LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles City Council has rescinded its approval of a $20 million Van Nuys fire station project, nearly five months after residents filed a lawsuit contending the environmental effects of the plan need to be studied.

In reversing its June vote green-lighting construction of a station at Oxnard Street and Vesper Avenue to replace a smaller station next to Van Nuys City Hall, the council instructed staff to begin work on an “expedited” environmental impact review.

The motion was introduced on Tuesday, Dec. 6, by San Fernando Valley area Councilmember Nury Martinez, who originally pushed for approval of the project.

A collective calling itself the Tiara Group, consisting of “residents, citizens, property owners, taxpayers and electors residing in the Van Nuys community of the city of Los Angeles,” filed suit against the project in July.

The group’s suit specifically mentions Jeffrey Lynn and Robina Suwol, both residents of a property immediately adjacent to the fire station project, and says its members who live near the station “will suffer direct harm as a result of any adverse environmental and/or public health impacts caused by the project.”

The vacant lot where the station is to be built contains abandoned underground storage tanks — a 10,000-gallon gasoline tank and a 900-gallon former kerosene tank, according to the lawsuit.

Martinez aide Linda Serrato Ybarra said last week the council member wants to do everything possible to address all of the concerns raised by the public, including asking for the project to be delayed so that a thorough environmental review can be done, “if it’s going to offer residents comfort.”

“The city’s not trying to be difficult in dealing with the fire

station,” Ybarra said, adding that the choice of where to build “was not a flippant decision.”

“This is something the Bureau of Engineering has been researching for awhile, and it comes down to response time, where we can most quickly respond to constituent needs, and (the site) being technologically advanced enough for a fire station,” she said.

The council in June unanimously approved the proposal to build an 18,500-square-foot fire station a half-mile from the existing 14,000-square-foot Station 39 built on Sylvan Street in 1939.

The new station would be built with funds from Proposition F, which was approved in 2000 to raise money for replacing outdated fire stations. Several residents at the time objected to the fire station being built at 14615 Oxnard St. and said there were other viable sites.

However, other residents supported the project. Monica Alexenko said opposition comes from a “small group” that has caused construction on the fire station —slated to begin in January — to fall  “almost seven months behind schedule.”

Martinez said in June that the project is necessary because the streets around the existing station are too narrow for fire trucks, and the station was one of the oldest still in use in the San Fernando Valley.

By comparison, Martinez said, Oxnard Street was “considered a secondary highway.”