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Carpinteria Council Opts to Put Venoco’s Paredon Project on Ballot

An initiative on the company's slant-drilling proposal will go to city voters in June 2010

Carpinteria residents will get the chance to vote on whether to approve Venoco Inc.‘s slant-drilling project next June after a late-night decision Tuesday by the Carpinteria City Council.

The council voted unanimously to put the item on the June 8, 2010, primary election ballot, but the only other option the city had was to approve the project outright.

More than 1,000 signatures were gathered earlier this year to place the slant-drilling operation, Project Paredon, on the ballot as a citizens initiative. The oil company argues that its proposed project would be a boon to city coffers and state revenues.

City officials appealed that decision earlier this year, citing concerns that the company could be trying to circumvent the environmental review required for a project of that magnitude, but a judge ruled in Venoco’s favor. The case is still under appeal.

At the last council meeting, city staff presented a 162-page report to the council detailing the effects of the project, since the normal environmental documents aren’t required under law for initiatives.

City Manager Dave Durflinger went over the report’s executive summary, which states that while the city would gain a “significant annual amount” in revenue from the project, home values in the neighborhood surrounding the project would drop 10 percent to 15 percent, it would open the city up to litigation and it would allow effects not permitted in other projects.

Venoco spokesman Steve Greig said voters would decide only the first step of the process and that governing bodies, such as the California Coastal Commission, would have to sign off on the project, too.

He also contends the city was under-reporting the benefits the project would bring to the city. “This is an unprecedented windfall for the community,” he said.

Greig and Venoco’s attorney, Mark Manion, were met by a thorny audience, many of whom identified themselves as members of the group Citizens Against Paredon.

“This is against the public interest,” said Miguel Checa, a spokesman for the group.

Article Image
Carpinteria City Councilman Joe Armendariz addresses Venoco’s Steve Greig. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

He pointed to the city seal behind him on the wall, emblazoned with the title “City of Carpinteria: World’s Safest Beach.”

“Let’s keep it that way,” he said.

Councilwoman Kathleen Reddington said that when she heard Venoco representatives talk, she didn’t hear anything about the community’s interest. “When I hear them speak, I hear money, and that’s all I hear,” she said. 

When Greig said the company would foot the bill to hold a special election in early April, instead of a primary in June, Councilman Joe Armendariz said he was puzzled by the choice.

“We really want to do what the voters of Carpinteria want,” Greig responded, saying the company would like to do mail-in ballots after it saw the turnout success of Santa Barbara’s city election in November.

Councilman Brad Stein asked Greig what the company would do if it failed. “What if you go down in flames?” he asked.

“Venoco will take that information and go from there,” Greig said.

The sentiment that the planning and environmental process was being circumvented by the initiative was nearly unanimous on the dais.

“We were elected up here to uphold the laws and rules, and it’s being taken away from us,” Stein said. He also said that many of the qualifying signatures for the ballot measure were from people who were misled by Venoco.

“A lot of folks didn’t know what they were signing,” he said.

Councilman Al Clark agreed. “The homeowners were only told about an oil well and a bag of cash,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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» on 12.15.09 @ 08:31 AM

We need a new city council, including Mr. Armendariz.  Its the most unprofessional lot of representatives on the coast.  They have continued to make it clear that Venoco made the right decision to have the people decide on this project because it would not have had a fair hearing otherwise with this group of elected officials.

I also can’t believe that they are suggesting that home prices would drop 10-15%.  That is bizarre since Venoco operates there today, its still near the beach and the train still rolls right by there.  What a joke.

I certainly get why people are opposed to this project.  They are on the other end of the spectrum of reason and believe Carpinteria should be bubble wrapped to protect itself from dealing with the real world.

When we finally get the chance to vote, I’m voting for this project despite this lack of leadership.  Its my private right and I look forward to participating in helping make this decision with those of us who aren’t attending these “thorny” meetings and don’t need to waste our time with all of this rhetoric and philosophizing about the state of mind of those of us who signed the ballot measure. 

PS. Why isn’t the council sharing their projected budget project plans if the revenues do come in?

» on 12.15.09 @ 11:45 AM

I look forward to cancelling CarpNative’s vote. The argument that Venoco is already in Concha Loma and that housing would not decline 10-15% neglects the addition of a 170 foot tall derrick and the radical increase in construction and maintainence traffic.

In the end Carp should not sell it’s soul for any price.

» on 12.15.09 @ 11:51 AM

When an elected official gets criticized by both sides, as Joe Armendariz was last night, that is a sure sign they are doing their job. Keep it up Joe.

» on 12.15.09 @ 12:05 PM

Thank goodness we have the council we have to help us voice our opinion against the slant drilling that Venoco proposes. 
Thank goodness we have a town in which our voice and sense of efficacy has not been completely diminished by big profit interests steamrolling their projects through a process where one hand doesnt know what the other is doing. 
And I even thank goodness that this WILL go to a vote to show that the 1000 members that signed that petition to get it there are truly the ones with their heads in the sand about this project.

