“It’s hard to think of a more non-conforming use than oil drilling in a residential neighborhood … there is no longer a place for the activity, and our laws allow us to … enact regulations to better protect the health and safety of our community.” When Culver City council member Alex Fisch offered the concept of non-conforming land use as a key to closing down Sentinel Peak Resources continued operation in Culver City, it was greeted with cheers by the audience.
The Inglewood Oil Field is only very slightly in Culver City with about ten percent of the total area of of the field being under local jurisdiction. The nature of urban oil drilling is such that the city has had to take on much more than ten percent of the issues involved with health and safety risks.
The stated task of the special council meeting on Wednesday, June 20 was to get an update from the city staff on comments made on the Environmental Impact Report- which had been held open for an additional amount of time so that more comments could be filed for a total of 190 days of public review- and to direct the staff as to the next step. The unanimous vote by the council members to accept the recommendations of the subcommittee moves the metaphorical ball down the field towards ceasing oil production in Culver City.
After the report from city staff, which noted in detail the comments made on the EIR were “broad and voluminous,” more than an hour of public comments were heard. Speakers from the floor included many residents reinforcing the request for a disaster bond from the oil company, a need for greater ‘setbacks’ (more space between the oil wells and the neighborhoods) and a focus on the health risks of petroleum production.
The subcommittee, long time council member Meghan Sahli-Wells and newly seated council member Alex Fisch, both spoke knowingly to the issues at hand.
Sahli-Wells noted that California law SB4, while regulating oil production, also held the practice of fracking to be legal, and that the point between adding on further regulation and finding a way to do away with oil production altogether was neither simple no swift.
Fisch’s insight into using the law to declare the oil operations as ‘non-conforming use’ also included the amortization of the value of the field to the current operator, SPR, and a path for the city to close down the contentious drilling operations permanently.
For the city to hire a consultant to explore that process would be the next step, and the council passed the motion unanimously.