South Gate campus replacement on hold

By Ivan Cazares 

East Los Angeles College’s plans to replace the South Gate Educational Center with a new facility is in limbo according to Evelyn Escatiola, the South Gate campus’ Dean of Academic Affairs.

A ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled in February to mark the start of construction was postponed until April, and is now postponed indefinitely.

Escatiola said the Los Angeles Community College District has not given a reason as to why the project was postponed once again. She also said ELAC’s administration will be demanding answers in upcoming LACCD board of trustees meetings.

The project started when ELAC purchased a former Firestone tire factory located across the street from the current South Gate campus in 2009.

ELAC’s original plan was to convert the former Firestone facilities into a campus. However, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control determined that residual petroleum hydrocarbons made the building unsafe to occupy.

To address the issue, ELAC decided to demolish the building and replace it instead of retrofitting it.

“It’s not uncommon to build on sites with some contamination. It’s hard to come by clean land in an industrial area like Los Angeles,” Efrem Nuewirth, DTSC toxicologist, said. Nuewirth and project manager Chand Sultana said it’s safe to build a campus on the site if appropriate measures are taken.

In addition to soil removal, a vapor barrier would have to be placed under the floor to protect occupants from vapors found trapped in the Firestone facilities’ basement.

The site spans 18.5 acres and the three contaminated areas are estimated to be the size of residential swimming pools.

To remove the contaminated soil, the contaminated areas will have to be excavated three-feet deep.

The soil would then have to be disposed at a state-permitted facility. The DTSC will also have to conduct further testing after the excavation is complete.

However, the demolition of the Firestone facilities, which were scheduled to be demolished in fall 2016, are still standing.

Soil containing arsenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons has already been removed from different areas on site. In an interview from 2014, ELAC President Marvin Martinez said the project would be completed in 2019.

However, it is unclear what the current timeline for the project is. Recently elected South Gate city council member and ELAC dean Alfonso Rios said the new campus has the potential to become the tenth college in LACCD.

Rios worked at the South Gate campus for 16 years, and is an advocate for higher education in the southeast region. Rios said he will champion the development of the new South Gate campus as an elected official.

“I’m loyal to ELAC. However, I believe every community deserves its own community college.” Rios called the future South Gate facility a diamond in the rough that will help the city in its efforts to revitalize the surrounding area.

The DTSC is not in charge of setting the timeline.

However, Sultana will be taking comments and concerns about the cleanup efforts until May 1. She can be contacted at (818) 717-6552 or chand.sultana@dtsc.

For questions, the public can contact Public Participation Specialist Zenzi Poindexter at (818) 717-6568 or

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