Here’s the background story to “SLO City Giveaway #487” (“The Shredder,” Sept. 25, 2008). In giving away the 8,000-square-foot strip of land at Depot Square to Hamish Marshall, the city was getting rid of potential liability for cleanup of the site. The underlying land used to be crossed by railroad tracks—at least one set of tracks, perhaps two. This was in the days when the depot area included a roundhouse and engine repair facility.
In addition to the likelihood of creosote contamination, there is also the likelihood of petrochemical and lead contamination. Remember, the railroad yards date to the late 1800s and the days when toxic materials were simply dumped on the ground and into our creeks.
The city was willing to give away the land to avoid having to pay for any future cleanup. This was a unanimous decision on the part of City Council. Both Christine Mulholland and I voted for this giveaway even though we voted against the financial terms of selling the Chinatown lot to the Copelands. On the Depot lot, I think the Council made the right decision. I believe it was the prudent thing to do.