City Council Moves to End Oil Drilling, and Acknowledges History of Racial Issues

The Special City Council meeting on June 17, 2021 saw the council vote to commence an ordinance to ban oil drilling in Culver City, and to pass a resolution acknowledging the city’s racial history. The participation of the community was a very large part of the proceedings, taking up more than two-thirds of the meeting. Both the Public Hearing on oil and the Action Item on history started after significant technical problems with sound, but issues were cleared and both the council and the community could be heard. 

The public hearing to begin shutting down oil drilling passed with a vote of 4-1, Councilmember Goran Eriksson being the only vote against. The recommendation of the Oil Drilling Subcommittee – an entity that has worked through three previous councils – to shut down the Sentinel Peak Resources business on the Culver City portion of the Inglewood Oil Field, will get a final reading at a future meeting, and then become law. 

The item began with a presentation by Contract Manager Melanie Traxler of  Baker and O’Brian, the consultants hired by the city more than two years ago to study amortization. More than an hour of public comment followed, with many Culver City residents talking about health issues; cancer clusters, asthmatic children and the constant nonspecific threats of toxic chemical activity next to residences.

While the 2006 crisis in the territory above the Culver Crest became the initial push from the community towards regulating the oil field, it wasn’t until 2018 that the option of amortization became council business. 

David Haake, Culver City resident and UCLA physician who leads the Clean Break section of the local Sierra Club stated that he had “lost two family members to cancer,” and that to him, the connection between oil drilling and cancer in Culver City was obvious.

The only people speaking against the ordinance were employees of SPR, and lawyers representing landowners whose mineral rights were involved. 

While there was discussion on the council before the vote, the tally came out to 4-1, and the ordinance will move forward. 

The Action Item, “A Resolution of the City Council of Culver City, California Acknowledging the Racial History of Culver City” also drew many comments from the community. While some asked the council to ‘slow down’ and look at the subject more closely, others were enthused that the topic was ‘at last’ being addressed. 

“Although no official ordinance or law of the City has been found imposing sundown restrictions oral and written history, public accounts and newspaper articles plainly demonstrate Culver City’s history as a ‘sundown town’ for a significant portion of the 20th Century…”

The document highlights that fact that Culver City was not an anomaly in this; towns ‘throughout the state of California’ fell into the same category of prohibiting “non-white racial and ethnic groups, particularly African-Americans” from owning residences or even being within city limits after sunset. 

The statement also acknowledges that the land the city exists on is “appropriated from it’s original Gabrelino-Tongva inhabitants.”

“The City commits to developing and enforcing practices to make amends for the past,” and offers a series of specific policies to address inequity. 

The vote was 3 to 2, with Mayor Alex Fisch, Vice Mayor Lee and Council member McMorrin voting in favor. 

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang

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