The Barron Park Association

Sep 172014
CPI :  Risk Assessment Report & Possible Zoning Strategies 

October 6: The Palo Alto City Council will review and discuss the the AECOM consultant’s Risk Assessment for Storing and Handling Hazardous Materials at Communications & Power Industries, LLC (CPI), 607‐811 Hansen Way, and supplemental materials, including an analysis of possible zoning strategies to establish adequate separation between plating shop uses and residences.

Staff Report: • CPI Risk Assessment Report and Zoning Direction

Consultant Report and other Attachments:• Consultant Report and Attachment

From the Staff Report: Recommended Motion 

“Direct staff to prepare a draft ordinance for review by the Planning and Transportation  Commission (PTC) and consideration by the City Council in early 2015. The ordinance should  amend the list of uses in the zoning code to explicitly identify plating shops, prohibit plating  shop uses within a specific distance of residential uses and residential zoning districts, and incorporate an amortization schedule based on updated information on the value of affected  investments.”

October 2:  City staff and consultants will be available to answer questions about the Risk Assessment and the staff report at a pre‐meeting scheduled for October 2, 2014 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Barron Park Elementary School, Multipurpose Room, 800 Barron Avenue.

Commentary from Art Liberman

The consultant’s report should answer the questions that the City Council raised in 2012 when it delayed acting on a proposal to amortize the hazardous material operation of CPI and instead asked Staff to conduct an independent review and determine whether there was a risk to residents from CPI’s extremely hazardous materials.

The consultant agrees with nearby residents who have maintained that the use and storage and delivery of the extremely hazardous materials at CPI do pose a risk to their health and safety and that the amortization of the CPI facility should move ahead. The consultant has shown that an accident at the CPI plating shop, a mistake during delivery or a catastrophic natural disaster can cause spills, worse than those in 2006 and 2008, that would release dangerous amounts of toxic fumes. These events can happen despite the status of CPI’s chemical safety procedures and employee training, which the consultant has pointed out has some deficiencies, and despite the Fire Department’s ability to oversee the storage locations of the hazardous materials.

In 2004/05, CPI completely rebuilt their plating shop – at that time, they had a choice. They could have repositioned the hazardous material operation, placing it on another part of their property, closer to Hansen Way and further from the Barron Park residences. Unfortunately, the management of CPI decided not to do that, and instead decided to put their own financial and business interests over the health and safety of residents in Barron Park. That was a serious error of judgment.

It is now up to the Council to act. This facility is incompatible with the adjacent residential zoning and CPI should never have been allowed to rebuild its facility in 2004.

Palo Alto’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), in conjunction with Dewberry consultants, prepared and reported earlier this week on the Threat Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA). The report includes the following statement:  ”Past land use decisions in Palo Alto have not always taken hazards into consideration.” The CPI plating shop is an unfortunate example of this; previous Planning Department officials routinely approved these sorts of projects, once Fire Department signed off on the hazardous material usage forms, without examining or evaluating their compatibility with other nearby zoning uses. There was no public review of the CPI plating shop rebuilding project with the residents when it happened– residents never received any notification of what was being planned, the hazardous materials involved and where it would be located.  I am pleased to see that the current Planning Department, along with the City Manager, is taking a very different approach, recognizing the increasing concern by the public about serious consequences of chemical accidents and their own and their community’s safety, and recommending that the Council support an ordinance that would amortize this facility.

Land use decisions and the siting of chemical facilities have traditionally been the exclusive purview of local governments. In recent years, however, with the spate of serious chemical facility accidents that have impacted adjacent residential areas – a number involving nitric acid and other materials used by CPI and others involving storage of other hazardous materials – the federal government (President Obama August 2013 Executive Order 13650: “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security”)  has charged the EPA to strengthen its regulations, and is suggesting that, for the first time, chemical facility siting be included in federal Risk Management regulations.

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