A nonprofit plans to transform a former oil drilling site in South LA into affordable housing

(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

A nonprofit plans to transform a former oil drilling site in South LA into affordable housing

Homepage News

Dorany Pineda

Dec. 11, 2023

After a years-long neighborhood battle against an oil drilling site in South Los Angeles, a local nonprofit has purchased the now-demolished facility and plans to convert it into a park, community center and affordable housing.

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust recently purchased the 1.86-acre parcel on Jefferson Boulevard for nearly $10 million from Sentinel Peak Resources. The nonprofit and its partners are now seeking grants and other funding sources to pay for planning, restoration and project implementation.

It’s what we hoped for, Richard Parks, president of the South LA nonprofit Redeemer Community Partnership, said of the purchase. It’s just amazing to see our community getting beauty instead of ashes. It’s overwhelming and feels like a blessing.

The sale marks a new chapter in an ongoing community-led battle against the oil drilling site, which residents said for years was noisy and smelled foul odors. It also comes at a time of growing concern about the risks and inequities of urban drilling in neighborhoods.

LA city

Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky recently introduced legislation aimed at addressing the threats to public health and the environment posed by a drilling site

near the Pico-Robertson area. California lawmakers have a plan to plug old, vapor-spewing oil wells. Could it backfire?

Oil wells are known to emit carcinogens such as benzene and formaldehyde, and living near wells is associated with health problems

including like

breathing problems and premature birth, studies show.

Community leaders hope the purchase will serve as a model for repurposing shuttered fossil fuel facilities as the city phases out existing oil and gas wells, a historic move approved by the LA City Council last year that also includes new oil and gas gas extraction is prohibited.

Tori Kjer, executive director of the LA Neighborhood Land Trust, believes it is critical that these sites are transformed into uses that historically benefit communities.

affected affected

by oil drilling. “It’s an environmental justice issue,” she said. It is also imperative that the planned use of the site will not displace residents through gentrification, she added.

“It’s so important, this idea of ​​co-development, where you bring together affordable housing, community space and a park,” she said. “For us it is really the ideal approach for equitable development in communities


… This is a rare opportunity, and an important one, as we think more broadly about future types of development in Los Angeles.”

Kjer estimates they will need three to six months and about $600,000 for remediation planning, and another year and $2 to $3 million for the cleanup. They are looking for state subsidies. The park’s budget will be approximately $6 million.

Lori R. Gay, president and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County, said their goal is to build 70 affordable housing units. They are also considering creating a community land trust to preserve the neighborhood and produce new homeowners.

“The Jefferson site is in a homeownership community, so we wanted to preserve both the integrity and culture of the community with affordable homeownership,” she said. “It is too easy to just build affordable, rental-oriented housing and not provide the opportunity to build wealth for generations. This development provides the opportunity to build wealth for generations to come.”

But the grand visions for the property won’t come without hurdles.

In a historic move, Los Angeles is banning new oil wells and phasing out existing ones

Finding land trust lenders will be a challenge, Gay said:


will plan reviews and major market changes that could hinder the speed of development. Having multiple partners involved in a large project

can can

also makes it even more complicated, Kjer added. Planning, restructuring and raising and finding finance will also be difficult.

The kind of funding itself, and we have some really good prospects for funding the park through various grants, but the community center I think is going to be a very big housing challenge, Parks said. be able to expand that for the community?

The South LA oil site at West Jefferson Boulevard and Van Buren Place, first approved nearly 60 years ago, was closer to homes than any other city drilling facility, according to the nonprofit Community Health Council.

In 2013, environmental justice advocates with the Redeemer Community Partnership began organizing after the oil company asked the city of Los Angeles for permission to drill three new wells.

Parks recalled knocking on residents’ doors and hearing stories about the nearby oil facility: A woman was sprayed with oil while watering her front yard. The noxious odors of diesel exhaust and petroleum fumes permeated a toddler’s room even when the windows were closed. Others complained of headaches and nosebleeds, and miscarriages were common, he recalled.

A report by a petroleum administrator hired in 2016 to oversee the city’s oil and gas operations noted that the Jefferson Boulevard facility was classified as containing hydrogen sulfide gas, which can emit a rotten egg odor and cause odor loss cause. and that chemicals such as benzene

a carcinogenic substance,

are also issued from the site.

In 2017, following persistent demands from community activists to close the site, members of the LA City Council issued a series of strict rules that oil companies must follow if they want to continue operating drilling sites next to homes in South LA.

The requirements included requiring the drilling equipment to be permanently enclosed by a 45-foot-tall structure to reduce noise and odors and block bright light. It was a major victory for community activists, who had argued that the site was an example of the toxic effects of oil drilling on urban neighborhoods.

Officials described the requirements at the time as the toughest ever imposed on an LA drilling site

Sentinel Peak Resources denied the orders and filed a lawsuit. The company argued that the new mandates were unnecessarily oppressive and would force it to reduce or cease operations.

Nearly a year later, the company announced it would close the location for good.

As all oil facilities were removed and the 36 wells on site were capped, the community began working on a shared vision for the future of the site.

Because we knew that if we didn’t, the toxic violence of oil extraction would be replaced by the violence of displacement, Parks said. Developers are coming in, they’re tearing down houses, they’re building student housing, they’re pushing out old residents, and we didn’t want to see that happen.

With help from California Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who is running for LA City Council District 10, they secured $10

million in state funding for these efforts.

“I’m very excited,” Jones-Sawyer said

said. “This will be the blueprint for how to effectively implement change.”

When Redeemer Community Partnership contacted him about their vision for the land, “it seemed like the perfect combination of dealing with our housing crisis and dealing with our open space crisis. And so when I was given the opportunity to donate the $10 million provide…


“It seemed like a great opportunity,” Jones-Sawyer said.

For residents

search for if

Corissa Pacillas, who has fought for years for stronger protections for the Jefferson Boulevard site, the purchase is an example of the power of organizing.

“It was encouraging to see that if people really organize with purpose and make their voices heard, and are persistent, and are passionate, and have good leadership, change can happen,” said Pacillas, who spent years documenting the facility’s operations from the veranda of the building. her apartment on the second floor. “I’m so excited that the property… will really benefit the community.”


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