Not Our Heritage - Clean Up PetroChem Site

The following letter was submitted to the VC Cultural Heritage Board regarding todays hearing at 1:15 (Meeting Details HERE) regarding a proposal to grant landmark protection to two chemical tanks at the USA PetroChem site along the Ventura River. 


July 24, 2017

Chair Mikkelsen and Members of the Cultural Heritage Board
800 South Victoria Blvd.
Ventura, CA 93009

Subject: Proposed Discretionary Permit to Allow for Landmark Status Related to Two Tanks on the USA Petro-Chem Site at Crooked Palm Road, Ventura County

Dear Chair Mikkelsen and Board Members:

Before you today is a discretionary project subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), to approve or deny a Planned Development Permit (PDP) for landmark status for two tanks on the USA Petro-Chem site. 

According to CEQA, if there exists the potential that the project may have a significant unmitigated adverse impact on the environmental an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) must be completed for the project.

Proposed Resolution No. 2017-4 (in the Boards agenda packet) states, in part, that the proposed project is Categorically Exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) according to the State CEQA Guidelines Section 15308. Section 15308 has the caveat that the relaxation of standards allowing for environmental degradation is not allowed with this exemption.     Further, according to CEQA Guidelines Section 15300.2(c) no exemption can be used if there is substantial evidence in the record that a significant adverse impact on the environment will occur.

According to the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance PDP Approval Standard, at Section 8107-37.4(d) a project may not be approved if it will create a significant unmitigatible adverse impact.

The proposed project is to allow the unused tanks to remain on the larger Petro-Chem site as a reminder of Ventura Avenue’s oil heritage.  By allowing the tanks to remain under the authority of a Ventura County entitlement, they will;

1.  Be a permanent impediment to the complete and final fate and transport restoration of the toxic, hazardous and dangerous chemicals left behind as a legacy of the crude oil refining.  The EPA letter of May 5, 2014 leaves open further remediation should threats become evident in the future. This projects impediment to the restoration of the site constitutes a current and future significant adverse impact on the environment.  One threat is to the public-at-large because of chemicals known by the State of California to cause birth defects and cancer would be left on site unless complete remediation is pursued. The chemicals could also threaten endangered species, including the Southern California Steelhead Trout, the Red Legged Frog, and the Willow Flycatcher to mention a few as the chemicals leach their way to the riverine habitat on the Ventura River.

2.  As you can see from your packet, sites are considered eligible for listing as a historical resource if any of four criteria are met.  Each criterion is stated herein with comments concerning whether or not the project, consisting of two round steel tanks, complies, as follows:

  • Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of local or regional history or the cultural heritage of California or the United States: the existing tanks were only used to store ammonia for use in making urea fertilizer and, since there were more efficient competitors, the plant was closed well within its maximum lifespan.
  • Associated with the lives of persons important to local, California or national history: based upon a combination of personal knowledge and the Ventura County Star newspaper reports over the years, no significant ties were found related to the lives of local persons or California history.
  • Embodies the district characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master or possesses high artistic value: there are no distinctive characteristics about the two tanks related to their type, design or method of construction and they do not represent high artistic value – in other words they are just tanks!
  • Has yielded, or is likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history:  for the reasons set forth above, the tanks and their respective site are unlikely to yield any information that would be considered important when view in context of prehistory or history.

Restating the obvious, these tanks are just tanks that were used for a few years in the production of urea fertilizer and their use was discontinued after production was shut down as a result of other producers becoming more competitive.  Therefore, to misinterpret the purpose of these tanks as something principally related to the importance of the history of of Ventura County is ludicrous.

3.  The project before the CHB is a discretionary project must also be consistent with the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance. For reference, Section 8107-5.6.11 provides for site restoration to its original condition.  Also, Section 8107-37.4 (d) PDP Approval Standards, preclude approval of a project if it creates a significant unmitigatable adverse impact.  Thus, this project is not and cannot be found consistent with the Ordinance because the tanks will continue to be an attractive nuisance for graffiti taggers and this will contribute to general degradation of visual aesthetic along an eligible Ventura County Scenic Highway and the proposed Ventura River Parkway.

Based on the evidence provided by this letter, the proposed project may have a significant adverse impact on the environment and cannot be approved without an EIR, with recommended mitigation measures, that reduce the impacts to a level less than significant or a Statement of Overriding Conditions. Also, the project would be inconsistent with the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance and, therefore, cannot be approved. Finally, the project does not meet the Approval Standards of the Cultural Heritage Board and should not be approved. 

As such, the proposed project should be denied in its entirety.

Thank you for the opportunity to address this issue of importance for our community.


Russ Baggerly


Today's hearing details HERE. 

If you are unable to attend the meeting, please send your comments to:

Link to County staff packet (project starts on page 15)