April 20, 2000
Los Angeles 5760
The city Zoning Administration last week approved a proposal to expand and modernize an oil drilling site in the heart of the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson area, while attaching an extensive list of monitoring and construction conditions.
Neighbors for a Safe Environment (NASE),the grass-roots organization that opposes the modernization, has appealed the decision, saying the approval is based on inconclusive data and that the monitoring doesn't go far enough.
"There is nothing in the approval that gives the neighborhood assurances that there will be any real monitoring and enforcement," says Rae Drazin, one of the leaders of the NASE.
But Hal Washburn, co-founder of Breitburn energy, says that with this approval, the West Pico site at the corner of Pico and Doheny will be the most regulated drill site in the city.
"These are onerous conditions, but they are conditions we can live with. It will cost us more money and more time to operate the site," Washburn says.
It will cost an estimated $6 million to meet the conditions of approval.
City Councilman Michael Feuer, who recommended conditional approval after his office conducted extensive research, says the breadth and detail of the conditions are atypical.
Feuer solicited input from a wide array of city, state and federal environmental agencies, and he says the bottom line shows that going ahead with the modernization will dramatically lower the cancer risk in the area.
"If Breitburn had never come forward to propose these changes, and if the proposal had not been continually scrutinized and refined and changed through this process, the community would have in it a use that is allowed to be there but that is clearly not as good for community health as what is emerging," Feuer said.
Associate Zoning Administrator Emily Gabel-Luddy laid out 78 conditions in areas such as noise, odor, air quality, worker decorum, landscaping and operations. Conditions require the South Coast Air Quality Management District to report to the Zoning Administration on air quality at the site every two weeks, paid for by Breitburn. Gabel-Luddy also calls for Breitburn to hire an independent odor-monitoring consultant, to install a 24-hour noise and video monitoring system and to report regularly to fire and police departments.
A 24-hour community liaison is to be appointed to respond to all complaints and concerns.
The final condition calls for Breitburn to resubmit an application for approval in two years, at which point the Zoning Administration will review the effectiveness of the conditions, and potentially call another public hearing.
Sources close to the issue say the extent of the conditions is due to the public outcry and that neighbors should be satisfied.
But Drazin says NASE wants more details about enforcement and more accurate data to base the information on, including more on-site testing of atmospheric emissions.
"We want to ensure that the neighborhood is protected," she says.
Gabel-Luddy, who presided over a rancorous public hearing in December, approved a version of the proposal that calls for a 129-foot, electrically powered derrick to replace a mobile diesel workover rig that until now has performed regular maintenance on the site's 69 wells.
Breitburn had requested a 175-foot tower.
Removing the mobile diesel rig will eliminate almost all the diesel emissions at the site, which accounted for most of the toxins emitted.
The approval allows an increase from the current 10 days a month of workover operations to 24 hours a day, year round, save all Jewish and legal holidays. The project would also raise the perimeter wall from 12 feet to 25 feet and enclose most of the operations in sound-proof structures.
Under the new plan, production will increase from 1,200 to 3,000 barrels of oil a day, pumped from the West Beverly Hills oil field that supplies many of the drill sites in the area. The oil is transported via underground pipes to refineries. No oil is stored, shipped or processed above ground.
"This project is about improving the environment and improving the community," Washburn says. "We are very pleased that the City of Los Angeles recognizes that."
Kotlar Family Leaving
A household name in kosher Los Angeles is getting out of the business, as Jack and Janet Kotlar, owners of Kotlar's kosher market on Pico near Robertson, have sold the 28-year-old store to Chicago entrepreneur Yousef Lalezari.
Janet Kotlar says it was time for them to get out of a business that required long hours and tremendous energy to deal with the financial and political realities that govern Los Angeles' growing kosher marketplace.
"We want to have some time to live a little, to not constantly be there," says Janet, 41, who with Jack, 47, has a 2-year-old daughter.
Kotlar's was one of the first kosher establishments to move to Pico from the Fairfax area in the early '70s when Jack and his parents purchased the storefront. The move presaged a demographic shift that would alter the Orthodox landscape over the coming decades.
There are now several major kosher markets on Pico and many smaller establishments. With Lalezari's acquisition of Kotlar's and Meir's Produce on Pico near Beverly Drive, most of Pico's big kosher markets are now owned by Persian Jews.
Jack Kotlar says Lalezari will employ both Persians and Americans to make sure the clientele is satisfied.
Meir's will remain a produce shop, and also become a convenience mart, akin to a kosher 7-11.
Lalezari has big plans for Kotlar's, which he has renamed Kol Tov Glatt.
In remodeling over the next six months, Kol Tov will expand the existing butcher and produce sections, and also add both meat and dairy delis, where gourmet items will be available.
"It will be a classy, upscale place, with competitive prices," Jack Kotlar said. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor