A citywide initiative aimed at blocking oil drilling along the Los Angeles shoreline would exempt Wilmington and much of San Pedro, but organizers say they are counting on strong support from residents in the two communities to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
Westside Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, co-sponsor of the initiative, called on leaders of harbor-area homeowner groups last week to circulate petitions for the measure, which would ban oil drilling 1,000 yards inland of the mean high tide. The initiative is designed to block longstanding plans by Occidental Petroleum Corp. to drill on a 2 1/2-acre site in Pacific Palisades.
"This is a big city. Between here and Chatsworth is a big commute," Yaroslavsky said Monday night at a meeting of the San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners Coalition. "To get (local) organizations that have credibility to support our effort is very important to us."
Citizens for a Livable Los Angeles, a campaign committee set up by Yaroslavsky and fellow Westside Councilman Marvin Braude, has sent petitions to thousands of San Pedro and Wilmington residents as part of a citywide direct-mail campaign. The group--which was responsible for the successful 1986 growth-limit initiative, Proposition U--needs 69,000 valid voter signatures by June 1 to qualify for the November ballot.
In the harbor area, the mailed petitions are accompanied by a letter signed by Yaroslavsky, Braude, U.S. Republican Sen. Pete Wilson and Noah Modisett, president of the San Pedro coalition. Letters sent to other parts of the city substitute the signatures of local community and political leaders for those of Wilson and Modisett.
The San Pedro coalition, which represents 20 homeowner groups, has supported efforts over the years by Pacific Palisades residents to block Occidental's drilling plans. But a recent California Supreme Court decision clears the way for Occidental to start exploratory drilling, and drilling opponents on the Los Angeles City Council have been unable to repeal city ordinances that allow the drilling.
The initiative would repeal three ordinances that create oil exploration and production districts needed for the drilling and would impose the general ban on shoreline drilling in the city. The initiative, however, specifically exempts "any shoreline areas within the Los Angeles Harbor except for Cabrillo Beach."
In practical terms, the exemption means none of Wilmington would be affected by the ban and only the Point Fermin, White Point and South Shores areas of San Pedro would be protected. Braude, who represents the Pacific Palisades area, said the harbor shoreline was excluded because of its industrial nature.
Even with the exemption, Yaroslavsky said residents in the harbor area have a stake in the initiative. He said San Pedro taxpayers will help pay for any successful lawsuits against the city stemming from the drilling--if there were an accident or landslide, for example. He also said it is in everyone's interest to protect the city's beaches--whether or not they live near them.
"We all have a stake in the protection of our seashore," he said.
"It is for the common good," said Jo Ann Wysocki, vice president of the Wilmington Home Owners. "We just hope that when something comes along affecting Wilmington, that we will get everybody else's support."