» on 12.15.09 @ 12:22 PM

If Carpinteria had more Council members like Joe Armendariz, perhaps the Veneco matter would have remained under the purview of local government.  He has acted judiciously throughout this entire process by maintaining objectivity.

» on 12.15.09 @ 12:26 PM

Isn’t it thoughtful for Venoco to offer to pay for a special election that is earlier than the established June election date?  Is it because they are such generous community minded folks with the best interests of Carpinteria at heart? Well, shucks, of course that must be it! 

And by the way, I have a some prime property with a big red bridge on it up in the San Francisco bay that it for sale. Interested?

» on 12.15.09 @ 12:43 PM

The voters of Carpinteria brought this fiasco on themselves when they elected Al Clark in 2006 and Kathleen Reddington in 2008. A Reddington supporter last night called Joe Armendariz the “Venoco candidate” inadvertently betraying the worst kept secret in the world which is that Reddington, Clark and Stein are anti Venoco, which is obviously true, and everyone knows it.  Armendariz is the most reliably honest, professional and straight shooting council member we have up there.  Reddington et al use their position on the council to pander to their friends and neighbors while displaying a stunning level of unprofessional behavior. Armendariz, on the other hand, consistently holds Venoco’s feet to the fire but without treating their representative as if the company were proposing to build a federal prison for Al Qaeda terrorists next door to a day care facility. Voters have no one to blame but themselves.

» on 12.15.09 @ 12:54 PM

Is that the same Joe Armendariz whose salary is paid by Venoco through the job Armendariz has for the Industrial Association?

» on 12.15.09 @ 12:55 PM

I live basically at “ground zero” of the proposed project. To say that neighborhood values won’t decline because Venoco is already there is like saying the we don’t need to worry about global warming because there are already plenty of government regulations in place for air quality. Hello!  When we bought our home in the early 1990s, Chevron was operating the facility on a very minimal level.  We barely noticed they were there. When they sold to Venoco, we were rather surprised any other petroleum company would buy it. (A little red flag went up for us then - what would this new owner do?)  However, there are much more serious concerns than property values.  The significant increase in activity levels, traffic, industrial noise, light, emissions and risk of an accident that will result from Paredon is deeply worrisome.  We, like many in the neighborhood, have called 911 several times over the years because of explosive sounds and noxious odors emanating from the facility. We walk on the bluff path between the State campground and Viola fields daily, and it is with joy and awe that we observe all the wildlife (including the seal rookery) in that habitat.  Each autumn, we anticipate the return of owls who live in the buffer zone between the neighborhood and the Venoco facility - there is something so magical in the sound of their evening hooting. We also hear the call of raptors in the eucalyptus trees there, coaching the nestlings to fly. If only they could vote…

» on 12.15.09 @ 01:01 PM

Re Stein’s comments: When approached by those gathering signatures for the initiative I was simply asked to read printed material and was not coached: different persepctive, different experience.  The initiative process IS part of “the rules” especially when government cannot remain objective on matters with such far reaching implications. Voters do not relinquish their Constitutional right to override gov’t rule when voting for public officials.  When there is the perception that their representatives are not acting judiciously, the people will prevail.

» on 12.15.09 @ 01:15 PM

If Armendariz has a financial conflict of interest than the City Attorney isn’t doing his job. This is the same city attorney who people like you stand on the sidelines and cheer as he convinces the city council to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting Venoco in court. Sorry but you can’t have it both ways. If the city attorney is competent…and the city’s litigation against Venoco is well thought out than the city attorney’s ability to look at a member of the council’s professional affiliations and deem them to be free from a conflict of interest must also be well thought out. On the other hand…maybe the city attorney is wrong on both counts. Maybe Armendariz does have a conflict and maybe Reddington, Clark, Stein and Carty do as well, which is why Venoco is justified in going to the ballot.

» on 12.15.09 @ 02:00 PM

Isn’t Carpinteria’s City Attorney actually in private practice?  Well, gee, I wonder how he ever came up with the recommendation for the City to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys’ fees unsuccessfully fighting the initiative being placed on the ballot.  Wasn’t he basically recommending they pay him a bunch of money to wage that failed war?  I can’t believe anybody would ask him to opine on somebody else’s potential conflict of interest without first questioning his own.

» on 12.15.09 @ 03:22 PM

I happen to know that the Fair Political Practices Commission also analyzed Mr. Armendariz’ professional affiliations to determine if he had any conflicts of interest including with Venoco. I know this because I requested a copy. According to the city attorney and the FPPC Joe does not have a financial conflict of interest serving on the city council or on SBCAG. An “appearance” of a conflict is a different matter and I could easily make a case that all 5 council members have an appearance of a conflict of interest. From what I have seen, however, Joe consistently conducts himself on the council with the most balance, professionalism and good humor.

