On Tuesday, Sept. 28, the Irvine City Council voted unanimously to begin implementing regulation on routes and other aspects of asphalt trucks that utilize city roads in Irvine. However, Irvine may have difficulty implementing rules on coverings for asphalt trucks, due to existing laws.
Residents have expressed concern over the number of uncovered asphalt trucks driving through the city, using residential roads, near schools, when children are present. Many say they thought regulation for load coverings, along with mandated routes, existed in Irvine.
Irvine City Councilman Mike Carroll, who supported Mayor Farrah Khan’s Sept. 14 memo for this item, said it was clear the community still had an issue with the commercial trucks impacting their quality of life, despite more than a year of air quality studies and robust community input.
“We have a chance to put real government into action, helping real people,” Carroll said. “Our roads are not for trucks. Our roads are for the residents of Irvine, California to move their families to and from schools — these trucks, in my humble opinion — are guests.”
While the council was presented with limited options in seeking more regulation and enforcement for covering trucks, the Irvine City Council voted unanimously on a motion with more than a half-dozen actions.
The motion, presented by Khan and amended by Councilmember Larry Agran, includes mandatory disclosure of the asphalt plant on rental agreements and home sales, the expansion of restricted truck routes, and the potential relocation of the All American Asphalt facility.
- Review and expand our restricted routes
- Ordinance on disclosures — sales, resales and rental properties
- Through an existing settlement agreement require all trucks to be covered and set up a mechanism to enforce ticket violations.
- Prepare a letter to Senator Dave Min asking for help in changes in state legislation.
- Explore possible relocation of the plant.
Agran asked to implement three additional requests for the city attorney within the motion.
- Efficacy of checkpoints for asphalt trucks.
- Create a city-based hotline for odor reports, file complaints with AQMD for residents.
- Target individual chemicals associated with All American Asphalt’s production.
“I would like to the city attorney to report back to us as to whether we can target individual chemicals — specifically Benzene, Formaldehyde, other carcinogens — where it’s obvious that the plant is emitting use volumes of these dangerous chemicals,” said Agran.
Prior to the vote, Jeff Melching, Irvine City Attorney, explained that Irvine has plenty of control with route regulation of commercial vehicles, adding that changes could be implemented by updating local codes.
“We have a little bit more latitude in the context of truck routes, and people following truck routes, because those are governed by our local code, and we can set penalties high for people that fail to follow those routes, and then go about enforcing those,” he said. “If the council gives direction tonight to come back with an ordinance involving truck routes, we’ll identify the maximum feasible set of penalties and craft those into the ordinance.”
However, enforcing regulation on truck coverings may be more of a challenge.
Melching explained that asphalt trucks are specifically exempt from mandates regarding load coverings, according to state law. In addition, Melching said that there are provisions that bar local governments from implementing regulation.
“The hope was at the last City Council meeting, that we could move past the vehicle code and simply adopt something locally to mandate covering trucks,” he explained. “Unfortunately, a different section of the vehicle code — Section 21 — says, ‘A local authority shall not enact or enforce any ordinance or resolution on the matters covered by this code’ — there are a number of exemptions from that requirement, but the truck covering is not within the scope of the exemption.”
While Melching admitted it was “not a great place to be” in terms of implementing more load covering regulation, he did present the council with an existing avenue in which the city could implement covering requirements.
Referencing a settlement agreement between All American Asphalt and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Melching explained that existing policies could encourage more regulations for trucks.
Per the settlement agreement, Melching explained that it requires drivers from All American Asphalt to include instructions for trucks to be covered when leaving the facility.
“That settlement agreement that All American Asphalt has to provide instructions to all trucks departing the Irvine facility with a load of asphalt that such loads must be covered — with tarps — prior to leaving the facility,” he said. “That’s good news because it affirms for us that trucks can be covered.”
However, Melching explained that while the settlement agreement does indicate that instructions must be posted, it is clear the instructions are being ignored by the majority of drivers leaving the AAA facility.
“The unfortunate thing about the settlement agreement is that it really lacks teeth,” he said. “All American Asphalt satisfies its obligation to provide instructions that trucks be covered by just posting a notice. I think the video we saw last [City Council meeting] suggests the posting of the notice strategy is not working that well.”
Given the circumstances surrounding the ability to actually enforce commercial trucks to cover loads, Melching provided two options for the City Council. The first was to use the AQMD and AAA settlement agreement as leverage to enter a more robust agreement with the asphalt facility to actively get trucks covered.
“It’s clear that trucks can be covered. All American Asphalt has some reasons to want to satisfy the community and the city over this issue. We could pursue an agreement with them through which they would commit to ensuring that trucks leaving the facility were covered,” Melching said. “We would include an enforcement mechanism that would enforce a meaningful penalty if that doesn’t happen.”
The other option? Change the law.
“I know that sounds like an ambitious task, but we did have members of the state Legislature participate in the last meeting. We know from the AQMD AAA settlement agreement that it is possible to cover the trucks,” he said. “It doesn’t seem unreasonable to make an ask that would help address the significant limitation we face under state law.”
One point on the Sept. 28 motion indicates the city will request the expertise of state Senator Dave Min to help discover ways to change legislation.
In recent weeks, Senator Dave Min said he has heard complaints over the presence of the facility from thousands of residents who are constantly troubled by the noxious odors being emitted.
However, when asked about changes in legislation, Min said changes would need to be made at a state level.
“The law is the law. As I’ve said, for us to change that law would require us to look pretty deeply at some of these issues around what is the right concentration, and it would have to be something of uniform applicability,” Min said in an interview with Irvine Weekly. “It would be a long time coming, honestly — but we couldn’t just target this plant.”
In an interview with Irvine Weekly on Wednesday, Sept. 15, Min said from his perspective, the best solution would be for Irvine to purchase the plant.
“I think that would be less than the litigation that it is planning to engage in around district elections,” he said. “A few million dollars gets this done, asphalt can be made anywhere.”