January 2020

Outraged Tustin residents sue city and launch recall of mayor

The Costco mega gas station in The District has 22 fueling stations. The one proposed for neighboring Tustin Ranch will have 32.  

By Anne Lee
Project Tustin Ranch

A group of Tustin residents has filed a lawsuit demanding an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) be done before a mega gas station is built within 640 feet of homes in Tustin Ranch, and seeking to recall the mayor who approved it.

The Costco gas station at Tustin Ranch Road and Bryan Avenue will have 32 fueling stations to serve 100-plus cars. 

Denise Berg, a Tustin Ranch resident, has been advocating against the project on behalf of her daughter Morgan, 18, who was diagnosed with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), a condition similar to Gulf War syndrome that is triggered by air pollution. “I didn’t even know about [the gas station],” Berg says, “until a neighbor handed me a flier. I live right across the street. I consider this to be a human rights issue.”

Take it to court
Berg is among the many residents who are part of Protect Tustin Ranch, the organization that sued the city for various irregularities with the mega gas station approval, the most egregious being the elimination of an EIR, an obvious step in the approval process. 

The massive project includes fueling stations for 32 cars, a queue for 72 more, three 40,000-gallon underground fuel tanks adjacent to the El Modena-Tustin water channel, demolition of the Goodyear Tire store, and five-plus refueling tanker trucks per day via Bryan Avenue -- all bordered on two sides by residential homes. 

Deaf ears
The Tustin City Council voted 4-1 to approve the project, Oct. 15, in front of an overflowing room of outraged residents who demanded an independent study, not conducted and paid for by Costco. 

Councilman Barry Cooper, the sole dissenting vote, said, “Costco Gas is not my issue. This location’s proximity to homes is. Tustin Ranch Road and Bryan Avenue have become extensions of the 5 Freeway during the day and a drag strip at night. Adding Tustin’s second Costco station only three miles from the first will worsen an already lengthy trip for parents trying to drop off kids at school. I would venture to say home values will be impacted too.”

Protect Tustin Ranch has, to date, collected more than 1,000 signatures from community members seeking to prevent this mega gas station from breaking ground. 

The lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court prevents Costco from starting construction. 

Citizens have also announced a petition to recall Tustin Mayor Allan Bernstein. The recall notice explains: “Mayor Allan Bernstein has demonstrated a pattern of behavior in which he ignores community concerns. In 2018, he voted to place a homeless shelter within 500 feet of an elementary school without consulting the community or school district. 

Gassing up
“Now, Bernstein is at it again, having voted to exempt this mega gas station from the California Environmental Quality Act. To restore faith that our city council represents the best interests of Tustin Ranch residents, Allan Bernstein must be recalled and replaced by an official who puts the interests of people first.”

“Lots of my friends at school now have what I have,” Morgan Berg reports. “We formed a support group called the Zebras. You [city council] may be helping this corporation grow stronger, but there are people who need you to make the right decision. This gas station is not in our best interest.”

Clear and present danger 
“And what about the other people with fragile immune systems?” Denise Berg adds. “In fact, 42 percent (census tract 525.25) of this one square mile consists of children and seniors, the two populations most vulnerable to air quality issues.”  

“Perhaps Costco should concentrate on the nightmare that has already been created at The District before trying to open a second edition of the same nightmare,” Cooper suggests. “Some folks think that a second Costco will alleviate traffic at the first. I disagree. I intend to stand with the citizens of Tustin Ranch and protest this new Costco gas station. Quality of life has much more value than big money corporations.” 

The recall petition for can be accessed at ProtectTustinRanch.org. For more info, contact ProtectTustinRanch@gmail.com.