» on 12.15.09 @ 03:42 PM

The good people of Carpentaria have a choice, either they solve the long standing decline of American wealth production or they join the rest of the country and pretend you don’t have to EARN anything and just borrow from those who do. Yes petroleum production is messy and dirty and smelly, but then so is agriculture. And since our food production is directly tied to energy production you really need to ask yourself is a clean and safe beach worth starving for? Ok I exaggerate, but only to drive the point. We need to earn what we want to spend if for no other reason than the bank of China says it won’t lend us anymore money. That means producing our own energy and other durable goods right here even if it’s on the beach of Carp. Now if Carp residents who are against Venoco want to stop using any petroleum related or dependant goods them I’ll side with them. Let’s see how long you guys survive living in an animal skin teepee eating only what you grow on your drought parched lot. Good luck!

» on 12.15.09 @ 05:15 PM

You would have enjoyed one fool last night who got up and rambled his way to a breaking news story about the Michigan Legislature passing a blanket ban on all oil and gas development off the shore of Lake Michigan. Ain’t that a hoot? The automobile capital of the world telling the rest of the nation: hey, don’t expect us to do our fair share to produce the fuels needed to power the gas guzzlers we make in our state…oh, but Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, can you please spare a dime to help bail out our bankrupt car companies? Lots of jobs are at stake you know…

It would be funny were it not so tragic.

» on 12.15.09 @ 08:13 PM

As with everything there is good and bad —but this one seems to have more bad.  More revenue for the city vs lower property values, traffic, noise,lights, emissions, explosive sounds and noxious odors.

Just say NO to Veneco. 
Go Joe Armendanz!

» on 12.16.09 @ 03:01 AM

Folks who deny the right of a referendum on the issue should also disregard Proposition 13 and accordingly up their property tax payments. Then they should write to the governor and demand the abolition of the referendum process in the state of California. (Which actually wouldn’t be a bad idea).

» on 12.16.09 @ 03:03 AM

A serious question… I’m curious. Has anyone who posted here, or any of the city council members, visited urban drilling locations as part of their research? There are plenty of these in LA, Kern, and Ventura counties.

» on 12.16.09 @ 12:55 PM

Seriously “swimmer” there is no comparison, but nice try.

» on 12.16.09 @ 03:04 PM

It wasn’t a “try.” It’s a legitimate question. Perhaps if you went to visit one, you’d find that the noise and pollution would strengthen the case for your opposition. Perhaps you could research property values and find that they dropped as a result of the drilling.

There’s no need to be paranoid. This is not a simplistic world of good guys and bad guys, and not every comment has to part of some secret plot.

» on 12.16.09 @ 05:32 PM

As Friends of the Bluff’s Wildlife does, we too live nearby. We completely echo their thoughts. As for property values, it is really hard to say. The noise, odor(s)and possible vibration could have an impact. Although on the flip maybe the overpaid workforce building this monstrosity will need a place to live and will be willing to pay for the privilege of walking to work. Unlikely, but a thought nevertheless.I am convinced that Venoco had Paredon sitting in the wings even before they took over from Chevron and like most deep pocket oil companies, have been throwing a lot of money around the community for many years to promote their so called “caring image” when in reality, it’s a poor attempt to “butter-up” the community.

» on 12.16.09 @ 07:14 PM

Cleanfreak, when I see you walking EVERYWHERE and living in a teepee eating what you grow yourself (ah,ah,ah, no fertilizer, cheater) and wearing clothes you made out of stuff you grew on your own, then I’ll pay attention to your ranting NIMBYism.

No one is forcing you to live in our petroleum based world. You are free to leave and enjoy a petroleum free life. I believe there are a few places left on earth where human beings survive without the petroleum base society’s influence. But better hurry! Those places are rapidly discovering what you Neanderthals already know and take for granted; our petroleum based world ain’t so bad. Of course you might have made a really stupid choice in picking real-estate and have to deal with the consequences of petroleum production, but then you are still free to move.

» on 12.16.09 @ 10:03 PM

Amen to AN50!

» on 12.16.09 @ 11:29 PM

Carpinteria could become the wealthiest small city in California if this project is approved and if the city fathers invest the money wisely.

Carpinteria could become the first city in America that is actually “carbon neutral” assuming the royalty moneys are invested in a variety of targeted energy efficiency and conservation programs, and products designed to reduce the city’s net energy output.

Bottom line is it takes money (and lots of it) for a society to be a good steward of its environmental resources. If not there would be no need to for third world nations to be in Copenhagen asking for a handout from wealthier countries…

» on 12.17.09 @ 03:18 AM

The liberals will lose their jobs one day because of pollitical correctness—American company’s are leaving because of tax and spend liberals..

» on 12.17.09 @ 10:07 AM

Claims of potential 10-15% decline in property values is highly suspect and unsubstatiated.  The Concha Loma homeowners continue to enjoy property values that are on average, $250 (+!) more per square foot than most homes in Carpinteria.  The Venoco facility does not appear to be a significant factor for homebuyers.  The most influential factor taken into consideration when young families are purchasing a home are:  SCHOOLS and employment opportunities.

» on 12.17.09 @ 11:29 AM

“Ghost” Are you referring to carbon credits?  Isn’t that a relative term?  It seems to be relative to who/what industry is claiming the credit.

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