Belmont Heights Community Association
375 Redondo Avenue #332
Long Beach, CA 90814
February 18, 2013
Councilman Gary DeLong
City of Long Beach
333 W Ocean Blvd., 14th Floor
Long Beach, CA 90802
Dear Councilman DeLong:
Re: Moratorium on Crematories
We appreciate your support in placing this motion on the City Council agenda and giving us an opportunity to speak to the appropriate placement of crematories within the City of Long Beach.
First, I would like to say that the BHCA Board, as well as many residents, is not opposed to the Belmont Heights Funeral Center operating solely as a funeral center. Our concern lies with their stated interest in installing a crematorium at this site. I personally met with the owners of the Center when this issue was raised and found them to be pleasant and eager to be a good business neighbor.
Second, we understand that cremation is a fast-growing industry and serves a need in our community. In California, approximately 53% of bodies are disposed by cremation. Cremation is also generally less expensive than traditional burial. Our position is not to outlaw cremation within the City of Long Beach but to ask the City Council and Development Services staff to identify appropriate locations for such facilities.
Placing a crematorium adjacent to a residential zone creates two incompatibilities with land usage. First, to some, the notion of residing near a cremation facility is an unpleasant one. Important as such facilities may be, they simply are distasteful to some homeowners. When one is constructed nearby, these homeowners experience a substantial impairment in the enjoyment of their property. It goes without saying that this reaction to crematories could make it more difficult for a homeowner to sell his or her home. Second, the proposed crematory would introduce an incompatible land use by inserting a long-term source of potentially dangerous toxins into a residential area. Homeowners in such an area maintain the reasonable expectation that their city government will establish and preserve zoning rules that keep the air as clean as possible.
The major emissions from crematories include: nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury vapor, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride, and other heavy metals, including persistent organic pollutants. Although it is unclear how harmful many of these emissions are, widespread concern exists related to vaporized mercury emitted into the air when amalgam dental fillings are burned. Although studies of those emissions have not established the safety or danger of emissions for humans nearby, we believe that knowingly placing a source of vaporized mercury in a residential neighborhood is an inadvisable risk. Although the EPA does not regulate emissions from crematories, most industrialized countries have imposed strict limits on crematory mercury emissions precisely because they have concluded that the amounts are substantial from a human health perspective. To our knowledge, there are no known mercury control systems in use at crematories in the U.S.
We are also concerned about the location of crematories adjacent to residential zones because they require the installation of an incinerator that burns at temperatures between 700 and 1100 degrees C (1200 to 2000 degrees F). Although we don’t doubt that strict fire control measures would be taken with the installation of such a system, we believe an industrial zone is a more appropriate location for such equipment. We have also found reference to fires from the incineration of bodies with excessive fatty tissue.
We respectfully urge the Mayor and City Council to support this moratorium and direct Development Services staff to do a comprehensive review of the science related to the operation of crematories. We also encourage the City to seek out the best community model for the placement of crematories. In our view, a crematorium on 7th Street, along a CCP or Community Commercial-Pedestrian oriented zone, is not a compatible fit. A recent decision by the Mississauga, Ontario Planning and Development Commission to place these businesses in industrial zones with at least a 985 foot separation between a crematorium and sensitive land use is reasonable and might serve as a model for Long Beach.
Dianne Sundstrom, President
Belmont Heights Community Association
cc: Mayor Foster and City Council Members
City Council Approves Moratorium On Crematories While Zoning Considered
by BRIAN ADDISON FEBRUARY 20 2013 Long Beach Post
A moratorium on new funeral homes and crematoriums was put in place by City Council Tuesday night, a move that was made in order for the Planning Commission to review zoning laws on where the currently unregulated business can be located.
The moratorium–headed by 3rd District Councilmember Gary DeLong and supported by 2nd District Councilmember Suja Lowenthal and 9th District Councilmember Steve Neal–was largely sparked by the creation of Belmont Heights Funeral Center at 3501 E. 7th Street and its announced intention to install a crematorium in a neighborhood that what residents say is too close to homes.
As the first African-American female-owned funeral service business, Latasha Company, along with her business partner Jonathan Polk, opened the center last year as a unique space that the owner says is meant to resemble more of a home than a mortuary. When she opened her funeral center, Company said her plans included a crematorium, citing the need for more cremation services in Long Beach—an option that is becoming increasingly more popular.
According to DeLong, constituents were disturbed that the center was directly located next to residential homes and was built without any discretionary review from the Planning Commission due to nonexistent zoning laws regulating where and how crematoriums can operate.
