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By JOHN GLIDDEN | firstname.lastname@example.org | Vallejo Times Herald
PUBLISHED: November 5, 2018 at 5:59 pm | UPDATED: November 5, 2018 at 6:02 pm
Vallejo Marine Terminal was slapped with a notice of default by the city of Vallejo in late September after the business failed to pay its annual rent for property it’s leasing from the city in South Vallejo, newly released records show.
Ron Gerber, Vallejo’s economic development manager, in a letter on Sept. 26 demanded VMT pay the $98,924 rent owed for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30.
Additional records confirm that VMT paid the monies owed plus a $100 late charge on Oct. 25. City Hall had given VMT until Oct. 26 to pay the back rent or face termination of the ground lease and/or legal action.
Not first time City Hall sent demand letter
When City Hall sent the demand letter in September, it wasn’t the first such correspondence about rent as records show the city and VMT have sparred since 2016 over how much rent the company is required to pay.
In July 2016, VMT paid $14,328 or 15 percent of the $95,520 total base rent owed. Then the payments stopped for nearly two years.
Matthew Fettig, on behalf of VMT, argued that for FY 2016-17 it was using the capital improvement offset option contained in the first amendment, which allows the company to deduct any “work or costs associated with actual construction” on the property. Thus, the $14,328 represented the rent for the 2016-17 year, Fettig stated.
An Aug. 3, 2016 letter from Andrea Ouse, then-community and economic development director, informed VMT officials that the city would not be applying the offset.
“There is no evidence that actual construction has occurred as a building or site development permit has not been issued,” Ouse wrote. She further demanded that VMT pay the remaining $81,192 before Sept. 1, 2016 or face default and breach of the lease.
That deadline didn’t appear to be met as both sides held a meeting in October 2016 with VMT officials arguing that through 2015 the city was on the receiving end of $761,000 in economic benefits from VMT, which sought to build a new marine terminal at 790-800 Derr St.
Fettig cited contracts with several consultants preparing the draft environmental impact report as evidence of an economic benefit to the city. VMT and fellow applicant Orcem Americas were required to pay for the consulting work.
When served with another demand letter to pay in February 2017, VMT responded that it was disputing the demand for rent since City Hall waited several months after the October meeting to start demanding payment. VMT argued that they thought City Hall had accepted the reduced rent amount.
City Hall eventually applied a tax benefit in March 2018 for the 2016-17 rent, which dropped the remaining balance to $67,840.
“Notwithstanding that there has been no actual construction on the property, in order to try to avoid a protracted dispute regarding VMT’s claim for capital improvements offset, the city was willing for the 2016-17 rent period to grant VMT an offset of the amount of the tax benefits,” wrote Gerber in an August 2018 demand letter seeking the 2017-18 rent.
Payment records show that VMT finally paid the balance of the 2016-17 rent on April 30, 2018.
VMT given rent abatement for several years
The Vallejo City Council in 2012 approved the first amendment to a ground lease contract with VMT for the land at 790-800 Derr St. The lease was originally signed in 1991 between the city and General Mills, which operated a flour mill on the site. However, starting in 2007 the lease changed hands several times following the closure of the flour mill.
City Council minutes show that the council at the time voted 6-0, with then-Councilwoman Erin Hannigan absent, to approve the first amendment. Serving on the council was Mayor Osby Davis, and councilmembers Mari Brown, Stephanie Gomes, Robert McConnell, Bob Sampayan, and Hermie Sunga.
Key provisions in the amended contract included a 33 year lease extension, plus VMT was given the ability to extend the lease for another 33-year term term.
Also, VMT was granted a rent abatement period until June 30, 2015. However, starting the next day, the company was required to start paying the base rent of $95,520.
However, VMT was given a gift as the City Council unanimously voted in July 2015 to approve a third amendment to the ground release extending the rent abatement period until June 30, 2016. Just like before, Davis, Sampayan, McConnell, and fellow councilmembers Rozzana Verder-Aliga, Jess Malgapo, Pippin Dew-Costa, Katy Miessner approved the extension.
Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff said through Michelle Straub, his executive assistant, last week that for 2018-19, the city will invoice VMT in June 2019. The base rent increases from the $95,520 each year based on the Consumer Price Index.
FEIR expected to be released soon
VMT has applied to open a modern deep-water terminal, while Orcem Americas is hoping to operate a cement facility on 31 acres located at 790 and 800 Derr St. South Vallejo.
For nearly a year and a half, City Hall and along with the consultants have been working to finalize the project’s environmental impact report, which outlines potential health, noise, and other impacts should the project be approved.
Community members opposed to the project argue that if allowed the development will pollute Vallejo and be a danger to the city’s residents. The applicants disagree, stating the project is environmentally safe and will add jobs and help the city’s coffers.
A divided council in June 2017 ordered the FEIR be completed.
Prior to council review, the Vallejo Planning Commission officially rejected the VMT/Orcem project, agreeing with City Hall that the project would have a negative effect on the neighborhood. Staff further said, at the time, the project would impact traffic around the area and the proposed project was inconsistent with the city’s waterfront development policy. The project also has a degrading visual appearance of the waterfront, City Hall argued.
Orcem and VMT appealed the Planning Commission decision, with four of the council members, Malgapo, Verder-Alia, Hermie Suna, and Dew-Costa, said they wished to see a completed FEIR before ruling on the appeal.
The FEIR is expected to be released this month with the council expected to resume review the appeal in JanuaryPlease share !
Please share !Portland cement production is included in 2 out of the 3 operating modes. However, very little discussion is about Portland cement production . .
By Jay Gunkelman
I have challenged the scientific validity of the Health Risk Assessment in Appendix D-1 of the Orcem/VMT environmental impact report (EIR).
My assessment is that the Health Risk Assessment (HRA) and the modeling used by Orcem/VMT to measure particulate matter emissions is flawed. I believe:
Their science in this EIR is flawed and the details are outlined in the following section… with a somewhat irreverent mnemonic being presented at the end:
PARTICLE SIZE AND BUOYANCY
The modeling option to use buoyancy to float small particles is not recommended, though it was used. The sizing level used to float particles was set arbitrarily at just under 2 microns of particle size. This is just below the 2.5-micron threshold regulators would be concerned with, but considerably larger than the actual size where particles ‘float’. Particles actually do float with air turbulence at 0.2 microns… a full order of magnitude smaller.
This might sound like just a technical issue without any real effect, except the particles at 1 micron contain over 90% of the heavy metal toxicity. They float these particles and over 90% of their toxicity out of the modeling, making the outcome much cleaner on paper than it would be in reality. The real science of particle size floatation is seen below and in the table the 0.001 particle size is one micron.
RURAL MOIDELING VS. URBAN MODELING
The applicant used RURAL modeling methods which are an option… however the conditions under which this can be selected are either based on population or Zoning, and reflect the area encompassed by a 3-kilometer circle around the proposed plant site. The 3 KM radius must have over 50% rural zoning to select the rural modeling alternative, and this is clearly not the case even with the most cursory review of the project site map. We are really supposed to be modeled as URBAN.
EXPIRED SAMPLES SENT TO LAB
The Hexavalent chromium sample submitted by Orcem could not be tested properly. Hexavalent chromium degrades and the sample submitted fell outside the lab standards which require the analysis to be done within 15 minutes, or that the sample be stabilized to a neutral level of alkalinity/acidity, to avoid valence changes. The testing lab highlighted this violation of lab standards. The samples should never have been run outside lab standards.
TRUCKS/TRAINS/SHIPS EMISSIONS NOT MEASURED
The HRA only modeled the stack… no fugitive emissions from material handling, no trains, no trucks or any other sources were included. SUPPRESSION of sources in the modeling of inversion meteorology is not proper modeling of these conditions when idling trucks and ships and train engines would add substantially to the background exposure actually experienced, if not modeled.
