A small company’s operations in south Colton are being deemed ‘illegal’ by both officials and residents. Regardless of concerns, the City Council voted 5-1 during their July 18 meeting to continue a public hearing to consider certifying the trucking operation.
CF Equipment is currently operating an unauthorized construction contractor’s yard and scaffolding business from 1200 Jefferson Lane, according to city staff. Bottom dump trucks, above-ground fuel tanks, and metal containers are present at the site.
As a result, the Planning Commission, which deals with city development proposals, denied issuing a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and site plan review for the business due to concerns with ongoing truck traffic and pollution concerns.
O’Brien appealed the city’s denial of the CUP and site plan review–claiming he addressed staff and community concerns. According to Civil Engineer Neville Ferreira, O’Brien has spent the last two years doing “everything he could” to meet environmental standards and reduce traffic impacts.
Ferreira claims it’s unfair for city officials to deny CF Equipment’s CUP–considering they’ve done everything the city has asked.
“We understand the neighborhood is unfairly inundated by truck traffic. It’s just not Mr. O’Brien’s trucks,” Ferreira said. “That entire area is operated using heavy truck traffic transportation, and all these trucks have been diverted towards the neighborhoods.”
The closure of the Fogg Street underpass has caused O’Brien’s trucks and other operators to find alternative routes. Although most trucks drive through authorized roads down Congress and M Streets, some travel down South 7th Street near Wilson Elementary School, which frustrates residents.
“A truck already came within feet of striking my granddaughter,” explained 59-year-old resident Jorge Machado. “These trucking operators are doing things that affect the people that live in this community. Our leaders need to do something. They can’t continue to ignore us.”
Community advocate Rachel Warner, who has spent over 30 years trying to improve the quality of life in south Colton, believes the current Council has done more than any other past governing board to tackle trucking and environmental concerns. Nonetheless, she hopes the Council demands more accountability from CF Equipment.
“I don’t think it’s fair that they’re allowing them to continue doing this,” Warner said. “They’re breaking the law.”
O’Brien, who has operated from Jefferson Lane without city permits for 3 years, told the Council that he’s conducted CF Equipment’s operations by solely relying on truck generators for power. In addition, O’Brien said there is currently 200 to 300 gallons of fuel at the site.
Councilman Frank Navarro expressed disapproval with CF Equipment’s unauthorized operations–criticizing O’Brien for his lack of concern for public safety.
“You should move everything out of there and then start the process…really,” Navarro said. “Even though your trucks are clean, they still emit pollution. You don’t even have a license or a permit to have that business there, and yet you maintain fuel there.”
Despite expressing concerns with CF Equipment’s unauthorized operations, Mayor Richard DeLaRosa stressed the importance of providing a solution that pleases both residents and O’Brien.
“We have to try to continue to help these businesses that are in the older parts of our city,” DeLaRosa said. “We have to try every opportunity to help these businesses continue to operate for their livelihood.”
Councilman Isaac Suchil believes the city should do a better job of citing trucks that don’t follow the appropriate routes. Doing so will help the city resolve health and safety problems in south Colton.
“What we have here is a 100-year-old city mixed in with neighborhoods and cities,” Suchil said. “Other cities don’t have that problem. We have to figure out a way through it, and I think so far we are.”