The Paramount City Council Air Quality Sub Committee was established in 2016 to develop recommendations for the City Council that would address air quality concerns in the City. The Sub Committee working group includes two Council members, as well as representatives from Commissions, community members, and other community stakeholders. Sub Committee recommendations will eventually be brought before the full City Council for consideration.
The Sub Committee met on September 28, 2017, to continue its review and discussion of potential regulations for metal companies that could be implemented in the City’s zoning code.
Assistant City Manager Kevin Chun opened by giving an overview of the Sub Committee’s role and goals. Following this, he went over questions and their responses from the Sub Committee meeting on August 31.
The main item on the September agenda was a review of the first complete draft of the proposed zoning code amendments. At the previous meeting, City staff had explained that the changes to the code made by the Sub Committee will have a profound impact on the City’s industrial area. “These changes to the zoning code are how the City can be effective in improving air quality,” Mr. Chun stated.
Planning Manager John King led the group through the full list of proposed changes. The amendments will apply to five sections within Chapter 44 of the code: M-1, M-2, Nonconforming, Public Noticing, and Planned Development with Performance Standards (PD-PS) zone.
The proposed amendments would be profound and historically significant. Heavy industry has had a major presence in the community even prior to Paramount’s incorporation as a city in 1957. The proposed zoning amendments would drastically change course on the type of businesses allowed in Paramount moving forward. As a result, many environmentally impactful uses in Paramount today (such as oil refineries and metal processing companies) would be prohibited in the future. In the M-1 zone, some permitted uses will be changed to conditional or prohibited; in the M-2 zone, all permitted uses will become conditional or prohibited. Moreover, the draft outlines performance standards, development standards, development fees, and Administrative Action. Administrative Action would be particularly significant as it would give the City regulatory control over existing businesses, similar to a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) as applied to new businesses.
“This is the police power of zoning,” said Mr. King, describing administrative action. “If they violate conditions, we can go back and take enforcement action, up to revocation.”
If any of the new conditions are not complied with by the businesses, as witnessed by City staff or members of the public, Paramount’s Code Enforcement Division will act. The first step will be working with the company to allow them the chance to rectify the issue. However, if the business cannot, or will not, fix the problem, then the City will have the power to bring the company before the Planning Commission and City Council for a Public Hearing to potentially modify conditions or revoke City approval.
The proposed draft also includes a requirement for either an informative facility tour or a presentation to the community to occur at least once each year. The goal of these public sessions is two-fold. First, the business would have a chance to engage the community by taking questions, providing answers, or hearing concerns about their operations. Second, the tours or presentations would create some transparency regarding the facility’s inner workings and processes, allowing the community to better understand the work being done by industrial neighbors.
During the August Sub Committee meeting, public comments were taken only at the beginning of the meeting. However, based on feedback from the community, the Sub Committee also decided to take questions and comments at the meeting’s end.
Attendees asked for clarification on jurisdiction and potential legal action. It was stated that if a business has an issue with a regulatory agency (e.g., AQMD), the City would most likely let that agency take the lead rather than take parallel legal action, as a court will likely rule that the City does not have the jurisdiction to do so.
“These land use rules do not replace the efforts of AQMD to permit and enforce air quality standards, but they do place a much higher bar on industry to operate in our community or even to open up shop,” said City Manager John Moreno.
City staff will integrate the feedback from both the Sub Committee and the community into a revised draft that will be reviewed at the next meeting. The Air Quality Sub Committee plans to meet next on October 26, 2017 at 6 p.m. at Progress Park Plaza (15500 Downey Avenue). The Sub Committee may choose, at that time, to recommend the code amendments to the full City Council. The anticipated timeline for adoption of the land use changes is over the next four months.