Park lovers anxiously awaiting the closure of Palo Alto's nearly full landfill in the Baylands may now have to wait until 2015 before the controversial facility reaches its capacity, according to a new report.
City officials had previously expected the city's landfill, which includes the local composting operation, to close in 2011 or 2012. Once the landfill closes, the site is slated to revert to parkland. A coalition of environmentalists is also lobbying for the city to build a waste-to-energy plant on a 10-acre portion of Byxbee Park's landfill site.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss the city's options for the landfill site at its Oct. 18 meeting. But whichever option the council ultimately chooses, the landfill site could remain a landfill site for at least five more years, according to a recent photogrammetric survey.
The survey, which involved aerial photographs of the landfill and a topographical drawing, was taken in May to calculate the existing elevation of the landfill, according to a Public Works Department report.
The survey showed that the landfill's intake of waste has dropped precipitously between fiscal years 2009 and 2010, from 76,199 cubic yards to 36,350. It is projected to drop even further, to about 27,600 cubic yards in fiscal year 2011 -- which ends on June 30 -- because of the council's recent decision to keep the facility closed on Sundays and Mondays. The council made the decision to reduce operation days at the landfill earlier this month as part of its effort to close a $6.3 million gap in the city's Refuse Fund.
As of May, the landfill still had 141,663 cubic yards available for refuse filling, the report stated.
The council's efforts to plan for the landfill's closure are, ironically, the main factors in prolonging the facility's life. In January 2009, the council voted to stop accepting commercial waste at the landfill to preserve space for a possible anaerobic-digestion plant, which would convert the city's yard trimmings, food waste and sewage sludge into energy. The group Palo Alto Green Energy Initiative launched a drive earlier this month to "undedicate" a 10-acre portion of Byxbee Park and make it possible for the site to house such a facility.
The council's ban on commercial waste has prompted a major drop in landfill-bound garbage, making it possible for the facility to remain open until the middle of 2015. To keep the landfill open beyond 2011, Palo Alto would have to get a closure-date extension from the state.
If Palo Alto doesn't get the extension, the landfill would fall under the "trickling closure" status. This means the city would have to proceed with the closing of the facility despite its ability to receive more garbage.
Former Councilwoman Emily Renzel, a leading proponent of reverting the landfill site to parkland, wrote a letter to the council criticizing its recent plans to ban commercial garbage and its "ad hoc" decisions about composting.
"I would love to see our landfill closed sooner rather than later, but no planning has been done for imminent commencement of closure and that will most certainly have more financial ramifications to the Refuse Fund," Renzel wrote.