By Evan Reeves, Director of Policy & Research, Center for Creative Land Recycling
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) estimates that there are over 90,000 brownfield properties throughout the State - including former industrial properties, school sites, military bases, small businesses and landfills. These properties face a host of challenges on the road to redevelopment. One of those challenges is the strict state liability that a new property owner faces regarding the existing contamination, even if that new owner had no part producing this contamination.
In 2004, California enacted the Land Reuse & Revitalization Act (CLRRA), providing immunity to innocent and prospective landowners for pre-existing contamination for which they were not responsible. To take advantage of this immunity provision, qualifying individuals enter into an agreement with the state to clean up the property.
Unfortunately, CLRRA is set to expire next year. State Senator Robert Hertzberg (D - Los Angeles) has introduced SB 820, which would remove CLRRA’s sunset date, enabling this important program to remain available to community developers in perpetuity.
CCLR has conducted a summary study of sites that are likely eligible to be cleaned up under CLRRA but are currently not moving forward. Based on DTSC’s database, there are 2,355 currently stalled cleanup sites (including 1,213 military and school sites) that could benefit from the proposed removal of CLRRA’s sunset. You can view a map of the 2,355 sites here. How many near your community would benefit from clean-up?
Fig. 1: Stalled cleanup sites likely elligible for CLRRA. Includes military and school sites.
Our summary review also identified that these blighted properties have been languishing, on average, for over 9.6 years, depressing surrounding property values around them and posing potential risks to human health and the environment. Removing CLRRA’s sunset means potential purchasers of these sites could use CLRRA to gain a degree of enhanced certainty regarding cleanup requirements, project timeline, and long term liability. This would hasten the sites’ transformation from neighborhood eyesores to community assets, generating jobs, boosting the local tax base, and producing much needed housing. Especially given that the majority of these sites are located in urban areas and near job centers, we should be using every tool available to encourage their return to productive reuse as we strive to build more sustainable communities for a more sustainable and climate-smart California.
The Center for Creative Land Recycling is the only national non-profit organization solely dedicated to catalyzing the redevelopment of contaminated or underutilized land by applying specialized knowledge to accelerate results-focused, community-driven revitalization. For the past twenty years, we've worked with communities and infill developers to provide guided navigation and hands-on assistance to unblock obstacles and realize the benefits of redevelopment. Learn more about our work at www.cclr.org. Find us on Facebook or on Twitter @LandRecycling.
Photo courtesy of Devon Christopher Adams