Show us the documents

We understand builder Tom Fogarty’s frustration in cleaning up his contaminated property near the old Humboldt Burn Dump. For the first 10 years that Fogarty owned the 340 acres with partner Ildo Rosellini, the city’s official stance was to help pay for cleaning up the entire acreage—both city and privately owned—and pave the way for residential development.

After all, the General Plan calls for growth in the area, and private-property owners have paid money into a sewer assessment district over the years. Besides, Fogarty points out, once the land is developed the city will realize an increase in property tax revenue.

A little more than a year ago, the City Council’s progressive majority, led by then-Councilman Dan Nguyen-Tan, made the sensible decision to take responsibility for only those acres the city had a hand in contaminating. Private landowners were told that if they could document the city’s role in the contamination of their property, the city would help pay. No one came forward.

Now Fogarty is saying the city is indeed responsible and asking it to pay him $5 million because it is "well documented" how toxic material was deposited on his land. So far, however, he hasn’t produced that documentation. Until he does, the city doesn’t owe him a penny. The fact that the city will benefit from increased tax revenue following development has nothing to do with who’s responsible for detoxifying the property. Besides, any revenue increase will be absorbed by the demand for more city services.