Santa Paula Times
Santa Clara Waste Water site that exploded in 2014 up for auction on Sept. 13
Published:  June 29, 2022

The March decision of the Ventura County Planning Department to require a full Environmental Impact Report for RI-NU Services LLC to reopen the notorious Santa Clara Waste Water facility on Mission Rock Road, just west of Santa Paula city limits, has a new twist with the announcement that the property is again headed for a foreclosure auction.

A Trustee’s Sale is scheduled for Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. at the Ventura County Government Center, to the right of the main entrance, near the exit doors of the Hall of Justice, according to a legal notice on Page 6 of today’s Santa Paula Times

According to the legal notice, the amount owed for the site at 815 Mission Rock Road is more than $53 million. The deed was recorded in April 2012, and the Santa Clara Waste Water Company is the trustor while C3 Capital Partners II, L.P., is listed as the beneficiary.

The upcoming auction, wrote Franca Abbatiello Rosengren, a county senior planner who has been overseeing the RI-NU permitting process, “would affect the project if the new owner does not want to enter into an agreement with the current applicant to continue processing the application. We would need the new owner to sign the application.”

In a later email, Rosengren, when asked how such a sale would impact the projected timeline of the EIR, which was supposed to start in June, wrote: “As far as I know, the sale would not pause the EIR process. RI-NU has indicated that the sale would not have an impact on the current application and proposal. RI-NU has also recently requested a pause on starting the EIR process until the end of the year to evaluate project improvements that will be considered in the EIR process,” information that will be posted to the Planning Division website this week.

In March, the Planning Division reversed its initial decision to process the RI-NU application to reopen the facility with a mitigated negative declaration, which is a lesser review than a full environmental impact report. Ventura County Planning Director Dave Ward announced the decision after the county received 96 public comments during the official public comment period, from people and organizations, expressing their concerns about reopening the facility.

On Nov. 18, 2014, Santa Clara Waste Water — a commercial wastewater facility that primarily served oil, gas and other industries — exploded, releasing a three-mile-long toxic cloud, injuring scores of people, including first-responders, and resulting in a declared state of emergency and joint prosecution by the Ventura County District Attorney and state Attorney General’s offices of nine company employees and two business entities, resulting in multiple convictions and plea deals.

Santa Clara Waste Water was on the brink of a sale for about $100 million at the time of the explosions and has remained closed since that time.

The latest foreclosure sale is not the first. One scheduled for Nov. 27, 2021, was canceled abruptly.

According to the legal notice, the Sept. 13 sale includes “all legal fixtures to the subject real property, including but limited to the Pipeline that runs under and through said real property,” which is being sold “as is.”

“Said sale will be made, but without covenant or warranty, expressed or implied, regarding title, possession, or encumbrances, to pay the remaining principal sum of the note(s) secured by said Deed of Trust, with interest thereon, as provided in said note(s), advances, if any, under the terms of the Deed of Trust, estimated fees, charges and expenses of the Trustee and of the trusts created by said Deed of Trust, to-wit: $53,146,272.33 (Estimated),” and accrued interest and additional advances, if any, will increase the price tag prior to sale.

There is the standard notice to potential bidders: “If you are considering bidding on this property lien, you should understand that there are risks involved in bidding at a trustee auction. You will be bidding on a lien, not on the property itself. Placing the highest bid at a trustee auction does not automatically entitle you to free and clear ownership of the property. You should also be aware that the lien being auctioned off may be a junior lien. If you are the highest bidder at the auction, you are or may be responsible for paying off all liens senior to the lien being auctioned off, before you can receive clear title to the property.”

C3 Capital Partners II, L.P., listed as the beneficiary, was behind pulling the rug out from under former Ventura County District Attorney Investigator Jeff Barry, who was scheduled to speak Nov. 2 at the Regency Theaters in Santa Paula about the SCWW investigation. Barry did not speak at the sold-out event, co-sponsored by the Santa Paula Times and Santa Paula Latino Town Hall, after he received a letter, dated Oct. 28, from an attorney for C3 Capital Partners II, L.P., and C3 Capital Partners III, L.P., which the attorney wrote were “the current owners of Santa Clara Waste Water Company ('SCWW') and SCWW's senior secured creditor.” In her letter to Barry, she wrote, in part: “You need to be extremely careful with regard to what you do, say and disclose during your 'presentation.' … If we learn that you made any false or defamatory statements during your 'presentation,' you are hereby advised that our clients and those harmed by your actions will take all actions necessary and appropriate to protect their interests to the maximum extent permissible under the law. Govern yourself accordingly.”

The attorney’s letter to Barry was emailed to the Santa Paula Times, which had created an email address for those reserving seats at the event.