REAL ESTATE : West Newport Oil Co. Wants to Be More Considerate to Its Neighbors

Compiled by Michael Flagg, Times staff writer

In the beginning--which for purposes of development pretty much means the 1950s in Orange County--nobody really cared where developers laid out subdivisions or erected stores. There was plenty of room, traffic was not a problem and most people thought all those new houses and stores and factories were a good thing.

Now, however, putting a convenience store in some neighborhoods--let alone an office building--can mean a pitched battle with the neighbors. After years of growth, many of those neighborhoods are fighting back.

So the smarter developers are defusing the opposition by listening to neighbors and, in some cases, compromising by scaling back their plans.

Now comes West Newport Oil Co., which wants to head off the controversy before it gets started. West Newport, you see, owns a piece of land with a lot of potential for controversy, a 500-acre coastal oil field between the western edge of Newport Beach and the Santa Ana River. The oil company has been talking to Orange County officials for a year about getting permission to build something on the land once the oil is gone in the near future.

This week, in an unusual move, the company had its market research firm send out 2,500 questionnaires to homes in nearby neighborhoods in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

"Be assured that your opinions, and those of your neighbors, will be considered before any plan is proposed to the community," the questionnaire assures readers.

The five-page questionnaire asks neighbors to rate how interested they are in what happens to the land and also asks whether they would prefer offices, light industrial, houses, condos, a shopping center, a park or--in what seems like the unlikeliest possibility of all--restoration of the wetlands.

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