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City Council OKs Palisades Drilling; It's Mayor's Move

January 09, 1985|FRANK CLIFFORD | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council voted 10 to 4 Tuesday to approve Occidental Petroleum Corp.'s bid to drill for oil in Pacific Palisades, leaving the fate of the environmentally sensitive project in the hands of Mayor Tom Bradley, who vetoed it in 1978.

Bradley, who has refused to say what action he plans to take on the issue this time, has 10 days to exercise his veto. To override a veto, the council would need 12 votes, two more than drilling supporters have been able to muster in the past.

Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents Pacific Palisades and is Occidental's leading opponent, said after the vote Tuesday that he is confident that Bradley once again will veto the project.

"Tom Bradley is a man of honor. He is not going to flip-flop," Braude said.

Braude said, however, that the mayor has not told him what he plans to do.

Proponents' Argument

Occidental's supporters on the council argued that the company has met environmental concerns by agreeing to bolster nearby slopes, which have given way in the past, and by using technology that will eliminate any unpleasant side effects, such as noise or odor.

"Nobody raises the question any more will there be noise, will there be vibration, will there be unsightly views, will there be smells," said Councilman Arthur K. Snyder.

"We have finally put behind us all those straw men, all those red herrings. What we are finally left with," Snyder said, "is the central argument . . . the neighbors don't like it."

Occidental officials have estimated that there are up to 60 million barrels of oil in the ground beneath the proposed drilling site.

The council's vote came as no surprise. It voted the same way in a preliminary ballot last summer and has endorsed the oil company's project repeatedly during Occidental's 18-year struggle for permission to drill for oil along the city's coastline. Only Bradley and, on one occasion, a court ruling, have stood in Occidental's way.

Occidental's campaign to establish the Palisades drilling site, on the edge of Santa Monica Bay across Pacific Coast Highway from Will Rogers State Beach, has met organized resistance from nearby residents, environmentalists and politicians, including Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica).

The opponents argue that approval of the project would undermine the efforts of Congress to preserve a moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

The council's recent deliberations focused on the hazards of establishing a drilling operation beneath fragile slopes that collapsed once before in a massive landslide.

Occidental recently offered to build a complex drainage system designed to stabilize the slopes by keeping them dry. In addition, the company said it would compensate the city for any damages incurred as a result of a landslide or other accident caused by the drilling operation.

Council President Pat Russell cited those factors in explaining why she decided to vote for Occidental on Tuesday after voting against the company once before.

Other council members voting for the drilling project were Hal Bernson, David Cunningham, Robert Farrell, John Ferraro, Howard Finn, Joan Milke Flores, Gilbert Lindsay, Snyder and Peggy Stevenson. Voting against the project were Braude, Zev Yaroslavsky, Joy Picus and Ernani Bernardi. Councilman Joel Wachs was absent.

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