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During an open City Council meeting on June 17th, city council members listened to several passionate presentations and public opinions on rezoning the Aviza Development.  For four and a half hours the council considered the first step making Aviza a place of residency for many Scotts Valley residents, by rezoning the area from industrial to residential. However, as the length of the meeting suggests, the matter is far more complicated than simply reclassifying the area’s use. 

A vast array of presenters spoke at the meeting, including Taylor Bateman, the Scotts Valley Community Development Director.  HE began the presentations by summarizing the intentions behind the meeting and current state of the development, then handed off the presentation to  Bill Wiseman, of Kimley-Horn and Associates.  Wiseman was tasked with summarizing the drafted Environmental Impact Report (EIR), throughout which he acknowledged issues that would be significantly impacted according to the draft of the EIR.  According to Wiseman, the EIR found that traffic, noise, aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, geology, and hazardous materials could be significantly impact the area. However, he proposed mitigation strategies to control all significant impacts, including exterior lighting control, construction requirements, and resource conservation plans, amongst other proposals.  

In addition to these considerations, the Aviza Development is further complicated by its rich history.   It’s formally known as 440 Kings Village Road and informally as the fenced off industrial complex next to Sky Park’s parking lot.  To the EPA, its 43.4 acres are home to the Watkins-Johnson Co. Superfund, a site of hazardous waste contamination since “the Watkins-Johnson Company (Stewart Division) began to manufacture industrial furnaces and electrical parts in 1963 on a 3-acre plant.” 

The following segment of presentations directly addressed concerns of building residencies on a superfund site. Brian Milton, the EPA Remedial Project Manager, and David Yogi, the EPA Community Involvement Lead, described the current state of the Watkins-Johnson Co. Superfund.  According to Milton, the EPA has been mostly concerned with construction on the site, inhalation of vapors from the site, and groundwater contamination from chemicals like TCE, PCE, TCA, benzene, and arsenic. Due to these contaminants, the EPA still monitors Aviza.  Milton shared the superfund’s state, “Impacts to soil and groundwater have largely been addressed at this site by extraction wells. The EPA is now concerned with inhalation... This issue is addressed by the current remedy, a cap on the site consisting of the asphalt and the buildings themselves… Since the proposed usage of this site may change, EPA requires the current owner or user to reexamine the remedy, potentially changing it.”  Yogi then took over to report that a five-year community involvement process will be occurring within the coming months, “Your involvement is important to us and we want to hear from you as we move forward with this cleanup.”

Finally, Sal Caruso, a representative for the potential developers, conveyed the developer’s vision for residential living spaces on the Aviza Development.  He mentioned many benefits, like 15% affordable housing, a “2 million-dollar payment into the city fund for community benefit projects at the discretion of the Mayor and City Council,” improvements to Bean Creek Road, pedestrian access and open space for the community, a 45,000-dollar contribution for the Scotts Valley Community Theater, 20,000 dollars to the SVHS Falcon Club, 15,000 dollars to sponsor fireworks, and 5,000 dollars to girls’ softball.

After the formal presentations, the council opened the meeting for public comment, during which residents voiced a vast spectrum of opinions on the rezoning decision.   Jennifer Wade, a Sky Park neighbor, began the commentary period voicing concerns over “digging up a safely contained Superfund site to build housing… Why are we considering houses on something that has the potential of causing irreparable harm to our community?”  Eric Nilsson, a Blue Bonnet Lane resident, warned that repercussions could fall back onto the City, if developing Aviza caused harm.  He added, “Could toxic pockets of chemicals in the soil waiting [for rain] to be released into our aquaphor?”  Thira Wallwork, a teacher and mom living on Green Valley Road, “I recently found out that most male residents of forty years or more on our street have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I know that may not be from Aviza, but I am concerned.”  Evan Sirokey, a resident of Hidden Oaks, urged the City “to change the overall zoning in the city to allow for more housing.” Kyle Kelley passionately spoke, “We are effectively forcing out our own children from our community by not building.  I’m sure we can cleanup the superfund and make it walkable for residents.  We should maximize this land to provide more housing for our children and grandchildren.”

Randy Johnson brought the meeting to a close, “I would like the community to keep an open mind towards this property… At the moment, I think the consensus of the council is: under the right circumstances and given the opportunity to see something more tangible, the city council will give it a better chance of passing.  As of tonight, it’s a no… Thanks to the community for coming out and giving views.”   

For more information on the status of the superfund site, check out https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0902226.  If you’d like to get connect with the EPA on their management of the Watkins-Johnson Co. Superfund, contact Angie Fuoco, the Community Involvement Coordinator, at (415) 972-4267 or fuoco.angie@epa.com.

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