Texas-based ORCEM is proposing to convert the former General Mills plant in Vallejo into a grinding mill for cement production. The city is also mulling whether to allow a new deepwater shipping terminal at the same location

Orcem California’s proposal to turn the former General Mills plant in Vallejo into a cement mill has split the community. Out-of-work Vallejo residents and some city officials see the development as an opportunity to revive an aching local economy. But other residents and environmental groups fear that the proposed development would significantly increase smog and might be a disguised effort to transport coal through the city. Forum discusses the proposed project and hears from both sides of the debate.

Related Links

Vallejo Divided Over Proposed Cement Mill 23 November,2016Michael Krasny

Lesley McClurg, science reporter, KQED
Boudicca Todi, social media strategist, Fresh Air Vallejo
Buck Kamphausen, south Vallejo resident; supports proposed cement mill

  • Frank

    Companies whose boards of directors are filled with short term profit-minded businessmen who are ignorant of science and health issues will always do harm to society and the planet.
    It’s like letting drunken apes into a China shop. Only mayhem and destruction can result.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Maybe this will be the Bay Area’s version of the fracking saga…

  • Diana

    This project makes no fiscal sense. Such little return for such a negative impact. I’m a Realtor who lives here and sells here in Vallejo. Who in would want to pay $300,000 for a home in a city that cares so little about the health of its people that is would put a dirty industry right on the waterfront? This project would effective quash other, more diverse and financially beneficial development on our waterfront. The real question is, will Vallejo go back to the 1900’s industrial age or move into a truly cleaner and environmentally friendly future?

    • Chiara A.

      Vallejo is NOT divided on this issue – ask 9 out of 10 people who live here and they’ll tell you NO ON ORCEM! What awaits us if this plant gets built? Noise pollution, water pollution, air pollution, light pollution, decreasing property values due to unsightly views overlooking the plant…. and don’t think that cement dust won’t find its way upstream to the lovely vineyards of Napa. Don’t get me started on the VMT either. As a new transplant to Vallejo, I have lived in major cities of our country and they would KILL for the bones that Vallejo has on its waterfront! So something is seriously amiss – obviously. We Vallejo-ites want our lovely waterfront to move into the 21st century and repurpose our great historical treasures into mixed use projects – housing, shops, restaurants – etc. etc. and make our little city a gem – get away from 20th century dirty heavy industrial polluters and keep that firmly in the past – it has NO place in 2016 in this city – the fight will continue to be ferocious until it is finally killed and goes away. You better believe it.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Where’s the Environmental Impact Survey?

  • marte48

    Just what Vallejo needs – more toxic pollution. As if Mare Island were not bad enough.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Sounds like a plan to relocate minority residents “displaced” by gentrification. Silicosis is the new hip. Lungs are the new Black.

  • Kevin Skipper


    A dedicated dust cooking facility.


    Read the project description. Lots of middling, back-pedaling and equivocating to sell the projects virtues as being cleaner than a conventional concrete plant. It’s not a concrete plant. Its a part of a concrete production cycle and yes, it’s impact is sure to be considerable and almost surely negative.

    It’s a piece of crap proposal.

    BTW, a well maintained commercial diesel truck already has a operating life of about 2-3 million miles…

    Keep heavy industry out of Vallejo and off our municipal waterways!

  • The Indra

    I don’t want heavy industry on our bay! Housing values will drop! And quality of life due to pollution and noise! This site should be a developed as a hotel or beautiful living space. Vallejo’s housing prices are going up. This will kill housing values.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Maybe that’s the point. Vallejo is still a bit diverse and quite accessible compared to the inner Bay. Can’t make it too easy to escape the housing crunch.

      • The Indra

        I doubt their machinations are that deep. This is just greed for the few at the expense of the many.

        • Kevin Skipper

          You can doubt it if you want to. That’s your privilege. My individual, community and racial experience has shown me otherwise.


          State Sanctioned


          It’s a real thing.

          It’s wouldn’t be the first, second or 100th time for California.

          • The Indra

            I’m not sure we’re having the same conversation. I don’t have any doubts about institutional racism. I literally can’t tell if you’re for or against Orcem and now I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make about it.

          • Kevin Skipper

            I assure you, we are. I’m taking the position that projects like this obviously have little value beyond their ability to reduce the quality of life for the same groups who have, for generations, borne the brunt of inequality, crime, environmental toxins, isolation from resources, food deserts, and continued dismantling of education, jobs and other structures that, themselves, create opportunity.

            Oppression IS part of the state’s agenda. Top of the list.

            At some point, we must make it part of the conversation.

            If you can’t tell, I’m both against the plant and critical of the system that so readily suggests shady projects such as this.

          • The Indra

            Thanks for the clarification! 🙂

          • Kevin Skipper

            No problem. Any time.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Thank You LaDonna!!!!!

    • LaDonna Williams

      Or to Kamphausen’s MORTUARY!!!

  • Olivia

    I’m a student at the medical school on Mare Island. There is such great potential to revitalize this island and it should not be done in a way that will harm the health of residents of Vallejo. A disproportionate burden of enviroental health issues would fall on the residents here and have a long term effect. There has to be a better way to boost Vallejo’s economy and industry in a sustainable way that respects the health of the residents of this community.

  • Russ Bartlett

    This issue is a perfect scenario for a health impact assessment

  • peterbrooksVallejo

    What a great show Michael. I appreciated hearing both sides of the issue but I must say that the NO-Cement Factory side really made sense to me.

