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Hotel construction stalled by minor hydraulic leak

by Robb Fulcher

Construction of an 80-unit Holiday Inn on Pacific Coast Highway was stalled this week after a small amount of hydraulic fluid leaked from lube racks that were being removed from the former auto dealership site.

The contractor has been directed to contact the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for instructions on the removal of the fluid, said Sol Blumenfeld, community development director for the city of Hermosa Beach.

"There isn't a large amount that has to be done," Blumenfeld said. "...Whatever debris or soil has been contaminated has to be removed and taken to a landfill that accepts it."

Landfills that accept materials such as paint accept hydraulic fluid, Blumenfeld said.

Joe Baiocco, a supervising inspector for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, said the spill occurred when one of 21 hydraulic automobile lifters was being removed by heavy machinery from the site.

The amount spilled was "not substantial," Baiocco said.

"Typically hydraulic lifters do not hold much fluid," he said.

Inspectors for the city forced the temporary construction halt.

At the construction site on Tuesday afternoon Ray Chen, general manager of Formosa Hotel Inc., was talking to a soil engineer near a stretch of ground with some fluid spilled across it.

"We don't know how much of a hard time we will have in the future," Chen said. "Right at the start we're not very happy."

Workers have been demolishing the decrepit auto dealership site on Pacific Coast Highway at First Street to put up a three-story Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, on 40,000 square feet that have lain moribund throughout the decade.

The 20 square-foot building will feature an indoor swimming pool, spa and sauna, as well as 86 parking spaces. Formosa Hotel Inc. also owns a 65-unit Best Western hotel on Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach.

The corporation has controlled the land on the west side of PCH since 1991, but some residents objected to earlier plans for a hotel. The Hermosa Beach Planning Commission approved the current hotel proposal about six months ago.

Chen has said he hopes the hotel can be opened by July 2000. ER

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