The Board of Referred Powers, consisting of five council members, sat Monday as the city Planning Commission. The commission was disqualified from considering the drilling repeal proposal because its president, Daniel Garcia, belongs to a law firm that performed legal services for Occidental in 1986. Garcia had been an outspoken foe of the drilling plan. Alatorre, lobbied by both sides in recent weeks, sided with Hal Bernson and Joan Milke Flores in opposing the repeal ordinance.
Both Bernson and Flores have supported Occidental's drilling plans in the past and said Monday that they saw no reason to block the oil company's project after it previously received the green light from the council. Neither Flores nor Bernson were swayed by opponents' arguments that the drilling site is unsafe because of its proximity to earthquake faults in Malibu and its location beneath fragile city-owned bluffs with a history of landslide problems.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday February 25, 1988 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
In a story Tuesday, it was reported that Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley twice had vetoed ordinances permitting Occidental Petroleum Corp. to drill for oil in Pacific Palisades. Bradley actually vetoed the ordinances once, in 1978.
Nor were the two council members persuaded by arguments that the city faces a potential land mine of liability in the aftermath of an accident not caused by a landslide.
Under the 1985 drilling ordinances, Occidental agreed to hold the city blameless for personal injury or property damage claims if a landslide occurs as a result of the company's installation of a dewatering system on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway drilling site. Among the provisions is Occidental's agreement to include the city on a $100-million insurance policy protecting the city's interests.
But drilling opponents argued Monday that the indemnification agreement holds no guarantees against the city facing millions of dollars in damage claims stemming from a major accident caused by a fire or earthquake. The city attorney's office as well as Occidental's own lawyers have conceded that the agreement does not fully shield the city from liability.
Bernson said that whatever problems there may be with the drilling ordinances, it would be wrong to rescind them now.
"There is something to be said for keeping your word, keeping the faith," Bernson said. "I believe there was a commitment on the part of the city (to Occidental) and I believe we ought to keep our commitment."
Times staff writer Scott Harris contributed to this article.
AGAINST OIL DRILLING:
Cites environmental concerns and community opposition, which he is expected to use--versus Mayor Tom Bradley's support--as part of his campaign against Bradley next year.
Opposition based on environmental and aesthetic grounds. Says the coastal beach areas are for the public and are inappropriate for oil drilling.
THE SWING VOTE:
Heavily lobbied by both sides of the issue. Was not on the council when it approved drilling ordinances in 1985. Had not taken a position on the project before Monday's meeting.
FOR OIL DRILLING:
JOAN MILKE FLORES
Although has stated concerns over safety, has said reasons for repeal are not convincing.
Support has been unwavering. Says it would be "unfair" to the oil company to repeal the drilling ordinances at this late date.
THE DRILLING BATTLE: A CHRONOLOGY
\o7 Milestones in the 18-year fight by Occidental Petroleum Corp. to drill next to Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades:\f7 1970--Occidental applies to drill two exploratory wells across the highway from Will Rogers State Beach.
1973--Los Angeles City Council approves the request. Running for mayor that spring, Councilman Tom Bradley makes opposition to drilling a key point in his campaign.
1974--California Supreme Court overturns the City Council, ruling that Occidental must study the environmental impact of drilling.
1978--After heavy lobbying, the City Council again approves drilling by Occidental. A day later Bradley vetoes the plan, calling oil drilling "incompatible" with the coastal area.
1982--Occidental applies a third time for city permission, offering to stabilize the hillside above the drilling zone, the site of a massive landslide in 1958.
1985--The City Council votes 10-4 to allow exploratory drilling, and this time Bradley sides with Occidental. Later in the year, city Zoning Administrator Robert Janovici refused to issue a permit to drill because, he said, it would cause severe environmental damage. A Superior Court judge also barred drilling, saying Occidental's environmental study was inadequate.
1986--The Board of Referred Powers, a panel of City Council members, overrules Janovici, removing one obstacle from Occidental's path.
July, 1987--The state Coastal Commission, disregarding the recommendation of its staff, removes another major obstacle and votes 7-5 to let Occidental sink exploratory wells.
November, 1987--A state Court of Appeals overturns the Superior Court order that blocked the exploratory drilling, virtually clearing the way for work to begin. City Councilman Marvin Braude announces that he will seek a council repeal of the 1985 ordinance giving Occidental the approval to drill.
January, 1988--Citing a technical conflict, City Atty. James K. Hahn rules that the Board of Referred Powers, not the city Planning Commission, must rule on the Braude repeal. The decision is seen as a victory for Occidental because the Board of Referred Powers includes two council members with a long history of campaign contributions from Occidental and support for the drilling plan.