Updates

Reasons Why We Are Dubious of the SCAQMD and the City of Irvine

Why is it the responsibility of the residents to ensure that the air of which thousands of others are breathing here is SAFE?

Why did it take so long for the City and the SCAQMD to take meaningful actions?

Approximately 800 complaints have been filed in less than 2 years.

(Please click on any underlined words in the section below to view the particular link to website/document/video)

Links to the City of Irvine & SCAQMD’s websites included

  1. They hired the consultants through a no-bid situation and we do not know if this company has any former business relationships with the Irvine Company.
1. They promised to start collecting air samples with canisters in 2019, but an executive ordered the cancellation of the program without providing a reason.
2. An employee of the Irvine Company showed up and watched us from a distance to an unpublicized meeting we had at the Eastwood Park on Nov. 19, 2020 with the city consultants, city staff, our volunteered UCI advisors and STAP team. Who tipped them off & why were they interested in the meeting?
2. The agency collects scientific data with lab analysis for other odor cases they handle, but somehow have been quite reluctant to utilize the available technologies with our case. Only after lots of intense public pressure did they start doing so at the end of 2020. Why is it so?
3. Even before the city consultants started collecting any data, the volunteer UCI experts provided their professional assessment and input to the city staff about the inadequacy of the city consultants’ scope of work. However, they still decided to proceed.
3. In 2019, All American Asphalt was caught operating the portable crumb rubber blending system without permit, plus a few other violations, of which the SCAQMD believed had gone on for about a year, and that’s why they backdated the Notice of Violation to 2018.
4. During the time frame of which the city consultants were out collecting data, All American Asphalt’s rubber crumb system was not in operation. In other words, the factory was most probably not operating at its full capacity.

4. They have promised to be more responsive to our complaints numerous times, but based on a recent complaint we filed on Jan. 9, 2021, the inspectors only responded 1.5 hours later, and because of that, the factory got away with another public nuisance they caused.

5. Mayor Khan and the city have been presented with the preliminary data we collected in conjuction with the volunteer UCI advisory team, which shows concerning levels of elevated VOCs, once on Nov. 19, 2020 at Eastwood Park, and again on the Dec. 3rd Zoom meeting. We told them we will share the data in a public study session, and yet, they refuse to have one and keep asking us for the data. Do we have the obligation to give it to them if they have already seen and heard the data, and decided to ignore us for a fair transparent discussion?
6. Our group has been asking for a public study session on multiple occasions since Nov. 21, 2020. A formal letter was sent to the Mayor and councilmembers by Dr. Dean Baker on Dec. 16, 2020 and up to this date (Mar. 30, 2021), the city still isn’t willing to host the meeting. We have made it very clear all these while that we prefer to share the complete preliminary data with all parties in a public and transparent setting and come up with a plan. Mayor Khan even dismissed a formal memorandum that Councilmember Larry Agran submitted on Jan. 20, 2021 and presented in the City Council meeting on Jan. 26, 2021. Why did the Mayor deny the resident the right to a fair, open and transparent public study session and instead lay blame on others?

An Email Sent to the City of Irvine on February 16, 2021 with a Timeline Attached (in PDF)

Dear Mayor Khan,

It has become appallingly apparent the City of Irvine, with your failed leadership and with the support of the council majority, has initiated an ignoble and reprehensible campaign to discredit, vilify and disparage our volunteer UCI advisory panel whose only objective is the preservation of the public’s health.  It is shocking to witness a city government engage in a deplorable effort to denigrate expert advisors, whose integrity, professionalism, and reputation are exemplary.  Stop the subterfuge.  Stop the intimidation.  Stop the blame game during this potential public health crisis!  This needs to be resolved immediately!

Through social media, we learned the City of Irvine has written letters to UC Irvine administrators and posted a UCI response letter, dated January 13, 2021, in the brazen pursuit to discredit our UCI advisors.  We have never misrepresented these volunteers as being “UCI sponsored” in any way, and you know this.  On November 17, 2020, you and the city council asked via Director of Community Development Pete Carmichael: “One other question that came from the City Council that I forgot to ask. Is the work being performed by the UCI professors a University-sponsored activity, or are the Professors working independently?”  We responded in two emails, including the reply from November 18: “The UCI team works independently and is not funded or sponsored by the University. They have been so kind to be volunteering their time and resources.”  Stop insinuating that the volunteer advisors have misrepresented their relationship with UC Irvine.  We have explicitly and indisputably told you and the City of Irvine that they are not sponsored by UCI and have independently volunteered their time and resources, as evidenced by several communications.

The City of Irvine’s inexcusably despicable machinations will not discourage academic freedom to pursue and disseminate knowledge to students, colleagues, and society.  Research done by faculty has always been initiated, derived, and executed by the ingenuity and perspicacity of individuals, not an institution per se.  Their integrity, transparency, experience, insight, and expertise are independent of the UCI moniker and are beyond reproach.  In fact, these attributes belong solely to each individual professor and researcher.

The City of Irvine continues to disseminate misinformation to undermine the residents you have failed to protect!  You and other council members have said that we have refused to share the data that was collected in conjunction with the UCI advisors.  Stop being disingenuous.  Our UCI advisors have shared the data on multiple occasions (see timeline).  City of Irvine officials with the city’s consultants attended two meetings with the UCI advisors who clearly presented and discussed the implications of the data collected.  You and two representatives of Councilmember Tammy Kim were present at the second meeting via Zoom.  In addition, we have written several detailed letters to you and the city summarizing the findings and explaining how the data substantiate a need for a more comprehensive monitoring and analysis program than the one instituted by the City of Irvine’s no-bid consultants.

