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The Santa Monica Waste Transfer Station will finally be enclosed when a new facility is built to replace it. (photo by File Photo)

CITY YARDS — Santa Monica officials have scrapped a two-year effort to design a new trash and recycling center, citing higher than expected estimates to build the facility.

The canceled project, which would have replaced the open-air Resource Recovery Center on City Hall-owned land at Cloverfield Boulevard and Michigan Avenue with an enclosed facility, had been touted as a way to make operations cleaner and more efficient, responding to residents’ complaints about the transfer station’s stench.

But the project’s price tag, originally estimated at $12 million to $15 million, jumped to more than $32 million earlier this year, largely because of costs associated with building on top of a former landfill, according to Kim Braun, City Hall’s resource recovery and recycling manager.

In order to finance the project, she said she would have had to recommend the City Council approve a 60 percent hike in trash hauling fees over the next two years

“I don’t want to increase anything more than 10 percent in this economic time,” she said. “I don’t think that’s fair to anybody.”

Braun said she’s working on a new plan with City Hall’s trash and recycling partners — Southern California Disposal and the Allan Co.— that won’t require building on city-owned land.

The main proposal under discussion, she said, would involve moving recycling operations outside of Santa Monica’s city limits to another site owned by the Allan Co. Southern California Disposal, which owns a partially-enclosed site adjacent to the City Yards, would expand its facility to handle all of Santa Monica’s needs, allowing City Hall to shut down its open-air transfer station.

Braun said the plan, which she expects to bring to the City Council by May, would have all of the same environmental benefits as the previous one. There would no longer be a noisy, dusty outdoor recycling facility in Santa Monica, and there would be one trash transfer station rather than two, resulting in less traffic from dump trucks.

“We haven’t made any final determinations, [but] we’re hoping that at this point in time the city won’t be constructing anything, but will still achieve our goal, which is to not operate a transfer station,” Braun said.

While she emphasized the new plan avoids the $32 million construction expense, going back to the drawing board comes with its own cost.

Braun estimated City Hall has already invested $500,000 in the failed planning effort for the scrapped facility. But it’s a write-off she said is in Santa Monica rate-payers’ best interest.

“I believe that is a cost of doing business,” Braun said. “At that time, we were planning to go full ahead with this project, and that’s what you have to do to finally come up with a design.”

Closing down the city’s Resource and Recovery Center, Braun said, would open up space to accommodate City Hall’s public landscape and custodial divisions. An expansion of Stewart Park, which is next to the city yards, is another possibility.

Even without a construction project in the pipeline, Braun said she expects to recommend a 10 percent trash hauling fee hike for the next fiscal year. The increase, she said, would pay for a badly needed cleaning crew that would remove debris and furniture left in alleys and combat illegal dumping.

nickt@smdp.com

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