The Hidden Oil Wells Of Los Angeles

During a recent trip to LA, while driving I spotted something I don’t usually see: a building in an urban setting that I absolutely couldn’t identify.  It was slender, tall, tapered and seemed to be covered in what amounted to a gigantic tea cozy.  It looked like this:

Set in a fully urbanized area – abutting Beverly Hills High School, in and among a mixed residential and office-use area in West LA, this odd structure had me wondering what it could possibly be.  It was too narrow for occupancy, and too distant from industry to be functional.  It was too…festive-looking to be a smokestack – and even it if was, what could be the source of the fumes?  The chemistry class bunsen burners of Beverly Hills High?

Later, this midwestern born-and-bred blogger came to find out the amazing truth.  What I had seen was a Los Angeles oil well. An active, productive, yet entirely urban oil well, one of hundreds across the city remarkably well-integrated into the bustling landscape.  These structures are actively drilling into the ground beneath LA, extracting black gold quietly, with no apparent neighbor impact, and one presumes, profitably.

I left town thinking I had seen something rare, but the fact is, LA is a very active oil producer and these wells and production facilities are just another type of commercial property.  Why no noise?  Why no smell?  How are the spills and hazards normally associated with oil drilling handled?  How do NIMBYs cope?  As it turns out, Los Angeles has California’s legendary regulatory tendency to thank for the apparent harmony.  Which is not to say there aren’t concerns about the tight integration of industrial production and residential areas, it’s just that if there’s any state with a long track record of balancing these conflicts, it’s California.

An incredible video by VBS TV was produced that takes a look at this most unusual commercial real estate phenomenon.  We see oil wells in the back of shopping malls, oil wells situated inside five-story faux-office buildings, oil drilling technology allowing horizontal drilling, and a discussion, of course, of the mineral rights attached to real property in California (and just about all 49 of the other states.)  Fascinating stuff!

Watch the VBS Clip “Uneven Terrain” at LA.Curbed.Com

(Photo Credit: WebUrbanist.com)

22. August 2013 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Industrial | Tags: , , , , , | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. What a great article. I feel like I have been re-introduced to L.A. I’m intrigued how these have been integrated into the city with an creative and artistic flair. Time for a day trip to L.A. to see this first-hand.

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