A new nonprofit organization in Alhambra held a kickoff event Monday to discuss civic engagement and environmental issues in the city.
The first meeting of Grassroots Alhambra, a civic organization founded by defeated City Council candidate Eric Sunada, was half a discussion about increasing civic engagement in Alhambra and half a presentation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Next month's meeting will have a similar format and focus on sustainable gardening, Sunada said.
Grassroots Alhambra is a result of local political action, such as Elizabeth Salinas’s 2012 City Council campaign against Councilman Steven Placido, Sunada’s 2014 campaign against Councilman Stephen Sham, the Alhambra Preservation Group’s work for historical preservation, and individual efforts such as those of Ron Sahu, an environmental engineer who fought a city development in a portion of Story Park in 2006, Sunada said. Other group leaders are Farida Sunada, Michael and Nong Lawrence, Gregg Miller, Carlos Barron, and Joe Soong.
“I formed it because from the campaign and past campaigns, I saw a lot of people who had a common concern for what’s going on in the city," Sunada said about founding Grassroots Alhambra. "We wanted to try and organize that and bring people together and try to effect positive change."
One of Grassroots Alhambra's first tasks will be to rally residents to attend the Planning Commission’s Jan. 5 meeting, Sunada said. Salinas urged people on Monday to go to the meeting, where a Midwick Tract residential development will be up for approval. While Salinas noted her own bias—she led a resident movement to oppose the development in 2012—she also encouraged people to go and form their own opinion.
“If you can make the time and get involved just by attending the meetings—I mean if you don’t want to speak, that’s your decision, that’s fine," she said. "Maybe you’re for the development. But just go and inform yourself on what your city council is doing.”
Monday's meeting also involved representatives from the EPA, who discussed Alhambra's Superfund site and the process to clean up local water. Parts of Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley are designated as a Superfund site, a federal classification for polluted areas in the United States. Alhambra’s Superfund site was identified 30 years ago and is in the process of being cleaned, according to the EPA.
“Basically it’s a very lengthy process. Where we are right now is at the feasibility study,” EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Viola Cooper said. “It takes at least 30 years to get to where we are.”
The feasibility study looks at health and environmental effects of the contaminants and assesses the treatability of the site, according to the EPA.
Emily Chi, project manager with Skeo Solutions, a company contracted by the EPA to improve community outreach, gathered feedback from the audience “to help people understand complex environmental issues, such as the Superfund site, and to ensure meaningful community involvement in the environmental decision making,” she said. Chi noted that her staff would take Monday’s feedback into consideration when preparing updates for Alhambra residents.
Audience members requested that EPA bring a program manager who could further explain details regarding Alhambra’s Superfund site and asked for an economical analysis of how much current water treatment costs.
Editor's note: Eric Sunada, Michael Lawrence, and Joe Soong are longtime Alhambra Source community contributors. Their opinions do not represent the views or opinions of the editorial staff. Alhambra Source does not endorse political groups or activities.