INCORRECT STACK TEMPRATURE
In my review I saw a stack temperatures at over 300 degrees, which at the time stuck me as just bad engineering. Losing excess heat is an expensive loss of the funds used to make heat if you do not recapture it. Most stacks operate in the 190 degree range, to not lose too much heat, so a stack exit temperature well over 300 degrees looked like a design issue… until I thought of it as a way to gain more “loft”… an additional 100 degrees of HEAT gives substantial added loft. This 300 plus degree stack exit temperature which was listed at 200 plus degrees everywhere else in the EIR… making this a suspicious “change”.
HEALTH RISK ASSESMENT IS “B.U.L.S. HEAT”
Now for the mnemonic acronym:
Buoyancy of particles that do not float
Length of time Hexavalent chromium was held was excessive
Suppression of source data in inversions
B.U.L.S.HEAT is exactly what the particulate dispersion model and HRA were built upon.
707-654-8899Please share !
You don’t like potholes? We have too many already in our city? ….Look at what big rigs can do to our city street. Learn from Dundalk Marine Terminal. It is happening there now.
Proposed Orcem project will have 500 truck trips on our city street starting at 3 am. Who is going to pay for the potholes?
City can put up signs directing truck traffic to specific route (as in Dundalk), but who is going to enforce the law?
If you witness the illegal firework situation in Vallejo on July 4th as I did. My question is who will be enforcing the traffic law in Vallejo?
By : Jeff Carlson/Vallejo
We keep hearing that turning down the VMT/Orcem waterfront terminal and slag cement plant project would somehow be unfair to the applicants, or give Vallejo a reputation as unfriendly to business.
What’s fair about locating heavy industry in residential neighborhoods — polluting their air and filling their streets with a daily steady stream of heavy diesel truck traffic? Those homes, apartments, and schools were there long before this proposal surfaced.
What’s fair about the city giving the applicants an $8 million gift in the form of rent credits? How about approving a lease that would allow waterfront development and the demolition of historic structures with no environmental review, while citing a CEQA exemption for something totally different? What’s fair about selling the project as a break bulk cargo port that would fuel an economic boom, when that cargo category has disappeared from Bay area port reporting as something even worth tracking? The Bay Area already carries significant unused port capacity; and the south Vallejo site is not even designated for port use under the Bay Plan as pointed out to the applicants by the BCDC staff.
The project has been rejected on its merits by the city staff and paid consultants who have been immersed in the details of the environmental review for years. The permits were denied by the planning commission following the staff recommendation after a public hearing. The residents who participated in the years-long process to update Vallejo’s general plan to guide future development voted for a very different kind of waterfront development, and a zoning change that would prohibit heavy industry on the site. The only reason this project is still under consideration on appeal is the deep pockets of the applicants and four members of the city council who relied in part on campaign contributions from the applicants and their allies to get into office. Is it fair that three of these council members, who colluded in secret with the applicants on a private ad hoc committee and enthusiastically endorsed the project before the environmental review, would now refuse to recuse themselves from voting on the appeal?
We’ve heard how terribly unfair it would be to the applicants not to complete a final Environmental Impact Report. Unfair is squandering even more scarce city resources on this boondoggle. Once it becomes apparent during the environmental review that a project is simply not going to be compatible with surrounding land uses, further environmental review becomes a waste of resources and completion of the process is not required under CEQA for that reason. The city staff and professional consultants know far, far more about this project than those pontificating about fairness to the applicants, and they recommended pulling the plug. We should listen to the people who actually know what they’re talking about and who we pay for the benefit of their informed and expert advice.
The “unfriendly to business” argument blindly assumes that all businesses are equally desirable, and if we don’t approve every project that comes along, then no business would want to locate in Vallejo. Again, really? Why spend millions on a general plan update process to develop a vision of the kind of development residents want for our waterfront, if we’re only going to throw it out the window because a few well-connected individuals managed to pick up prime waterfront property dirt cheap during the financial crisis? In fact all businesses are not equally desirable. Some cost more than they’re worth and lead to more of the wrong kind of development.
