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Quake Fears Cited : Residents Rap Construction of Gas Line

October 29, 1987|PHILIPP GOLLNER | Times Staff Writer

Westside homeowners are angry because a 7.5-mile natural gas pipeline under construction from Culver City to Brentwood was approved without public discussion or an environmental assessment, even though the line is near two earthquake faults, according to protesting homeowners.

The pipe will be 36 inches in diameter--the largest available for moving natural gas--and will provide a crucial link in the 40,000 miles of pipes that supply natural gas to Southern Californians, said Norma Gonzales, western division district manager for the Southern California Gas Co., which is building the line.

Construction of the line has been under way since early August and is scheduled to be completed by early December, Gonzales said. She said the company was not legally required to hold a hearing or prepare an environmental impact report

Possibility of Leak

The pipeline, which will back up an existing line connecting the Westside with the San Fernando Valley, will start at a gas company compressor station at Inglewood and Jefferson boulevards near Culver City and go north along McLaughlin and Barrington avenues up to San Vicente Boulevard and Burlingame Avenue in Brentwood.

Two homeowner groups--the Westdale Homeowners Assn. in Mar Vista and the Mar Vista Del Rey Homeowners and Neighbors Assn.--argue that the line could leak dangerous levels of natural gas in event of a major earthquake.

They have expressed alarm because the line will run only a few miles east of two faults: the Charnock fault, which extends from Inglewood to Westwood, and the northern section of the Newport-Inglewood fault, which runs from West Los Angeles to Newport Beach.

According to California Institute of Technology seismologist Kate Hutton, the Newport-Inglewood Fault has been relatively inactive since the 1933 quake that shook Long Beach and measured 6.3 on the Richter scale. Scientists are not aware of any major earthquakes on the Charnock fault, Hutton said, although the fissure is still considered capable of generating a temblor.

Representatives of both homeowner groups are looking into whether officials acted improperly in approving the pipeline without a public hearing or an environmental impact report, measures which are required for most large projects needing city approval.

"We've got a major transportation (gas) line going through a community of 900 homes," said Fred Wasson, president of the Westdale Homeowners Assn. "The earthquake (of Oct. 1) is still on everybody's minds."

Quake Caused Leaks

That quake, which measured 6.1 on the Richter scale and caused more than $213 million in damage, also caused a small leak in a natural gas line and sparked five minor fires when natural gas leaked near hook-ups to appliances, Gonzales said. No major damage or injuries resulted from any of the gas leaks, she said.

"The design of the line is such that we didn't have any problems in the past and we don't anticipate them," she said. "That doesn't mean that if we get an 8-point something (earthquake) that everything's going to be in place."

Gonzales said the gas company's franchise with the city does not require it to hold public hearings or conduct environmental impact reports when it builds new gas lines, although it must obtain routine construction permits.

The franchise states that "a utility has the right to install natural gas pipelines and facilities in public streets, roadways, alleys and other public ways in exchange for providing natural gas service to its customers in the area."

Gonzales said the gas company sent advance notice of the proposed pipeline to 2,700 people who own homes or businesses along the construction route. Of those, only three people called complaining about the pipeline, she said.

"We have the interest of the community at heart," she said.

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