Sports Complex on Toxic Former City Landfill Site Is a Bad Idea

A Sports Complex is one of the potential projects listed by the city
A Sports Complex is one of the potential projects listed by the city

By Eileen Samitz

Last Sunday on June 28th, two articles appeared in our local newspaper regarding the proposal of a sports complex which were particularly disturbing. The concept of a sports complex has been proposed in the past, and the subsequent discussions raised the many problems that would come with it, including the financial burden and the negative impacts. Yet, somehow this issue seems to be resurrected periodically, even though our City continues to face significant financial problems.

In the late 1990’s the Covell Center project was proposed and tried to lure the community into its mega-housing project by offering an 80-acre sports complex at Covell Blvd. and Pole Line. The City studies revealed that the sports complex which not only would bring impacts such as un-mitigatable traffic, but night lighting and loud public address systems impacting the many neighborhoods in north and east Davis. In addition, its financial infeasibility would result in the Davis community carrying the long term costs of the sport complex. The feasibility study done at the time suggested financial solutions such as selling alcoholic beverages and tournaments from outside the city virtually every week, to try to bring in some additional funding to attempt to support the enormous and growing financial burden.

Now, despite this history and the many reasons why a sports complex does not belong in this vicinity of the already highly impacted intersection of Covell Blvd. and Pole Line Road, comes another bad idea of considering locating it on the former City landfill site which has toxics issues. The former City dump (aka landfill site) is a 101-acre parcel located off Pole Line Road a little south of the PV USA solar panels, not far from the more northern Moore Ave. intersection coming from Wildhorse.

First, and of most of concern is the health, welfare, and safety of the children who would be playing sports on a toxic landfill site. The toxics were revealed in City’s own studies. In addition, the incompatibility of the traffic, night lighting, and public address system noise issues would cause impacts far beyond the immediate neighborhoods to the east, west, and south. This why a sports complex proposed at this site can only raise major opposition by the many neighborhoods to be impacted by the proposed sports complex.

In addition, another major concern is that it sounds like there is an implied potential to include this expensive sports complex to be ”piggy-backed” onto a possible special tax for repairs of roads and our community pools and possibly other City capital infrastructure repair and mantainence cost shortfalls. The current estimate of $24 million just to build the sports complex is staggering, and this does not even include long-term maintenance and operational costs! I hope that any thoughts of attempting to “roll in” a sports complex into a special tax which is supposed to fix our damaged roads and community pools will be abandoned by our City Council soon. Otherwise, this tax will be opposed by many Davis citizens, including me. It is unreasonable for the City to entertain the concept of adding a sports complex to our existing financial burdens when we cannot even afford to fix our roads and community pools. Not only would the cost be astronomical to build the sports complex, but the financial burden to operate it would grow over the years, as well as the traffic, night lighting, and noise impacts.

Please urge the City Council at this Tuesday’s, July 7th City Council meeting and by email to oppose any sports complex proposal on the toxic former City landfill site, and to oppose its inclusion in any future infrastructure repair tax proposal. For more information please call me at 756-5165 or email me at

Eileen M. Samitz

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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    1. Barack Palin

      I don’t think we want to make the sports complex a “site” issue because that can easily be changed.  It’s more of a we have more dire needs than a sports park and pool issue and let’s shelve these want-to-haves.

      1. David Greenwald

        I was thinking about this but I think there are good reasons to make it both a site issue as well as a cost prioritization issue. There is a huge environmental community that will rally to the environment factors but may be less engaged on fiscal ones. A multi-prong attack here is a good idea, in my view.

        1. Barack Palin

          What concerns me David is by highlighting the toxic land issue all Wolk and other sports park advocates have to do is say we found a more suitable site, problem solved, let’s move forward.

          1. David Greenwald

            That’s why I backed it up with the financial analysis. The money factor is considerably worse than I thought.

        2. Davis Progressive

          bp: there are a group of people in the community who only care about environmental issues and this really hooks them.  can they move it to another place?  yes.  they have the option of howatt which has its own problems and the option of the soccer fields, which might be the best scenario.  but either way you run into the money issue and that needs to be addressed.

    2. Eileen Samitz


      Thank you for your interest. The former City Landfill site was not lined (see Davis Progressive comment below) and so the result is a significant toxic contamination situation. This subject was discussed in detail in the July 6, 2010 Vanguard which you may want to see for more details. To spare a very large cut and pasting all the info here is the link:

      However, the short version is that Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) were detected in the original former City Landfill site hazards assessment report years ago (there was an original and a supplemental report) the following is an example of the information that came from that hazards assessment report (Note: that MCL is Maximum Contaminant Level, and DM-MW-3 is a sampling well):

      The original findings showed vinyl chloride at levels 4 to 5 times the limit.  “Of the VOCs, only vinyl chloride was detected at levels exceeding the MCL designated for that compound, and it exceeded the State Title 22 drinking water standards.  The vinyl chloride was found in DM-MW-3 in two of the four rounds of monitoring at the entrance to the old landfill at levels 4 to 5 times the MCLs for the compound.”

      The City Staff report in 2010 appeared to be entirely too dismissive of this important issue. As a result, it was very helpful that more probing analysis was submitted by a local citizen with toxics expertise raising the many questions that were not being asked and pointing out all the evidence and dangerous health impacts that these toxics present.

      The health concerns of children are of the greatest concern since exposure to these toxics at young ages can result in tragic, irreversible illnesses. Allowing such a situation would be an indefensible action by the City and if  the City did move forward with a sports complex on the former landfill site would also create an open-ended situation for liability and lawsuits. It would not be hard to expect a situation which could occur where a child who used the sports complex and who might tragically come down with an illness that could be connected with toxics exposure, that the parents could file a suit against the City.  The legal costs would undoubtedly be substantial and the case(s) could go on for years to try to prove or disprove the cause, costing the community.  This adds to the very long list of reasons why the toxic former Landfill site is the worst possible location for any sports fields and how all of these problems and impacts are clearly avoidable.




    1. hpierce

      Think ‘go-kart track’, on Pole Line, just north of the Covell Village/currently Ag site.

      And, for the record, the technical term for what it was is “dump”.  Old enough not to have been operated as an engineered landfill would be.  There is an older one in town.  And I do mean “in town”.  Today’s trivia question… where was it?  Will probably surprise most, but a “historian” might know.  I’ve seen a portion of it when nearby excavation cut through a portion of it.  Hint… circa 1900-1920.

      1. Davis Progressive

        as i understand it, one of the problems is that the old dump was not lined and so there is huge amounts of contamination of soil and potentially groundwater similar to what happened at the frontier fertilizer site.

      2. DanH

        hpierce, I would be very interested to learn the location of the early dump site you observed. The City of Davis was incorporated in 1917 so a central dump site prior to the 1920’s is unlikely, but maybe I’m wrong. I suspect that there were a quite a few farmyard and backyard dumps to be found all over the original town. Davis didn’t have a sewer system at this time, either. During wet winters of 1915 and 1919 backyard cesspools flooded and raw sewage flooded lots at at 2nd and B and 2nd and G streets. The first dump sites in Davis would be Native American middens. I believe some have been discovered near Putah Creek.

    2. hpierce

      The irregularity of the go-kart trak is due to uneven settling of portions of the old dump. The Track lies over portions of the old dump, as does the PD shooting facility.

      The second oldest sewer treatment facility was located north and west of the old dump. Think PV USA.

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