Santa Monica City Yard Modernization is a Waste of Money
Face Facts. There are no active recycling factories in California, and no one wants to buy recyclable material
December 16, 2019
The City of Santa Monica is spending over $116 million to modernize (i.e., rebuild) their City Yards near Bergamot Station, but the project, on which construction began in July, is already exposing its inadequacy.
The modernization project includes demolishing thirteen buildings on the site that date from the 1940s and replacing them with six new buildings.
However, missing from the plan is any sort of recycling center or space for the Public Landscape Division's (PLD) Park maintenance staff.
The recycling center that operated at the City Yard for years was operated by private contractor Allan Company. The city closed the recycling center in June with no plans to build a new recycling center in the renovated Yard. City officials say it is too costly to recycle. That's right, the City of Sustainability is cheaping out on recycling its own trash. When they were told that keeping Allan Company at the Yard would cost $1 million per year while shipping their "recyclables" out to other recycling centers would cost about half that, the city chose to save money.
Admittedly, it must have come as a financial shock to Santa Monica to discover, as did every other city in the country, that the recycle business is a crock. Once China stopped accepting our recycle in January 2018, the bottom dropped out of the recycle market. There are no active recycling factories in California, and no one wants to buy recyclable material.
Still. Santa Monica expects its residents to pay more for clean energy and more for sustainable water. Why shouldn't it expect itself to pay more to achieve sustainability, too?
In addition to lacking a recycle center, the City Yard does not have enough room to house a significant part of its Public Works Department, the PLD. The PLD maintains and improves the city's 28 public parks. It also takes care of public medians and street trees. According to Susan Cline, the city's Public Work's Director, they are a "crucial component" of the city's Public Works Department.
And yet, the PLD's Park Maintenance staff has been searching for a permanent home since 2004, when they were moved from the Airport in order to construct Airport Park. They were installed on an "interim basis" at the then-newly acquired Colorado Yards, the prior site of Fisher Lumber. The PLD has been there ever since.
There was some thought of including the PLD in the renovated City Yard on Michigan. However, city staff deemed the idea unfeasible because - you guessed it - it would cost too much. They would have been forced to build a parking structure (egads! Not exactly what every other development in Santa Monica has to do!).
And now, with the Colorado Yards undergoing their own changes because of the city's planned expansion of adjacent Memorial Park, the PLD is without a home. Since economic reasons shut them out of a place at the nice, new $116 million renovated City Yard, staff had to find some other spot for them to set up their operations. They settled on the Santa Monica Airport.
Last summer, construction began at the airport for a $800,000 'temporary' home for the PLD. This project, undertaken with no notice to the airport's residential neighbors, has instigated its own firestorm of controversy. But aside from that, it's difficult to imagine how the City Yard renovation couldn't have managed to include space for the PLD for less than an additional eight hundred grand, especially when this money will only go toward a temporary home for such a crucial element of the city's public works.