The public comment period on a draft proposal to reactivate fuel storage at a 331-acre federal property in San Pedro — facing community pushback — has been extended to June 3.
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the area, and the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, which borders the property on the west, are among the people and entities either opposing the plan outright or expressing concerns.
Plans call for leasing the World War II site to a commercial operator while also keeping the Defense Fuel Support Point facility available to store fuel for U.S. Navy warships. It is one of two alternatives proposed in the draft document. The second alternative would not reactivate the depot site, but would use the facility’s more remote location on Terminal Island for the continued fueling of military ships.
The proposal alternatives are still under study.
Reopening the main property would, critics say, allow for an expansion of storage operations in an area that already is overwhelmed by hazardous facilities.
That site was able to store more than 1 million barrels of fuel in the past, said Navy spokesman Gregg Smith. But that could increase, he said, with a commercial operator who also could add more above-ground tanks on the site.
More than 20 written responses have been received, Smith said, including letters and emails from both private citizens and organizations.
“Storing large quantities of highly flammable fuel so close to homes, schools and primary thoroughfares,” wrote Alfred and Barbara Sattler in their letter to the Navy, “risks major casualties to the public in the event of a fire or explosion, whether caused by accident, earthquake, or terrorism.”
The property, 3171 N. Gaffey St., lies between Gaffey and Western Avenue in north San Pedro. That’s within blocks of the Rancho Liquid Petroleum Gas facility, 2110 N. Gaffey St., which many in the community have been unsuccessfully trying for years to get moved.
Buscaino cited residents’ objections to reactivating the Defense Fuel Support Point facility when protesting the move himself.
But he also noted “inherent dangers.”
“Because of technology advancements and stricter environmental laws, many neighboring petroleum storage and processing facilities have closed — including this facility,” Buscaino wrote in a May 15 letter to the Navy. “My community celebrated the close and cessation of petroleum storage and pumping at this location because of the plausible inherent dangers of stored materials in close proximity to residential zones.”
There is, according to his letter, “an elementary school 1,000 feet from your fence line, a community day school with 300 high school students 750 feet from your fence line, and several after-school programs also in close proximity to the facility.”
Doug Willmore, the city manager of Rancho Palos Verdes, said there are serious concerns in his city about the proposal, “especially the potential for renewing and dramatically increasing fueling operations at the main terminal.”
Rancho Paolos Verdes, he said, prefers the second alternative, which would involve using only the Terminal Island facility — 5 miles away from the main depot.
The main terminal site, Wilmore added, sits on the Palos Verdes Fault Zone, in an area where the ground could possibly liquefy during an earthquake.
“We question the wisdom of increasing the transport of combustible fuels,” he said. “This surge in activity inherently increases the risk of exposing the surrounding public to potential hazards and harms, a population that will increase with the future addition of 676 homes in the adjacent Highpark (Ponte Vista) development (on Western Avenue).”
But even with a commercial contractor for the main site, Smith said, Navy oversight would “ensure that all environmental and safety regulations are being followed.”
Smith also stressed that the above-ground tanks at the 1943 site are up to current code with catch basins. Underground tanks on the facility have been shut down and are not proposed for reuse.
The proposal being studied, Smith said, was seen as the best and most cost-effective way to meet military needs. But reactivating the main terminal has not been identified as a preferred alternative at this time.
Once comments are received, the federal government will study the issue before releasing a final report near the end of the year. If environmental impacts are identified that can’t be resolved, Smith added, it could take several more years to determine what to do with the property.
Written comments may be submitted by June 3. Send an email to email@example.com. You can also mail a letter to:
- Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest
- Attention: code EV25. TB
- 937 N. Harbor Drive
- Building 1, 3rd floor (Environmental)
- San Diego, CA 92132