There is no good reason at all to believe in fantastic stories of some kind of economic renaissance fueled by adding a port or a cement plant. That’s a development model better suited to the middle of the last century. Nor will the applicant’s wildly optimistic economic analysis factor in all the hidden costs like road damage from all the heavy truck traffic or the increased health care costs resulting from living with the pollution documented in the EIR.
It is typically lower-income and minority neighborhoods that bear the cost of hosting heavy industry. If this project were proposed for a site just upwind of Hiddenbrooke instead — with trains that would regularly block their traffic and hundreds of heavy diesel trucks using their neighborhood streets daily to get to the site and then back to the freeways — do you honestly think we’d still be talking about VMT/Orcem? How fair is that? The applicants have received more than fair treatment and a thorough examination of the impacts – they just came with a bad project that can’t be made compatible with any amount of tweaking. It’s the residents of Vallejo who now deserve fair treatment in this process.
— Jeff Carlson/VallejoPlease share !
Mare Island Naval Shipyard fought irrelevance for nearly a century. It was a geographically poor location, with existential military & logistical challenges. It is unequivocally true Vallejo was dependent on the Navy, and on war. I would venture to say this is due in part to a lack of imagination, not some manifest destiny.
Here is an excerpt from historian Roger W. Lotchin’s book ‘Fortress California 1910-1961: From Warfare to Welfare’ in reference to Mare Island’s suitability for the Navy’s desired main West Coast fleet base:
“In fact, the Carquinez Straits site was about the worst possible location for the main West Coast home base. In some respects it was downright absurd. Over the years, the Navy had expended over $20 million to maintain and build up the Mare Island facility, but by 1916 had come to the conclusion that the installation had reached the limits of its utility–or even the point at which the yard should be phased out. Under no circumstances did the Department (of the Navy) believe that Mare Island should be built up into the main home base. Vallejo and its naval meal ticket nestled on the very modest Napa River, near Carquinez Straits. This location was thirty miles from fleet anchorage in San Francisco Bay, a situation which wasted fuel in transit and which was remote from the Golden Gate entrance and exit from the Bay Area. The Navy valued highly its ability to get the entire fleet in motion quickly and out of its anchorage to the scene of action. Stationed at Mare Island, the fleet would have taken longer moving out to sea and would have been unable to disperse and line up for action.
What is more, the channel to the island silted up badly from the action of the tides moving the river-borne debris about. Only continual dredging had kept the passage open, but by 1916, the machines were losing the battle to keep up with the mud and the ever-growing size of Navy ships. Already, in that preparedness year, the Navy could not get its largest vessels to the Mare Island yard, and with the introduction of carriers, the problem became worse. On one occasion ships actually waited five weeks for a dredge to dig a channel into the mud-besieged facility. Smaller and older vessels could still reach the installation, but once they did, their situation was none too good. The area had little berthing space, many of the ships required special dredging of a berth before they could settle in, and the Napa River channel was so narrow that new or repaired ships launched from Mare Island ran a serious risk of plunging across the river into the Vallejo waterfront. Nearby San Pablo Bay and the Straits of Carquinez contained a limited amount of deep water anchorage for the fleet, but that area lay astride the main path of river and bay traffic. An anchorage at that point would have jammed the entrance to both the navy yard and the straights and would have crowded the ships together into a perfect target for attack.
The Vallejo site was as short of land as it was of water. Considerable new ground could have been created by dredging, which would have only added to the expense of the constant dredging already required. Mare Island did not have good land transportation connections, lacked an adequate labor supply, and in general did not possess the industry and commerce necessary to provide for 45,000 new residents and their civilian and military needs. Vallejo boasted about its milder climate which promoted year-round shipbuilding, but outside of this asset and its current investment, it had little to recommend it as a major naval base.”
