall