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Release Date: 6/5/1998
Contact Information: Lois Grunwald, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1588

Jointly released by the city of East Palo Alto and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 Agencies meet to discuss resources for redevelopment of East Palo Alto Brownfields

     (San Francisco) -- Joining together for a landmark Brownfields Showcase Summit, the city of East Palo Alto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and ten other federal agencies met today in East Palo Alto to discuss the resources that the agencies will provide to the city of East Palo Alto as a Brownfields Showcase Community.

      "East Palo Alto, the U.S. EPA, and all the participating federal agencies are looking forward to a continued blending of talents, skills, and funds that will create an East  Palo Alto for the 21st century -- a place where strong, healthy neighborhoods go hand in hand with new jobs, new opportunities and a revitalized economy," said Felicia Marcus, U.S. EPA's regional administrator.

     The federal agencies attending the summit included: Department of Health and Human Services; Department of Housing and Urban Development; Department of Labor; the Small Business Administration; Department of Transportation; Department of Commerce/Economic Development Administration; Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Federal Housing Finance Board; Department of Veterans Affairs; and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

     "I am so proud of this city for the commitment of its citizens, local groups, and government to harness the energy here and build on the amazing strengths of this community to help revitalize the city," said East Palo Alto Mayor R.B. Jones. "We welcome this new federal partnership as an important contribution to this effort."

     East Palo Alto was named a Brownfields Showcase Community by Vice President Al Gore in April of this year, along with 15 other cities nationwide as part of the Brownfields National Partnership. The partnership is an agreement among federal agencies to link environmental protection with economic development and community revitalization. The overall federal commitment to Showcase Communities is expected to exceed $28 million. The purpose of the summit meeting is for the federal partners to discuss their commitments for federal funding, staffing, and technical support for the East Palo Alto. East Palo Alto will receive about $400,000 from EPA for continued redevelopment activities and staff support to the city.
     "I have strongly supported federal funding for these programs and applaud the Environmental Protection Agency and the people of East Palo Alto for working together to reinvigorate the community while restoring neighborhoods and jump-starting the local economy," said Senator Barbara Boxer.

     "I'm very proud that federal agencies have come together to collaborate with East Palo Alto to clean up toxic sites and increase the well being and economic vitality of the city," said Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (14th district). "Today's meeting is the fruit of the collaborative effort we began in East Palo Alto three years ago and I'm confident this will result in further progress for the city."  

     Last year, the 130-acre Ravenswood Industrial Area in East Palo Alto was designated by EPA as a regional Brownfields Pilot Project, with the city receiving $125,000 for redevelopment of the area. The city plans high-tech industry for this area, which could generate over $1 million in tax revenues.  A 1996 EPA study of the Ravenswood area showed that contamination of the area was far less than originally expected. EPA's study found that the cleanup would cost between $2 and $5 million, contrasted with an earlier estimate of $30 million that had scared away potential developers.

     "The Economic Development Administration is pleased to partner with the city and EPA to bring support and infrastructure to this community," said Dianne V. Church, economic development representative for the Economic Development Administration. "We are excited about the economic development opportunities, new jobs, and businesses the project will bring to the city."
    "We're looking forward to working with other federal agencies, the city of East Palo Alto and the community to address any health issues that may be of concern as  redevelopment occurs," said William Nelson, senior regional representative for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry with the Department of Health and Human Services.  

      With the goal of providing jobs to youth in the Ravenswood area, last year EPA in partnership with East Palo Alto, Opportunities Industrialization Center West, DePaul University, and private industry conducted hazardous materials training to East Palo Alto youth. The second round of training is also providing carpentry skills. A total of 17 students have graduated from the program.
      "We and our member financial institutions welcome this tremendous community development opportunity," said Gary Curley, senior vice president of the Credit, Risk Management and Community Investment Program with the Federal Housing Finance Board.  "Lenders working in close partnership with local governments and community organizations can greatly improve the quality of life in this vibrant community."

     "The brownfields program presents an exciting opportunity for the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center to partner with the EPA and the city of East Palo Alto," said Bobbie Rosenthal, assistant chief of social work, San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Center. "As these unemployed or under-employed veterans reclaim their independence, they will also help reclaim their community from environmental hazards. It's a win-win situation. The brownfields initiative is especially important because veterans will receive job training that will serve them for years to come and is highly portable."

     Brownfields are abandoned or under-used properties   usually in inner city areas   where development is hampered by real or perceived environmental contamination.

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