The council also agreed to scratch the idea of building an oil drilling simulation on the proposed site that would give residents an idea of the aesthetics of the project by using tools like a balloon or “story” poles to represent the height, sound and odor of the proposed drilling equipment.
“The idea was raised by the Coastal Commission,” said Ed Almanza, the City’s Project Manager for the proposed project. “They wanted to use some mechanism that would give the public a sense of the height. It addresses their concerns for when they process the coastal development permit… but I don’t think the EIR would benefit from the simulation in any way [at this time].”
Almanza said that eventually a simulation of some type would be possible – but not during the 60-day EIR review and public comment time. Constructing a simulation presently would be “impossible” due to the complexity of the construction phases and equipment uses it would need to portray, the staff report said. The report also suggested such a simulation could detract from the legal EIR process.
Council members also expressed concern about the absence of a public relations agency to help communicate the release of the EIR and upcoming public meetings. The city’s previous agency, Fiona Hutton & Associates, quit after the City Council expressed concern about the firm’s $10,000 monthly fee. City Manager Tom Bakaly recently hired a temporary employee to assist with public relations until the council has the opportunity to decide on a permanent option, according to Councilwoman Nannette Barragan. That decision is expected within six to eight weeks.
Former Councilman Jeff Duclos defended the former PR firm’s work.
“Prior to that the city had no communications on this earth,” Duclos said. “The city policy was articulated by whoever talked the loudest or was the most persistent. The fact that the city had that resource was invaluable in getting critical information out to the residents.”
According to the staff report, in early February a postcard from the city will be mailed to all residents articulating the next steps in the oil project review – including the Feb. 13 release of the EIR and future scheduled informational meetings.
“I think we’ve been bombarded with information [and] some is true and some is not,” resident Martha Logan said. “I’m looking forward to E&B making some of their presentations… I think that what we need to be clear – and I’m sure this information is going to be coming out – is what these impacts are going to be.”ER