California Town Goes to Court to Remove Abandoned Hanjin Containers

Tim Rue/Bloomberg News

Officials in Ontario, California, are continuing efforts to remove hundreds of abandoned shipping containers that have illegally been placed on properties in agricultural  areas, City Manager Al Boling said.

The city is flexing its legal muscles and may be getting close to a settlement, he said.

“We’re working through the legal process, including and not limited to settlement discussion,” Boling said by phone, “meaning the property owner is willing to stop new containers and work on a phased approach to remove the containers that are on site now in return for dismissal of the litigations.”

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The containers were relocated to Ontario after the financial collapse of Hanjin Shipping Co., the world’s seventh-largest ocean carrier. Thousands of empty containers — some owned by the South Korean shipper, others leased to other companies — began piling up at the space-challenged, busy Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex.

City zoning however doesn’t allow for storage of shipping containers in the southern, agriculture part of town. Local officials also voiced concerns that truck traffic would plague nearby residents and impact home sales in the Ontario Ranch housing development now under construction.

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The city has filed suit in San Bernardino County Superior Court against the local property owners and logistics companies. Named in the various complaints are:

• The Lanting Family  (owner) and Gardner Trucking (leasee), with a property on the 9000 block of Merrill Avenue and 8900 block of East Eucalyptus Avenue

• Harold Jay Bollema, with a property on the 8200 block of Schaefer Avenue.

• Jay Hong Park, Carnie Chung, Adrian Won, Sylvia Won and Young Lee, with a property on the 8400 block of East Chino Avenue, where it meets the 13100 block of South Walker Avenue.

• Jean and Catherine Gastelluberry and Fleet Services with a property on the 13600 block of South Grove Avenue.

The defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.

Richard Egger, an attorney for the city with Ontario-based law firm Best Best & Krieger, said temporary restraining orders have been issued on the cases involving Merrill Avenue and South Walker Avenue, with hearings set to consider preliminary injunctions to prevent more containers from moving on site.

“In that first case [Merrill Avenue], there was a hearing [Nov. 18] on the preliminary injunction, and the court decision is to set an evidentiary hearing and hear the facts sometime in December,” Egger said.

The city, Egger said, would like to work with two other property owners, who have been cooperative, instead of seeking restraining orders.

“They’ve been very responsible,” Egger said. “We believe we don’t need to seek a restraining order. They’re all being responsive now that we’re acting on the first two.”

On the first two, “We’re also talking with both of those owners to try and resolve this in a way that can satisfy the city’s concern and minimize the expense to all,” Egger said.

Mike Radak, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Hanjin, said earlier he did not know about the Ontario containers, that they were probably leased and any Hanjin-owned containers have been stored “at the ports in Long Beach and Seattle at our owned proprietary terminals.”

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