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Housing is expensive: Californians may soon be living on top of trash

(AP Photo/John Antczak)

Housing is expensive is Southern California, but tech jobs for millennials seem abundant. Where are these young career men and women supposed to live? Apparently in Santa Clara County, the price of housing is so high that regulators are considering the idea of building houses on top of landfills as a legitimate option.

Some tech companies have already started building modern day versions of mill towns (settlements which grew up around mills or factories.)

Last August in the Palo Alto area, Bloomberg reported “a median home value of $2.5 million, 13 times the national level and out of reach for even the six-figure salaries of the area’s tech workers.” Now, a developer by the name of Related Companies has bid to build a $6.7 billion housing complex on top of $5.5 million of municipal waste. The complex would be called “City Place” and would be built across the street from Levi’s Stadium.

This is not the first time that a landfill has been built upon in this area, however. Several years ago, a golf course and a BMW track were built over a landfill. Of course, building housing overtop a landfill raises different and more serious issues such as toxic vapors, water contamination, and dangerous gases.

“Environmental overseers have accepted Related’s massive technical document, which includes elaborate safety systems to block the escape of combustible methane gas and other dangerous vapors, and to prevent groundwater contamination,” reports Mercury News.

Plans for the complex include pouring a one foot thick concrete layer, which would cover thirty central acres of landfill.

According to Stephen Eimer, executive vice president of Related, and co-managing partner of the landfill-housing project, “The regulators were pretty skeptical at the start…But we kept at it, working and working, and they came around.”

If the project is approved and completed, the housing complex will include 1,680 housing units across a total of 9.2 million square feet.

In addition to housing the complex would include 5.7 million square feet of office space, 1.1 million square feet of retail space, and 700 hotel rooms. The housing will likely be combination of apartments and condos built Santana Row-style above shops, restaurants, and parking areas, creating an additional layer of space between residents and any gases which might escape in an emergency situation. However, safety system should be “nearly bulletproof with extensive sensor and alarm systems” Eimer assures everyone.

While this is not the first housing complex to be built atop a landfill it would be the largest one in the Bay Area and possibly in the state.

Keith Roberson, senior engineering geologist with the regional water quality control board said, “The developer and the city of Santa Clara did go to great lengths to try to address all the issues that we raised.”

However, Robertson’s main concern is the precedent that this could establish for building housing on top of landfills.

“Every case is going to have to be evaluated on its own merit,” said Robertson.


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