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Baldwin Hills oil field: park or profit?

August 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Baldwin Hills residents showed up at a public meeting Wednesday to voice their concerns over plans for new oil drilling in their neighborhood. Some homeowners are against the drilling plans. Many of those residents would like to see the land in question turned into an extension of Kenneth Hahn Park. But the company that is drilling for oil is welcoming the county's plan to add more regulations to it, as long as the company can still drill for oil.

For more than 80 years, the 1,000 acres in the heart of Baldwin Hills, adjacent to Kenneth Hahn State Park, oil and natural gas have been pumped out of the ground.

The state issues permits to drill. What the county can do is regulate land use. It cannot stop the drilling, but it can regulate the operator -- in this case, Plains Exploration and Production Company, or PXP. The county can require the company to provide certain health, safety and cosmetic assurances to the community, something the oil production company in part welcomes.

However, the notion of turning this land into a park -- no way.

"By incorporating reference to the park plan, the draft CSD legitimizes the suggestion that this process should be about a park, that there is any role for a discussion about the park in this, or that the daily operation of our field in the future use of that land will in fact become a park. We believe any reference to the Baldwin Hills Master Park Plan should be eliminated," said John Martini, Plains Exploration and Production Company.

The County Regional Planning Commission is working on finalizing what's called a community standards district proposal, or CSD, to lay out what can be done on the property.

What many nearby residents would like to see happen is to have this oil-rich land turned into a park.

"By 1985, a county-prepared plan for a world-class park -- 1,400 acres on both sides of La Cienega -- was codified in the Baldwin Hills State Recreation General Plan. So it should come as no surprise to this commission, or to PXP, that a generation of Angelenos have been holding vigil for much-needed park land in the increasingly overcrowded urban area," said David McNeil, Baldwin Hills Conservancy.

The land produces about 9,000 barrels of oil per day. The owner of the land told the commission the idea of this being turned into a park is a myth, adding that there is no intent to sell the property.

There is one more scheduled public hearing on September 10. That's when the commission will take everything that's been taken in, come up with some kind of plan to present to the County Board of Supervisors on what to do with the property.

 

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