LOS ANGELES—Efforts to redevelop Jordan Downs, a notoriously poor and violence-ridden housing project in South Los Angeles, are literally starting from the ground up.

The city expects to spend up to $8 million to haul away and replace dirt contaminated with lead, arsenic, oil and cancer-causing industrial chemicals from the site of a former steel factory, the Los Angeles Times ( http://lat.ms/1eGc9Ei) reported.

The 21-acre site adjoins the existing 700-unit housing project. It will be incorporated into a new mixed-income community that would include shops, green spaces and up to 1,800 apartments.

The city Housing Authority is seeking approval to begin the cleanup as early as spring. It would involve removing thousands of truckloads of soil from the area, which was once a steel factory and later a truck storage and repair facility.

"This has been an industrial site for decades, and so I would think people would be happy that we are stepping into this void to actually deliver this sort of cleanup," said Doug Guthrie, head of the Housing Authority.

A plan drafted by the city earlier this year has a goal of reducing lead in the soil to 315 parts per million—more than six times the state standard of 80 ppm.

However, state toxics department officials said they won't approve the cleanup unless the 80 ppm standard is met, and Housing Authority officials said they will do whatever the state requires, the Times said.

Critics, including some Jordan Downs residents, say contamination may be more widespread and they want more testing conducted outside the cleanup site.

"We're the ones who are going to be harmed, especially those of us with young children," said Lorena Garcia, 42, who lives in Jordan Downs with her husband and six children.

"A lot of people are growing up here, playing in the grass and playing in the park," said Rafael Zavaleta, 20, who lives within a few hundred feet of the contaminated site. "We need to know if it is clean, if it is healthy, and to make sure the contamination didn't spread."

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com