CITY HALL — A new look at the way City Hall disposes of waste has a long-time provider of recycling services nervous about its future and the future of recycling in Santa Monica.

Leadership of the Allan Co., which has provided recycling services at the City Yards on Michigan Avenue since 1992, came before the City Council earlier this week to express concerns about a new “concept” proposed by staff that not only eliminated a $32 million recycling center and waste transfer station for the company, but potentially forced the company to leave the city.

“I couldn’t believe that was going to happen,” said Jason Young, the CEO of the Allan Co.

The decision to eliminate the covered recycling center and self-haul facility ends over six years of planning, beginning with a City Council ad hoc committee formed to study the issue of waste diversion in 2005.

A new recycling center would have kept recycling local as well as fixed a long standing issue with neighbors at the Mountain View Mobile Home Park who complain about the smell of the waste left outside and exposed. The current facility has no roof.

One proposal being considered would involve trucking recyclables out of the city to another Allan Co. facility, despite the environmental footprint.

But the cost of building the facility far exceeded expectations because the proposed site was once a landfill, and the ground at the site could not have supported the new facility without major, and expensive improvements, according to city staff.

“We didn’t know that there were void spots in there,” said Martin Pastucha, Public Works director in the city. “We found out that it’s not solid soil all the way down. We design for the structural stability of the soil, and to get that stability, we needed pilings 40 to 60 feet into the ground.”

It’s an expensive proposition, and would have resulted in a $17 per month increase for rate payers for the next 20 years just to cover the cost of building the facility.

The cost came on top of a wider concern about space, aging facilities at the City Yards and a zero-waste plan that city staff is currently drafting that could impact what services the city needs from its recycling company and disposal company, Southern California Disposal.

A number of uses, like a public safety storage facility, have been planned for the City Yards, but the recycling center would take up too much space to meet all the needs.

The Exposition Light Rail line, much lauded in City Hall, also comes with the elimination of a maintenance facility on Colorado Avenue, which is proposed to relocate to City Yards.

“The only logical location is coming back to City Yards,” Pastucha said. “With the elimination of the transfer station, we need to see how’s the best way to make that facility look.”

Although it’s only a concept at this point, the deck looked stacked against the Allan Co. and its recycling center. The new idea would involve expanding its relationship with the Southern California Disposal company to haul recycling to a facility outside of Santa Monica.

There are benefits to staying in the city, Pastucha acknowledged.

“Being in Santa Monica is a positive for them. They benefit from the fact that there are a lot of recyclers that bring materials to them to cash those in,” Pastucha said. “They saw that as valuable.”

Allan Co. representatives at the meeting admitted that building a $32 million facility in a down economy was a bad idea, but argued that killing the idea outright would be detrimental to the company and City Hall’s goals of producing less waste.

“If you’re looking at a zero-waste strategy, eliminating a recycling facility that services 240 residents a day, six days a week is a bad idea,” said Adam Holt, manager for the recycling center.

City Councilmember Kevin McKeown warned Pastucha that the proposals would free up a lot of land for reorganizing and incorporating new uses at the site, but the cost to the city had to be considered.

“Is freeing up that much land worth it to us not to have a recycling company here in Santa Monica, the global capital of recycling?” he asked.

The council voted in favor of eliminating the project and allowing city staff to continue negotiations with the Allan Company and SCD to redefine the terms of their agreements.

Whatever happens, residents won’t see a change in service, Pastucha said.

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