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114 16 Beyond Mountain View After we signed the contract for additional years with the City of Mountain View, we hoped to develop a landfill somewhere else within seventy-five miles of San Francisco or the transfer station. Opening a new landfill was an expensive and time-consuming effort because of NIMBY (not in my back yard) issues; people did not want their garbage—or anybody else’s—within their city limits. We zeroed in on an 800-acre site in Solano County. Lynch Can­ yon , actually on the border of Napa and Solano Counties, was ideally located; a freeway underpass provided ready access to the site, which could be developed for about $15 million. We took an option to purchase the property at $2.5 million and commenced the process of filing for an application to dispose waste in Solano County. As soon as the application became public, there was rampant opposition, which we had anticipated when we began the environ­ mental assessments work. We found that the soils included a substantial amount of clay, which was ideal for landfill opera­ tions. Artificial membranes lining the cells would be an added safety guard. All in all, Lynch Canyon was a perfect site for San Francisco ’s garbage. Public rejection of landfill sites throughout the State of Cali­ fornia was commonplace, and we anticipated resistance. How­ ever, we were not aware of the intricacies of the legislative process and that permits for a sanitary landfill site (or even just for parking a garbage truck) depended on a legislative act by the governing bodies, such as a county board of supervisors. The simple fact was that you could site a sewage treatment facility , go through all the complicated environmental assessment work, and get a permit to build a sewage treatment plant through an administrative act of the board of supervisors under the auspices of the California Health and Safety Code without being subject to voter referendum. In our case, siting a sanitary landfill, transfer station, material recovery facility, or even parking garbage trucks involved a legislative act that, after compliance with all the necessary environmental 115 Beyond Mountain View laws and getting all the necessary permits, could be overruled by the voters. Even if we went through all the rigmarole of getting the permit, the public could vote us out of business, as in Brisbane , where the voters overruled the city’s approved permit to operate at Sierra Point. We approached a major state legislator, requesting that solidwaste , garbage-disposal, and collection facilities—and the permitting of them—be designated as administrative acts under state law, so that voters couldn’t overrule decisions based upon California’s Health and Safety Code. The legislator agreed that our logic was reasonable, and we proceeded to pay him and his law firm a substantial amount of money to work to modify the law that would put the permitting of these facilities under health and safety provisions, the same as a water treatment facility. Despite all the payments we made, he never produced any legis­ lation in that regard to benefit not just us but the entire solid-waste industry. (That’s another story, yet to be addressed.) Nonetheless, we commenced the development of Lynch Can­ yon because of its great potential to become a true regional landfill , something that the State of California surely needed, rather than continuing the traditional and archaic method of each city having its own dump. On the other hand, Solano County already had two other major landfills, and that surely could become part of an argument about the county becoming a dumping ground for the entire region. Serious opposition came from a small community called Green Valley, whose citizens were vehemently opposed to the site factor and expressed their opposition on chalkboards at a bar called Thompson’s Corner. Their slogan was “Keep SF Garbage Out of Solano County.” As time went by, we learned that two garbage companies were funding this campaign: Richmond Sanitary Service and Concord Disposal Company, the developers of the Potrero Hills Landfill. Both saw us as the competition. I knew the presidents of both these companies on a personal basis, and when I challenged them to stop funding the anti-garbage campaign, they face­ tiously looked me in the eye and said, “Well, business is business.” I had to bite the bullet, so to speak. They did stop, but the damage had been done. We began to realize that getting a permit to use...


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