Furthermore, some felt the center lacked the facilities to properly engage in what they do. Business owner and local real estate agent Michael Barber pointed out that the center, given its lack of a garage, were unloading caskets directly on the street, ultimately leading him to fear that body bags may be unloaded openly as well.
Will Snipes, homeowner at 710 Newport, discussed his ability to look into the center’s prep room from his own dining room while Dianne Sundstrum, president of the Belmont Heights Community Association cited her the fear in the release of toxins into the nearby area due to the cremation process.
“[I understand] that cremation is a fast-growing industry,” said Sundstrom to the Long Beach Post. “Our position is not to outlaw cremation in Long Beach but to ask the City to identify appropriate locations for such facilities.”
The moratorium will not directly affect the Belmont Heights Funeral Center itself but put a hold on all future businesses in order to analyze the best places for such operations. DeLong feels that “industrial zones” are more appropriate.
“From our point of view,” Sundstrum continued, “in reviewing the science and technology involved in operating a crematorium, it seems that industrial zones are the most appropriate locations for such facilities. Many cities in the US and Canada have implemented such zoning and land-use guidelines.”
Calls to all of the mortuaries within city limits found only one with an on-site crematorium, Stricklin Snively on Long Beach Blvd. near 20th St. All others said that they outsource their cremation services to family owned businesses outside of Long Beach.
Polk denied the existence of any “prep room” at the center and insisted to “come on by—we have nothing to hide.”
While the moratorium will be initially citywide, the council will reconvene in four weeks to see if the focus should be within a specific geographic sector.
Noah Kelly also contributed reports to this story.
Moratorium against Mortuaries and Crematoriums in Long Beach
Long Beach crematories may be pushed out
Sept. 8, 2013
By PAT MAIO / OC REGISTER WRITER
The nine-month ban on expansion of the funeral industry in Long Beach may result in the exit of crematories in the next several years because of tougher proposed regulations, according to observers familiar with the issue.
“It would wind down the business,” said Gregory Bradley, executive director in the Los Angeles region for Louisiana-based Stewart Enterprises Inc., which owns one of the crematories in Long Beach. Stewart, which is in the midst of a merger with Texas-based Service Corporation International, owns Stricklin Snively Funerals and Cremations at 1952 Long Beach Blvd.
On Thursday, the city’s planning commission recommended to the City Council that the city “amortize” all existing crematory operations that do not meet distancing requirements by Dec. 31, 2023. It was determined that the 10-year period was the lifespan of an incinerator, according to data provided to Rob Zur Schmiede, deputy director of the city’s Development Services Department.
The rub with crematory operators in Long Beach is over a dispute that began last year between the city and a local funeral service business that wanted to elbow its way into the crematory business. Its effort to get a permit for the crematory business was boosted by the Great Recession and consumers looking for a way to save on burial costs.
“We saw a need,” said Jonathan Polk, director of the Belmont Heights Funeral Center and the applicant who wanted to set up a new crematory at 3501 E. 7th St. to complement its existing funeral services.
But concerns were raised by neighbors and city officials over the health effects of toxic mercury pollutants emitted from dental fillings that get burned up when deceased bodies are incinerated.
For crematories, the issue represents a Catch 22 situation. There are two funeral businesses in Long Beach that incinerate human remains. These include Stricklin Snively and Simpson’s Family Mortuary, located at 5443 Long Beach Blvd.
To expand, a traditional crematory would need a 600-foot buffer between it and surrounding homes, and would have to be part of a mortuary in a commercial zone, or cemetery. But the two crematories are located much closer than 600 feet to residences, Zur Schmiede conceded.
The recommendation made to the council could effectively end the crematorium side of the funeral business in Long Beach, a city of nearly 500,000 people, unless the they wanted to set up stand-alone businesses in certain industrial areas, Zur Schmiede said.
The council is expected to take up the commission’s recommendation in the next month or two, he said. A representative from Simpson’s could not be reached for comment on the latest development.
Meanwhile, Polk said his funeral business may look elsewhere to base its proposed crematory.
“We are in the process of looking,” he said.
The idea of basing a crematory in an industrial area doesn’t appeal to Polk since his business is located in a residential area, and families may not have the appetite to visit rougher areas, he said.
“If you look across the country, mortuaries are traditionally in residential areas. We are part of the community,” Bradley said.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the commission approved a site review plan to renovate the historic Schroeder Hall U.S. Army Reserve Center so that it can be occupied by the Long Beach East Division Police Department Substation. The Juvenile Investigations Section also has plans to move to the renovated Schroeder, located on a 4.68-acre site at 3800 E. Willow St.