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Hayden, Braude and Yaroslavsky Unite to Fight Palisades Drilling

August 02, 1987|ALAN CITRON | Times Staff Writer

No one has ever accused Assemblyman Tom Hayden and Los Angeles City Councilmen Marvin Braude and Zev Yaroslavsky of lacking initiatives.

Hayden was one of the chief architects and financiers of Proposition 65, the state's tough toxics initiative. And it was Braude and Yaroslavsky who masterminded Proposition U, the city's pioneering slow growth ballot measure.

It was confirmed last week that these three will unite behind a proposition that would prohibit Occidental Petroleum Corp. from drilling for oil in Pacific Palisades. Opponents say it is their best hope yet for defeating the project.

'Dead-On Winner'

"If the politicians commit to this, it's a dead-on winner," said Robert H. Sulnick, president of a group called No Oil Inc. "Its time has come."

The initiative, which would ban oil exploration along the entire coast of the City of Los Angeles, could appear on the ballot as early as next June. Occidental has already pledged to fight the measure.

Yaroslavsky said that he expects to move ahead fairly quickly with the drafting of the initiative.

The councilman said he is sure the proposal will pass "legal muster." He and Braude also seemed confident of winning widespread political and financial backing.

"We want a broad spectrum of support," Yaroslavsky said.

Hayden, who has already discussed the proposal with Yaroslavsky and Braude, is certain to play a key role in the campaign. The three environmentally conscious politicians are still working on ways to divide responsibilities.

"I don't think that there's any insurmountable problem to our coming together," Hayden said. "But I think this is going to be a hard campaign."

The Santa Monica assemblyman said his statewide political organization, Campaign California, has committed itself to supporting two initiatives next year, and has decided that one of its campaigns will be in support of the anti-drilling initiative.

He said he first broached the idea to U. S. Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) when the two were eating recently at Pancho's Taco House.

Hayden called the initiative proposal, which was kept under wraps until a few days ago, a "desperation move." He said that drilling foes became convinced that a ballot proposition was necessary after the state Coastal Commission approved Occidental's controversial drilling plan last month.

"When they made their decision to issue the permit, desperation became the mother of invention," Hayden said. "That's literally what happened."

The initiative adds a new wrinkle to the Occidental Oil debate that has raged on, more of less unabated, for 20 years.

Opponents claim that drilling on the Palisades bluff, located near an earthquake fault, would increase the chance of slides and oil spills. Occidental says it will take precautions against disasters and will even make the project aesthetically pleasing.

In recent weeks attention has been focused on the courts, where a legal challenge to the drilling proposal remains unresolved, and the corridors of City Hall, where opposition to Occidental has been gradually building.

Now all eyes, including those of Occidental President Armand Hammer, may be turned on Hayden, Braude and Yaroslavsky as the three Westside politicians try to assemble the complex machinery needed to make an initiative go.

"It's more than money and manpower," Hayden said. "You have to develop a citywide strategy and polling. You have to make the case that this is in the best interests of the city and not just a narrow group of Westsiders."

"The initiative should always be a last resort," Yaroslavsky said. "And this is a last resort. . . . When all else fails, you let the public decide."

Method of Resolving Issue

At first Yaroslavsky and Braude said they would drop the initiative plan if the matter was resolved in the courts or at City Hall. But the councilman said it is now likely that supporters would go forward with the ballot measure either way as a means of finally resolving the drilling issue.

The proposal would ban oil drilling within 1,000 yards of the average high-tide line within city limits. It would also repeal the city ordinance, approved in 1985, that permitted Occidental to proceed with the project. Current drilling sites, such as the one in Venice, would not be affected.

The first step for the anti-drilling forces probably will be a poll to gauge public sentiment. After that, supporters would have to collect the signatures of 69,516 qualified voters. Yaroslavsky expects the signature drive to begin sometime this fall.

Hayden said a "modest and effective" campaign would cost $250,000, but added that the group's financial motto should be "Whatever it takes."

Braude said that he expects Occidental to spend several million dollars trying to defeat the ballot measure, which could permanently dash their drilling plans.

'Practical and Feasible'

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