Residents in Cypress have a bone to pick with the city regarding Valley Vista Services, and it’s not just about contract extensions and elevated rates.
In a series of interviews with residents living near the city’s Public Works yard, they want to know why is the public city maintenance yard being used as a private trash companies dump site?
Back in early 2021, residents believed that no direct tip transfer station would occur in the city yard after the proposal for Valley Vista to build one was thrown out due to significant residential pushback, prompting council to decline the deal.
“We thought they killed it, we thought it was done,” said Tim Yerian, a resident of Cypress whose home backs up in direct proximity to the city yard.
Fast forward to 2022, Yerian stands beside himself in confusion and disappointment.
It’s 9 a.m. and his house rattles while the sounds of industrial trash machinery drown out any chance of morning tranquility on Grindlay Street. He steps outside to see Valley Vista trash trucks hovering over his fence as he watches unauthorized waste be dumped into the city maintenance yard.
“As City council members, you’re allowing this yard to become a small solid waste transfer station,” wrote Yerian to the City Council, who claims his lifestyle has been severely impacted by daily Valley Vista activity at the city yard.
Yerian and his neighbors who border the maintenance facility have been trying to get an answer to for years, while enduring trash odor, industrial noise, debris, contamination, mental and physical distress, and council negligence.
Other neighbors to the facility echo Yerian’s concerns.
“It has been and still is a battle to get them into compliance,” said Albert Van Meter, who has resided near the maintenance yard for twenty years.
Van Meter and other residents who live on Grindlay Street report that to a varying yet destructive degree, the city and VVS have been proceeding with the trash transfer site regardless of previous agreements.
Almost daily, residents close to the city yard are disrupted by their house shaking along with significant industrial noise while Valley Vista trucks unload city garbage and organic waste into the maintenance yard bins—intended to be a lot for storage of parking equipment, signs, traffic barriers and other city infrastructure.
Debby Oriez, who cares for her 92-year-old mother and is neighbors with Yerian, says her mother, who has dementia, believes the noise and rattling is caused by an earthquake every morning.
“Every time they do a loud drop [of trash disposal] my mom doesn’t understand. She thinks it’s an earthquake, and it is very stressful,” said Oriez.
Speculated to last anywhere between the hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the noise and house rattling are not the only complaints Cypress citizens on Grindlay St. have reported.
Environmental contamination from debris and dust flying into the neighborhood has allegedly created health and safety hazards for the residents.
Van Meter, who lives across from Yerian, says the accumulation of dust that consistently blankets their yard and solar panels has given his wife, Tara, “years of allergies”.
The maintenance yard directly touches five homes; however, its impacts expand further into homes across the street. Oriez, Yerian, and Van Meter have lived on the street for decades, some even before the maintenance yard was built.
When I bought this house years ago, they never mentioned that we were going to be living near a dump,” said Van Meter, who has also complained that the dump has brought rat and vermin issues onto his property.
Residents also report that the range of nuisances from the site has lowered the value of their homes, allegedly causing homeowners on the street to sell their property.
Meanwhile, dust and contamination levels, along with the physical and mental distress that came along with living nearby the site, are what Oriez says contributed to her late father, Robert Oriez’s death.
“It moved up to his lungs. I believe for no doubt it contributed to my dad’s death. The stress factor with him, the stress factor with everybody, it’s just unbelievable,” he said.
With a background in construction, Oriez said her father fought endlessly with the city to get the site removed so this wouldn’t be what they ended up with.
“It was a constant fight with them. My dad fought for years and years and years, because he knew all the [alleged] laws that they were breaking,” said Oriez.
Based on city code, trash dumping, collecting, or transferring is not listed as authorized land use for the city yard, which is zoned as public/semi-public property.
When the joint venture transfer site with Valley Vista was proposed two years ago, citizen opposition mainly stemmed from aspects of the proposal that highlighted a private company’s gain at the expense of vulnerable community members.
The letter states:
“VVS proposes to install a direct-tip transfer facility at the Yard to eliminate daily trash truck trips to the landfill and recycling center. The direct-tip transfer facility would allow trash trucks to dump waste at the Yard, which would then be hauled to the appropriate facility. VVS estimates seven 53-foot long trailers would be hauled to/from the Yard each weekday. VVS believes this approach would reduce wear and tear on its trash truck fleet and City streets.”
Due to revenue hits from COVID-19 and the collapse of the recyclable market, Valley Vista initiated the proposal—which included a 15-year contract extension and CNG fueling station in addition to the site— to make up for economic delays.
King Elementary School, a Title 1 school, an affordable housing complex, Tara Village, and citizens belonging to protected classes all reside close to the maintenance yard.
According to the US census, demographics for the immediate area located in the city’s North end include a split majority of Asian and Hispanic residents and medium to lower-income homes.
“The city council has done more than enough to meet the needs of Valley Vista. This proposal is going too far. The residents in the area of the City yard have enough challenges. Please don’t do this to them,” signed Cypress resident George Pardon in one of the many letters of proposal rejection addressed to the city.
Tim’s late father, Bob Yerian, a decorated World War II veteran, was living with Tim when the proposal was being debated. In a video created by his family, the 97-year-old veteran pleaded to Cypress residents and council to stop the city from dumping trash near his backyard.
“I fought for you, and I hope you will fight for me,” said Bob Yerian, who passed a year later.
Since his passing, Tim has proceeded his advocacy efforts trash dumping as it has continued throughout the year.
Having lived on the street since 1972, Yerian who is retired, has been a persistent voice on behalf of the neighborhood regarding the alleged violations Valley Vista has brought.
Serving as an unofficial neighborhood Valley Vista watch man, Yerian consistently gathers photo and video evidence of the trash dumping and often spearheads neighborhood meetings to discuss the issue.
“The neighborhood has been really good at getting gatherings together to discuss what we should do,” said Van Meter.
Overall, the blatant disadvantage residents on Grindlay St have when it comes to fighting against the city contributes to a larger narrative regarding systemic power play between citizens and government structures.
“The citizens themselves, they don’t have enough [time and money] to do all the research and things to prove it. The city council knows that,” said Oriez regarding the advantage of resources the city has over residents in the area.
Yerian, along with other involved Cypress residents, currently awaits a response from the city regarding their recent complaints and questions.
Local activists have since joined the fight alleging city ordinances and regulations do not allow what’s going on at the Cypress city yard.
In addition, the ENE has left messages for Public Works Director Doug Dancs that thus far, have been unanswered.
In the meantime, Yerian said he will continue his efforts involve his neighbors in the fight to halt the dumping.
Moreover, the long-time resident says he also plans to keep them informed as they continue to seek answers from a local government that seems to favor trash haulers over the safety concerns of their neighborhood.