Gary Gless, 52, a retired Hollywood construction coordinator, bought his Windsor Hills home 12 years ago. The house, with views to the Pacific on a clear day, was more than a half-century old, and Gless and his wife, Leslie, were just the second owners.
That's typical in the neighborhood, where few people leave, and when they leave the natural way, homes often stay in the family. All of the communities surrounding the PXP operation are fiercely protective of their neighborhood.
"This," Gless said, "was my investment."
He dove in, digging terraces into the steep hill behind his home and planting a lovely spread of 40 fruit trees, including dwarf Meyer lemon and guava, interspersed with fish ponds and wisteria vines. The plan was to collect on a reverse mortgage and live off the proceeds -- a plan that Gless believes is now in peril because of PXP's expansion plans. As it is, complaints about noise and fumes are already routine in the neighborhood.
"It's scary enough that I might have to move," said Gless, who has become a leader of an effort to stave off the expansion. "Thousands of homes will be affected."
Community protests are already having an effect.
In Whittier, environmentalists have extracted promises that local officials will apply stringent tests in determining whether drilling would cause lasting damage. And this week, PXP agreed not to submit permit applications for new wells until late October, to allow time for public hearings, though a moratorium on new wells expired in June.
"I would like to stay here for the rest of my life -- if we can keep the property values up and the community strong," said Sally Hampton, 49, who has lived in Windsor Hills for 28 years.
She said scrambling to jack up domestic oil production is merely a way of "delaying the inevitable" -- moving toward alternative energy sources.
"They stand to profit -- tremendously -- at the expense of the community," she said. "And drilling in our neighborhood is not going to solve the oil crisis."
A PXP vice president, Steve Rusch, said that not only can the operation be conducted safely, but every drop of oil extracted locally "directly offsets" an equal amount of oil that needs to come into Southern California ports.
"If we don't do it, where does the oil come from?" he said. "Where does the check get written to? The Middle East? Venezuela? Every little bit counts."
But don't take Rusch's word for it. Many neighbors agree they don't have a leg to stand on. Not only do they face daunting practical obstacles -- starting with the fact that drilling is legal -- they figure they could lose the battle for public opinion, too.
"What do you care if I've got a crack in my wall?" Hutchinson said. "What really means something to you is lowering fuel costs. It's a very compelling argument. So I figure they can do whatever they want."