The reason Vallejo’s Navy base lasted into the 90’s was mostly because of lobbying and some early circumstantial successes led by then-congressman Charles Forrest Curry. He was a political whiz adept at thwarting the Navy’s and San Francisco’s 12th Naval District plans to centralize naval assets mid-bay. There were also three Bay Area congressmen supporting this plan who died in close succession. First was Berkeley congressman J. Albert Elston, believed to have killed himself over failure in his navy base efforts, and natural deaths of congressmen Julius Kahn & John I. Nolan. Julius Kahn was head of the House Military Affairs Committee. As Lotchin notes, “These unfortunate occurrences deprived ‘The City’ of seasoned leadership at the exact moment of decision”, leaving Vallejo’s Congressman to continue promoting the obsolete Mare Island unopposed.
“Urban complexities were much more simple in Vallejo and in San Diego than in the more advanced urban area at mid-bay. Both these modest cities could concentrate more single-mindedly upon military resources because they lacked other interests. The Carquinez city had literally nothing else to bank on in 1916 and had accordingly organized its political power around its one pre-eminent interest, a navy yard.”
If the letter’s author is basing his argument for new toxic industry on sugar-coated nostalgia or cultural appeals, he might at least do his homework to show Vallejo’s economic existence was very much a contradictory one and always dependent on the government dole, in spite of the many well-founded reasons against it. This is the prevailing mentality propping up arguments for ORCEM- an outside savior should swoop in & save Vallejo (with a paltry 20-30 jobs?). False. Vallejo should swoop in & save Vallejo. Having clean air & building a beautiful, healthy waterfront is a good starting point.Please share !
Slag tales – by Jeff Carlson POSTED: 05/25/18, 3:00 AM PDT
The stories told about blast furnace slag by promoters of a proposed south Vallejo waterfront slag cement plant serve to illustrate both the quality of the information presented to the public, and the folly in thinking the environmental review process provides adequate protection. The applicants have attempted to create the false impression that there are two very different kinds of blast furnace slag — iron and steel — and that Orcem’s iron slag is the “safe” kind.
There has never been any real confusion surrounding these fake facts, other than what the applicants have tried to stir up. The slag is named according to the furnace in which it’s created, and you have to refine iron ore in a blast furnace in order to make steel. Steel furnace slag would be called BOF or EAF slag, and is little different from Orcem’s blast furnace slag in composition — except that it’s likely cleaner, since the steel furnaces use refined iron from a blast furnace along with 10-20 percent steel scrap. The hazardous impurities in the waste slag come primarily from the feedstock ore, regardless of the type of furnace, and iron blast furnace slag is the result of directly processing those ores.
More than two years ago the applicants assured our school board that: “Absolutely none of Orcem’s materials or products are toxic. None. Each metal’s slag has a unique chemistry. Orcem uses blast furnace slag from the production of iron, which is not toxic.” Meanwhile, the Environmental Impact Report for the project revealed that more than 16 tons of fugitive dust in the dangerously small particle size of 10 microns or less would be released into south Vallejo’s air each year as the slag material is moved around and stored in massive open piles. So how well do those corporate claims hold up under scrutiny — that tons of slag dust would not harm our school kids a quarter mile downwind? Not even a little bit.
Here’s a sampling of quotes taken from the material safety data sheets of domestic producers of blast furnace slag — yes, that’s the slag from iron production: “Individuals with chronic respiratory disorders (i.e., asthma, chronic bronchitis,emphysema, etc.) may be adversely affected by any airborne particulate matter exposure. Health Hazard 1 — Denotes possible chronic hazard if airborne dusts or fumes are generated. Individuals with lung disease (e.g. bronchitis, emphysema, COPD, pulmonary disease) or sensitivity to hexavalent chromium can be aggravated by exposure. Danger. May cause cancer. Avoid breathing dust.”