  • Jeffrey Gullett

    This plan to build the cement plant as well as dredge the straight in order to build this terminal will be toxic for Vallejo. The city is just getting it’s head above water. This is a critical time for the future of Vallejo. It can either become the vibrant city it should be, with a diverse population with residents that are proud to call it home. Or it can go down the dark path of being a polluted industrial wasteland. It us up to the citizens of Vallejo to stand up and make themselves heard. We want a different path for this city. We will not go back to the dirty heavy industry of the past.

  • LaDonna Williams

    Common sense tells anyone with common sense Orcem’s “CEMENT PLANT”, will hurt our families, and city! ORCEM’s proprosed initial $150,000 now n $500,000 in 5 yrs tax revenues will not cover the MILLIONS/BILLIONS that residents, our families, our City and County will be forced to pay in medical and lost wages from health affects from ORCEM’s Slag n we ain’t stupid “Coal” production in our CITY! The lies told by Kamphausen n his willingness to say anything to benefit ORCEM is very telling that his loyalty lies in the $$$, not the health/lives of people in Vallejo, n further proof of why we must stop this toxic polluting company from being put in our City! SO Vallejo is historically one of the Black communities in Vallejo that some elected officials and ORCEM think are of no value and easily dispensable.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Loyalty and Lies, Baby. Loyalty and Lies. How can I help?

      • LaDonna Williams

        If you haven’t already, please get involved and have discussions with family, neighbors, friends, do interviews, showup to city council meetings, contact local n state reps, let your voice be heard!!!

  • Vallejo desperately needs jobs. I don’t see how this Cement Factory can create an environment in our city for sustainable job growth.

    Orcem’s $1 Million bribe to the city is insultingly low. That will barely cover the cost to repave the road to the factory.

  • Heidi Wohlwend

    I’m a resident of Vallejo and it’s a terrible bit of nefarious planning those Orcem fellows are foisting on our troubled city. We are poised for a beautiful rebirth – we don’t need heavy industry when we’re the waterway/gateway to wine country. Sperry Mill should be turned into a venue that would attract tourists and revive the locals who would support new retaurants and a thriving, artistic waterfront. Imagine cruises up the Napa river that could dock near Oxbow – SF tourists and residents could then take a ferry to Vjo, and cruise a wine boat to downtown Napa. It’s SHORT sighted to say the least to abuse nature, endanger residents (especially children) all in the name of some 30-50 jobs for locals. Us locals, DON’T want it. When the city held the first community meeting on this, a few Orcem guys showed up – they talked up how we needed jobs etc. When people shouted at them, “where do you live?” Of course his answer was Vacaville, far away from the awful cloud of dust that we would have to live in and he would not.

  • Wanda Madeiros

    Lets not forget that Orcem and its paid consultants tried to influence our recent local elections by donating over $5000 to Jumpstart, with their slate of “hand chosen” candidates. In addition, one of the Jumpstart founding board members is a “paid” local representative of Orcem… collusion at its finest. I don’t know about you all, but I am sick and tired of the affluent old regime here in Vallejo doing business as usual and shafting the rest of us. Why are they “all for” this project? Money & political power.

    Its nice to think of creative reuses for the site and to think of our waterfront as thriving, healthy, growing, but don’t be blind to what is happening right now on the other side of the waterway, Mare Island which is being turned back into an ugly, polluting shipyard. People seem to be blind to what is going on over there. Both sides of the river need to be balanced, symbiotic with the other. If we have one side that is heavy industry and the other that as Heidi dreams is “turned into a venue that would attract tourists and revive the locals
    who would support new restaurants and a thriving, artistic waterfront.
    Imagine cruises up the Napa river that could dock near Oxbow – SF
    tourists and residents could then take a ferry to Vallejo, and cruise a wine
    boat to downtown Napa”… how is that going to work with the growing Shipyard, who has blocked off access to the river front on Mare Island?

    Going forward, we as residents have many fights ahead of us. Greedy outsiders who have snaked their way into the “Old Regime” in Vallejo see our sleepy town with $$$$ signs in their sights. They will rape and pillage and fill their money sacks full, they try to dangle the 1 million dollar carrot in front of our faces and think that we are so desperate that we will blindly dive for it. THEY ARE WRONG, WE ARE NOT DESPERATE, BLIND OR STUPID. They are in for one hell of a fight.

  • Michelle Pellegrin

    Let us not forget that the dust from the slag and other pollutants do not stop at the Vallejo border but are airborne and travel at least 15-20 miles which means that communities around Vallejo such as Napa and Benicia will also be affected. Indeed, the Napa River ends in Vallejo. As we become more aware of environment health effects we see how absurd it is to put a polluting plant like this in a residential area. It should be located far away from densely populated areas to minimize the irreparable harm especially to small lungs of children. These particles are similar to asbestos. They are very small and once in lungs stay there and cause disease. Can anyone imagine a plant like this being put on the waterfront in Sausalito or Berkeley?

    As for the economics, this would be the destruction of any economic future in Vallejo. Why would anyone buy a home in a city that allows this type of thing? People are moving to Vallejo from Oakland and San Francisco. They pay high property taxes. Vallejo will see this source of income dry up as well which will more than negate the very minimal, if any, economic benefit from a cement plant which only proposes to employ 20-30 people.

    And, finally, the closest area to the plant is a disenfranchised minority community which will suffer an unfair burden in terms of cost to their health.

    This is an Irish company that is not allowed to build its plants in residential areas in the EU. They have come to a struggling city in the US but, I believe, have highly underestimated the people in the Bay Area.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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