Oil-Drilling Plan for Garden Grove Is Killed by Council

Times Staff Writer

To the delight of several hundred residents who packed City Hall, the Garden Grove City Council on Tuesday night narrowly turned back a controversial oil-drilling proposal that opponents feared might have eventually placed 50 oil wells near downtown.

“It’s dead,” Mayor W. E. (Walt) Donovan said after the council voted 3 to 2 not to certify an environmental impact report submitted by Chevron USA. The report had been approved by the Planning Commission last month by a 7-0 vote.

Donovan and Councilman Frank Kessler voted to approve the report, but Councilmen Raymond T. Littrell and J. Tilman Williams joined Mayor Pro Tem Robert F. Dinsen in opposing it, even though the drilling might have ultimately brought money to the city.

Dinsen said it would have been wrong to “put the 1-in-10 possibility of profit for the city ahead of the health and welfare of the citizens.” He said there is “a 10-in-10 chance” that the Chevron project would have caused at least some environmental problems for citizens.


Williams said: “I think the citizens got exactly what they wanted. They don’t want oil in their back yard, and the project would affect noise, traffic and water. Nothing in the proposal is exact. We don’t want another Alaska.”

Used Up Water

Opponents contended that the drilling would have consumed thousands of gallons of precious water, caused noxious odors and noise pollution, and posed a threat of explosion much like the one that occurred last week when a gasoline pipe in a residential area of San Bernardino ruptured in flames, killing three people.

“I honestly tried to consider the safety issues, and I don’t think the drilling poses a real danger,” said Donovan. The mayor said the chance of an explosion in the oil pipeline proposed to run beneath Garden Grove Boulevard would be no greater than when he drives his pickup down the street.


And as far as property values being lowered because of the drilling, the mayor said, “look at the Beverly Center up in Los Angeles. Drilling certainly hasn’t hurt the property values there.”

Kessler added: “I would love to see so many people show up when the City Council is trying to decide how to provide an adequate level of service for the city. This project could generate $500,000 a year for the city. . . . Currently, we are $4 million in the red and may have to cut police. . . .

“What if every city in the country took this position? I thought it was a good proposal. I still do.”

Chevron had proposed a three-year, $5-million plan to drill as many as six exploratory wells on a 1.4-acre tract at 12891 Nelson St., near downtown. Company officials predicted that if oil was discovered, as many as 50 wells could be developed over the next two decades.


But Chevron officials said Tuesday’s vote effectively kills the proposal.

Taken Aback

“Right now we are a little taken aback,” said oil company spokeswoman Margo Bart. “We will evaluate the situation and consider our options.”

Donovan said he expected Chevron to now go to other cities for permission to drill.


“I am extremely happy if Chevron is not allowed to drill in Garden Grove,” said resident Dale DeHaven. “There are things more important than money--like the integrity of a residential area that would be destroyed.”

DeHaven said she wondered why oil companies want to drill in residential neighborhoods in California when there are there are hundreds of existing wells in Texas that are shut down.

“I was threatened to be killed by both sides,” Littrell said with a smile after the vote. He said he had been undecided until last Friday. But he found that the impact report left too many questions unanswered.

Littrell said he was concerned that “if the project got off on the wrong foot, we would never get it on the right one.”


The council voted 3-2 not to certify the impact report as complete, and 3-2 to deny Chevron’s land-use permit because the project is incompatible with other development in the area, City Atty. Stuart Scuddar explained.

The land in question is privately owned and currently being used as an equipment storage site for a landscaping company.