And so on. Oh, and don’t forget the sensitive riparian environment at the mouth of the Napa River: “Very Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.”
The pattern of intentional misinformation surrounding this project stretches back to the early stages of the application process. In January of 2014 the regional air quality board asked for more information with regard to the application for a permit. One of the requested items: “Provide MSDS of the raw materials including the composition with any toxic contents.” The corporate office in Ireland responded with a single Material Safety Data Sheet for blast furnace slag from the marketing division that sells slag for Nippon Steel in Japan — one which lacks nearly all of the toxicology warnings of safety sheets from our domestic slag producers.
So what accounts for the stark differences in hazard assessment? While the global MSDS formats have been brought into closer agreement, the U.S. standards require much better and more complete content information in order to protect workers and the public. But even here the hazard information in any one safety sheet is almost certain to be fragmentary.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board looked at 140 safety data sheets for substances that produce combustible dusts, and found none that contained all the information the board said was needed to work with the material safely. A second study examined 62 safety data sheets for common flammable liquids and again found every single data sheet to be inadequate in hazard assessment. What’s at stake here is the health and quality of life for some of our most vulnerable residents — our children, the sick, and the elderly. This is no time to play fast and loose with the truth by shopping around for the least informative version of hazard data available worldwide.
This proposal emerged in a haze of questionable transactions surrounding the foreclosure sale of the property, and the revival and transfer of a lapsed lease with the City for public trust land. It was hyped as a port project and major source of economic stimulus — when in reality port use at the site is not permissible under the Bay Plan, and the cargo category it claimed it would service disappeared from regional statistics as something even worthy of tracking. The applicants have informed the Bay Commission staff that the cement plant would account for much less than half of the project capacity, and that more industrial tenants would be needed down the road. There has been no environmental review of the activities of these future industrial tenants or even any indication given to the public that more heavy industry would follow with approval of this project. If this was really such a wonderful opportunity for Vallejo, there would be no need to hide critically important information and repeatedly mislead the public and our elected officials.
— Jeff Carlson/Vallejo
San Francisco, CA, December 28, 2017 –(PR.com)– Fresh Air Vallejo, the citizens group working together for a healthy environment and economy, today announced that the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 representing over 54,000 employees in local governments, non-profit agencies, health care programs and schools throughout Northern California, has joined Fresh Air Vallejo in opposition to the Orcem/VMT cement factory and port proposed for South Vallejo.
“Our members value fresh air, good jobs and environmental justice,” said Sarah Creighton, a Solano County Eligibility Benefits Specialist. “Local 1021 will continue to fight for working families’ right to a healthy, sustainable future in South Vallejo and across California.”
The Orcem/VMT project, if approved, would place a cement grinding facility and deep-water port in South Vallejo. Opponents say the project would be too close to homes and a school and would introduce an unacceptable amount of diesel truck traffic and cement dust into South Vallejo, a neighborhood already impacted by pollution.
“Fresh Air Vallejo wholeheartedly supports SEIU 1021’s position in favor of a healthy, vibrant Vallejo and against the pollution and social injustice the Orcem/VMT project would bring to our community,” said Peter Brooks, president of Fresh Air Vallejo. “We are thrilled that SEIU 1021 has taken a stand against the injustice of putting a cement factory and port into South Vallejo a low-income, minority neighborhood already suffering from the ill effects of industrial pollution.”
The environmental impact report for the Orcem/VMT project reveals that over 500 big-rig diesel trucks per day could use the facility traveling on a single road through a residential neighborhood. If put into operation, the cement factory’s smokestack would be about 1,320 feet from Grace Patterson Elementary School downwind from the proposed facility, said Brooks.
With today’s announcement, the SEIU Local 1021 joins opponents of the project including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 and the Sierra Club as well as nearly 60 neighborhood groups and Bay Area organizations.
For More Information:
Timothy Gonzales, Area Director, North Central Region
Gabriel Harland, Political Organizer
Peter Brooks, President, Fresh Air Vallejo