WHO IS SHELL-AERA AND WHAT IS ITS PLAN?
Bakersfield-based Aera is a real estate development front for Oil Giant
Shell and its minority partner Exxon-Mobil. Shell-Aera plans to build 3,600
houses, three commercial centers and a golf course in the golden crown of north
Orange County, the hills between Harbor Blvd. and past the 57 Freeway at the Los
Angeles and Orange County border. This grossly out-of-scale development will
bring 40,000 additional car trips every day to area streets, 2,400 more students
to our schools and put more pressure on an already limited supply of water. They
will bulldoze ridgelines, destroy the watershed, degrade fresh water, denude
grasslands and chop up oak and walnut woodlands. This is Shell-Aera’s Plan.
Not content to milk us at the gas pump; not content to be grateful for the
profits on the oil they pumped off this land for decades, Shell-Aera now want to
stick us in more traffic and get us coming and going.
Shell Oil, the largest oil company in the world is a 51% owner of Aera. Shell
earned $14.058 billion dollars in profits in 2004. ExxonMobil, is a 49% owner of
Aera, took in $16.98 billion dollars in profits.
Do they need to ruin our hills for even more money?
ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW AND HOW FAR
ALONG IS THE HOUSING PLAN
In May 2003, the counties of Los Angeles and Orange issued a Notice of
Preparation (NOP) that they would be preparing a Draft Environmental
Impact Report (DEIR) on the Shell-Aera project. That DEIR is still being written. The fact that it is taking so long suggests
Shell-Aera is struggling to come up with appropriate mitigations for all of the
negative impacts. State agencies that are involved will comment as
well on the adequacy of the document.
These agencies include Cal Trans, State Parks, State Fish and Game, Water
Resources, and Department of Oil and Gas. Environmental groups will also
comment – groups such as Environment Now, Endangered Habitats League,
Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society, and Natural Resources
Defense Council, etc.
Much of Shell-Aera’s land is classified in the Los Angeles County General Plan
as a “Significant Ecological Area” (SEA) because of the oak and walnut
woodlands. The Technical Advisory Committee that analyzes the impacts of
development projects in SEA’s determined in April 2006 that Shell-Aera’s plan
was not in compliance with the rules governing SEA’s. In essence the Committee
turned the project down. Shell-Aera then had two choices – it could
proceed through the planning process with a negative recommendation from an
important (and legally mandated) Committee or it could redesign the project to
bring it into compliance. Ever greedy and opportunistic, Shell-Aera
appears to be moving toward a third option. It is in discussions with the City
of Diamond Bar in hopes of being annexed to this development friendly city.
Neighboring cities and unincorporated communities concerned about traffic and
other negative impacts will have less of an opportunity to influence the
project. Diamond Bar Council members will not need to pay attention to how
others outside of their City, feel about this assault on the quality of all of
our lives. In addition, SEA’s rules do not apply to cities; SEA’s only apply to
unincorporated areas. So Shell-Aera’s move toward annexing to Diamond Bar is
really an effort to avoid responsibilities to the conservation of important
resources and an attempt to avoid scrutiny.
If this annexation proceeds, Shell-Aera will need to extensively amend its Draft
Environmental Impact Report delaying the project further.