We have provided you and the City of Irvine with the names, credentials, and contact information of our advisors on multiple occasions.  Despite the opportunities, you have never once reached out via phone to speak with Dean Baker, MD, MPH to acquire the data, as you said you would.  On November 9, 2020, you asked us to connect you with the UCI advisors.  You wrote, “I have formally asked her (the interim City Manager) to connect with the UCI team and present their data to us in closed session on Tuesday.  I want us to accept this data and take next steps.  I still would like to speak with the UCI folks to get a better understanding of what they tested and the results.”  The next morning, we subsequently replied, “Here is the list of UCI contacts who are happy to connect with you.  If you would like, we can also facilitate a meeting.”  We provided you with the contact information, including Dean Baker, MD, MPH’s mobile number, in hopes you would keep your word and connect with the UCI advisors to present the data at the council meeting.  You and the City of Irvine did not reach out to the UCI advisors at the time, and you did not present the data to the council as you promised.

Whether the City of Irvine acquires data collected by residents and volunteer advisors is a moot point; not having access to our raw data should not prevent you from doing your job.  The City of Irvine has refused to take any meaningful action for more than two years while dismissing hundreds of complaints and discounting resident concerns about the toxic and carcinogenic asphalt emissions.  These ongoing complaints and concerns should be more than enough reason to launch a full investigation, including the assembling of a special study session with an independent scientific oversight panel to address this potential health hazard, as Dean Baker, MD, MPH, Professor Emeritus strongly recommended in his letter to you on December 16, 2020.  Residents should not be expected nor required to produce scientific data for the city to do its job.  It is fundamentally wrong that it is a group of concerned citizens, instead of the city, who is spearheading the effort to ensure the public’s safety.

Concerned citizens have banded together with volunteer UCI advisors to collect data on the plant’s emissions, to call upon the city council to act, and to disseminate information about the asphalt plant to unsuspecting residents.  These actions have led to the theft and removal of citizen yard signs by unknown individuals and to surveillance by an Irvine Company representative at public protests and, most importantly, a private meeting to which only the city staff, city consultants, residents, and UCI advisors were privy.  And yet an Irvine Company representative was caught spying on the meeting.  Who notified the Irvine Company?  It must have been the city or city consultant.  That has never been determined.

The City of Irvine is guilty of a calculated crusade of misinformation, of disparagement, and of censorship to effectively silence a differing or dissenting voice, both on social media and on official city sites.  The city has created a website titled “All American Asphalt Update” which serves as a one-sided, restricted forum controlled and censored by the city.  It posts and disseminates information deemed appropriate by the City of Irvine, including letters from SCAQMD, UCI, and AAA.  However, it suppresses any relevant information presented by concerned residents or volunteer advisors.  In fact, you and the city have posted the UCI letter responding to your inquiry intended to rebuke Dean Baker, MD, MPH.  But you have neglected and refused to post his original letter to you in which he called for an independent scientific oversight panel.  The website lacks any content submitted by concerned residents or the UCI advisors, including numerous detailed letters from residents to the city, information from meetings and phone calls involving city officials with residents and our UCI advisors, and letters from Dean Baker, MD, MPH.  Moreover, you and the council majority have refused to broach and engage this subject as an open agenda item at a city council meeting, thereby denying the public a fair and transparent venue for discussion and effectively suppressing any dissenting voice.

Consequently, pertinent information presented by concerned residents and our advisors has never been disclosed to the public.  Residents have the right to a fair and transparent discussion regarding this potential public health crisis!  To ensure integrity, transparency, accountability, and fairness, we have unequivocally and repeatedly stated to you and the city that we would share the raw data and expect all parties to likewise share their data and methodologies in preparation for the requested public special study session, which you have continued to rebuff.  This process merits fairness and transparency; hence, we await the as-yet unscheduled special study session.

Additionally, to inform residents that the city had to hire the consultants because our team refused to share data is a blatant lie.  Pete Carmichael notified us that the City of Irvine was already in the process of hiring Nino & Moore in October 2020. We did not start collecting data until the end of October.

Stop squandering and exploiting the City of Irvine resources to undermine the residents whom you, SCAQMD, and others have failed to protect!  The unscrupulous censoring and suppression of relevant information impede freedom of speech and inhibit a fair representation and dialogue of the issue at hand.  We demand the city stop censoring public voices, present a fair and balanced update of the AAA situation, and post the letters and timeline we have attached to this email/letter onto the city’s “All American Asphalt Update” website.  It is the only legitimate, equitable, and efficacious path forward.

The City of Irvine must cease immediately its underhanded endeavor to discredit and discount the concerns of the public and fulfill its mission statement: “The Mission of the Employees of the City of Irvine is to create and maintain a community where people can live, work and play in an environment that is safe, vibrant and aesthetically pleasing.”

Why does The City of Irvine continue to deny Irvine residents the right to a fair, open, and transparent discussion?  Do you and the city have an ulterior motive or hidden agenda?  Our children have the basic human right to clean air!

The City of Irvine issued this statement on December 9, 2020: “The City of Irvine holds itself to high standards.  It encourages robust discussion of important public issues, and it disapproves of actions that silence the voices of those with opposing points of view.”

The Irvine city council majority’s actions stand in defiance of this statement’s spirit: it clearly discourages, suppresses, and precludes robust and transparent discourse and participates in the censorship and silencing of the public’s dissenting voice.

Sincerely,

Kevin Lien, MD

Kim Konte, Non-Toxic Neighborhoods

Lesley Tan, Stop Toxic Asphalt Pollutants in Irvine

 

Attached Timeline PDF