By Tina Richards
After ignoring citizen complaints about the mounds of construction debris piling up on the former Sully-Miller site in East Orange for more than a decade, the City of Orange was forced to acknowledge its existence via a notification to the state.
To meet the needs of developer Milan Capital and its construction waste contractor Chandler Rio Santiago, the City of Orange told the state that the mounds of concrete, asphalt, rock and slag were part of its municipal recycling plan. In other words, City Hall claimed the operation at 6145 E. Santiago Canyon Rd. is a “non disposal” facility used to separate recyclable materials from waste.
Cities are required to include a Non Disposal Facility Element (NDFE) in their planning documents and report it to the state. The NDFE identifies facilities used by a jurisdiction to help reach its state-mandated recycling goals. Those facilities typically include material recovery, composting or processing, the steps taken to minimize the actual waste that goes into a landfill.
Do it for the developer
The East Orange operation was never part of the city’s NDFE. Until Milan needed it to be.
Earlier this year, a resident complained to the county about the unpermitted construction waste stockpiling taking place along Santiago Canyon Road. The county arm of CalRecycle, the Local Enforcement Agency (LEA), investigated, and after months of wrangling with Milan and Chandler Rio Santiago, issued a permit for an “Inert Debris Type A disposal facility.”
The permit, issued June 22, was contingent on the state’s acceptance of an as-yet-unproduced reclamation plan, a cost analysis of the cleanup and assurances that the contractor had the financial resources to follow through.
The permit also required the operation to be included in either the Orange County Siting Element (disposal facility plan) or the city’s NDFE. It was not on the county plan, nor the city’s.
But Chandler Rio Santiago, having claimed on its permit application that the site was included in one of those elements, assured LEA that it was “working with the city” to correct that oversight. Thus the city’s NDFE amendment was born.
While inclusion on the County Siting Element requires a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review and a public hearing, an NDFE amendment does not.
It can be handled administratively without public notice of any kind. Having been deaf to citizen complaints about the property for years, ignoring multiple opportunities to shut it down, and allowing it to continue unregulated since at least 2003, the City of Orange sent an amended NDFE to the state on July 17.
CalRecycle, however, rejected it on July 23. Contacted by an attorney for Orange Park Acres, who was appealing the June 22 permit, the state determined that the site was not for recycling after all, but was, in fact, a repository for waste. As such, it was required to be on the county’s “Siting Element,” not the city’s NDFE.
Milan and Chandler Rio Santiago have since been ordered by the county to relinquish the permit and “cease and desist” the operations.