Homes vs. industry in West Sac

Pacific Cement’s proposed cement plant at the port in West Sacramento has drawn a mixed reaction among the port commission members. But it is a neighborhood group, the West Sac Quality Urbanization And Development (QUAD), that is really making waves.

QUAD members Derek and Tammy Backus moved to a new residential neighborhood in West Sacramento about a year ago. They said it was advertised as a centrally located, family friendly, well-planned community. It was and still is. Yet they didn’t anticipate the possibility of cement plants in their neighborhood.

For years West Sac was what Derek Backus called “Sacramento’s stepchild,” identifiable to most as a series of motels and factories. In recent years, developers have been touting it as a nice place to live, with some success. The Backuses said this plant would hurt that progress.

“We are not against development per se,” said Derek Backus. “We are against development that will compromise our health.”

Backus cited some preliminary research he’s been doing indicating that exposure to cement dust increases the risk of pulmonary disease, and that asphalt particles increase the risk of bladder, kidney and skin cancer.

Pacific Cement filled out an air permit application that said it was 30 miles from the nearest elementary school, when in fact, the nearest school is only 2,400 feet away. Backus said it may have been a typo. When he contacted Pacific Cement, they said that the plant could be as close as 1,000 feet from the nearest school.

The Backus home is not directly at risk from the proposed plant. But certain homes in the community could be, and the Backuses say that the fight is for the community.

“West Sac is trying to reinvent itself,” said Backus, “but inviting new residents into the community and supporting residential development is incongruous with supporting heavy industrial development.”

West Sac has a long history of industrialization. In fact, a recent inquiry about local pollutants found that three of the four major polluters in Yolo County are from West Sac (

The Backuses have other ideas for the port. They envision a marina, with restaurants and retail stores. “If you’ve ever been to the marina in Santa Monica, this is the sort of thing we have in mind,” said Tammy Backus. “We just don’t want it to be toxic.” On the other hand, says Derek Backus, “If they can convince us that there will be no toxic matter, and that we won’t have toxic air to breathe, we may back down our opposition.”

Ricardo Ramirez, general manager of Pacific Cement, said that the location appealed to him because it is an up-and-coming area, and he thinks there will be plenty of work there in the future.

Regarding environmental concerns, he said the proposed plant meets all state, federal and environmental requirements. “We’re willing to go the extra mile,” he said. “And if someone were to prove to me that it was unsafe, I wouldn’t do it.”

The next port meeting to discuss the project will be held February 4 at 3251 Beacon Blvd. The meeting will begin at 4 p.m.