Hermosa Beach defeats oil drilling measure

Hermosa Beach defeats oil drilling measure
People cast ballots in Hermosa Beach, which defeated an oil drilling measure. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)

The votes are in: Hermosa Beach owes a Bakersfield oil company about $18 million. Monterey Park won't have the nation's first all-Asian American city council. And a veteran West Hollywood lawmaker's three-decade term may have come to an end.

In some of the region's most idiosyncratic cities, where hard-fought political battles drove voter turnouts that were nearly double or more than the city of Los Angeles' showing of 8.6%, residents and bureaucrats alike took stock Wednesday of the electoral outcomes.


Voters in the quirky oceanfront community of Hermosa Beach struck down a measure that would have allowed Bakersfield-based E&B Natural Resources to drill as many as 34 oil wells within city limits.

With 1,016 votes in favor and 3,799 votes opposed — a turnout of more than a third of eligible voters — Measure O was handily rejected. The defeat came as welcome news to the activists who waged a years-long campaign against lifting the ban.

"I'm feeling a lot of relief this morning," said Mike Collins, who lives about 50 yards from where E&B proposed to drill. "The middle of somebody's neighborhood is not a place for a new oil exploration."

But the rejection of Measure O puts the city of 20,000 residents on the hook to pay E&B $17.5 million, a sum that was stipulated in a settlement agreement brokered in 2012. In the early 1990s, the city approved a lease with an oil company, but then reversed course and halted drilling in 1995, spawning years of litigation.

To finance the $17.5-million fee, about $6 million has already been set aside in a reserve account, City Manager Tom Bakaly said. The remainder will be paid off in annual installments of about $800,000. The city will meet with E&B regarding repayment of the loan and once the results are certified and final, the City Council will review financing options, Bakaly said.

Further inland in the San Gabriel Valley, Monterey Park could have inaugurated the nation's first all-Asian American city council, but unofficial results indicate that the board will probably have four Chinese Americans and one Latina, the same demographic mix the city has had for years.

Incumbent Anthony Wong — armed with the most money and endorsements — was considered a front-runner in the race for three open spots on the council, but he was fourth with 2,182 votes.

The top three vote-getters appear to be incumbent Mitchell Ing, with 2,847 votes; incumbent Teresa Real-Sebastian with 2,643 votes; and newcomer Stephen Lam, who trails Real-Sebastian by 300 votes.

About 500 provisional and mail-in ballots are still being tallied, but Real-Sebastian's possible victory means that Monterey Park will not end up with an all-Asian American city council.

And more than 30 years after he was elected to West Hollywood's first City Council, John Heilman came in fourth place in an at-large election for three council seats, according to unofficial results.

Heilman's defeat isn't certain, however. He trails third-place finisher, advertising executive Linsey Horvath, by 28 votes.

The top two vote-getters in the election — which drew a turnout of about 16% — were Mayor John D'Amico with 1,892 votes, and Lauren Meister, a market research professional and longtime resident, with 1,750 votes.

The thin margins among early victors mean that the uncounted ballots — about 780 provisional and mail-in ballots — could dramatically shift the results.

Twelve people — including James Duke Mason, the son of singer Belinda Carlisle — entered the race for one of three open spots on the five-member council. After the election, the council will still have one seat open. The seat was vacated by Jeffrey Prang, who was elected county assessor last year.


Prang's open seat will be filled in a special election scheduled for June. Losing candidates from Tuesday's election have until the end of this week to enter the race.

Times staff writer Matthew Hamilton contributed to this report.