Carpinteria Oil Drilling Initiative, Measure J (June 2010)

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A Carpinteria Oil Drilling Initiative, Measure J ballot question was on the June 8, 2010 ballot in the City of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County, where it was defeated.[1]

The primary effect of Measure J would have been to approve a slant oil and gas drilling project proposed by Venoco Inc. along Carpinteria’s coastline.

The initiative was also known as the Paredon Initiative and the Carpinteria Community Initiative.[2]

Measure J was complex, coming to nearly 70 pages of text.[3]

Election results

Measure J
Approveda Yes 2,870 70.97%
These final, certified results are from the Santa Barbara County elections office.

Ballot access lawsuit

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2010

California's Second District Court of Appeals heard a lawsuit brought by the City of Carpinteria which alleges that Measure J was unconstitutional, and should not have been allowed on the ballot. Although Measure J failed at the polls, the city continued to pursue the lawsuit because they wanted to prevent any similar initiative from ever appearing on the ballot in Carpinteria.

The gist of the lawsuit was that Measure J would have improperly granted administrative ("adjudicatory") powers to the city's voters, and that state law prohibits that. The lawsuit also claimed that parts of Measure J would have violated Article II, Section 12 of the California Constitution. Section 12 says that private corporations are not allowed to gain special privileges or advantages through ballot initiatives.[4]

A Superior Court judge had earlier ruled to allow Measure J on the ballot. The City of Carpinteria was appealing that lower court determination in the lawsuit described above.

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

MEASURE J: Shall the General Plan/Local Coastal Land Use Plan of the City of Carpinteria be amended and a Specific Plan adopted to authorize development of the Paredon Project, a private development project to explore, develop, produce and gather offshore and onshore oil and natural gas resources and transmit them to the Carpinteria Oil and Gas Processing Facility operated by Venoco, Inc.?[5]

Project Paredon

The project that was the subject of the ballot initiative was known as Project Paredon. The centerpiece of the project was a 140-foot drilling rig that, if Measure J had been approved, would have been installed at Venoco’s Dump Road oil and gas processing facility.[6] The facility is adjacent to a residential neighborhood, the Carpinteria bluffs and a harbor seal rookery.

The drilling rig would have allowed extended-reach, or slant, drilling, to allow access to oil and natural gas in the Santa Barbara Channel without building an offshore platform.[6]

The proposed drilling rig would have operated 24/7 and the processing facility would have operated weekdays from 6:30 AM to 4:30 PM.[7]

Veneco had been working on plans for the Paredon Project since 1999, when it purchased the Dump Road processing facility from Chevron. They had hired outside counsel and a public relations firm to help them push the initiative forward.

Financial overview


Projections and estimates about the fiscal impact of the Paredon Project if it had gone forward included:

  • The State of California stood to gain up to about $450 million in royalties from the drilling platform; the State Lands Commission could have given Carpinteria and the County of Santa Barbara up to $200 million of this to split. It was estimated that the City would receive between $10 million and $75 million over a 20 year period, depending on a number of factors.
  • Venoco may have offered to dedicate to the City of Carpinteria about 22 acres of land on its 55-acre Dump Road parcel as permanent open space. Venoco had previously offered to dedicate this land, but it was never accepted by the City due to concerns about taking on liability associated with hazardous waste on the land.
  • A promise to give money to the Carpinteria Education Foundation was deleted from the initiative by an order of the Santa Barbara Superior Court.
  • Home values in the adjacent Arbol Verde neighborhood were expected to decrease by 10% to 15%.
  • Litigation over the implementation of the initiative was expected to cost the City hundreds of thousands of dollars.[8]



Veneco, Inc., the company that would build the slant-drilling operation if Measure J were approved by voters, supported the project.[9]

Argument in favor

According to the company:

  • The proposed slant drilling platform would have allowed access to natural gas and oil in the Santa Barbara Channel without using an offshore drilling platform.[9]
  • If Measure J had been approved, the project would still have required approval from a number of government oversight agencies including the state's Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.[9]
  • Carpinteria and the county would have gained approximately $200 million in royalties and revenue if the project had gone forward, which was not insignificant in a time of local budget strains and deficits.[9]



  • A group called "Citizens Committee Against Paredon Initiative" opposed the initiative.[10]
  • In February, Carpinteria's city council voted 4-1 to oppose Measure J.[11]

Arguments against

Opponents of the measure had cited environmental concerns, saying they believe the initiative contains provisions that prohibit the City from conducting the environmental review ordinarily required by the California Environmental Quality Act. They said the initiative was only subject to the environmental mitigation measures contained in the initiative itself. Venoco Inc. had stated that the reason it proposed the initiative was to allow the private company to avoid the environmental mitigation measures that the City planned on imposing on a prior version of this project.[12]

Some opponents said the Paredon Project posed risk from explosions, fire, oil spills, toxic gas releases, noise, lighting and vibration which might lead to the killing of federally protected marine mammals, damage to coastal areas and wildlife, pollution of water and air, and disruption of coastal views.[13]

Path to the ballot

In February 2009, Venoco submitted a statement of intent to collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. This would normally trigger a responsibility on the part of the city's attorney to prepare a ballot title to be used on the initiative as it is circulated for signatures.[14]

However, Peter Brown, the city attorney, said that he would not do so because he believed the initiative was unlawful because it was "inconsistent with city guidelines, contains vague and false statements, and would circumvent the environmental review process."

This led to Veneco filing a lawsuit, where they asked a judge to order Brown and Carpinteria to comply with the legal requirements to put a ballot initiative on the ballot.[15][16]

The judge found a Development Agreement within the Initiative to be unlawful and ordered that it be removed. The petition for signatures was not circulated until the City of Carpinteria provided a legal ballot title for the measure, as it was eventually ordered to do by a judge.

Lawsuit timeline

  • In April, Santa Barbara Superior Court trial judge Thomas Anderle granted Brown and the City of Carpinteria a stay pending a hearing.
  • The hearing was held on July 28.[15]
  • In early August, Judge Anderle announced that he was denying a request from Carpinteria to keep the ballot initiative off the ballot.
  • Judge Anderle ordered City Attorney Peter Brown to draft language for the ballot measure by September 1.[17]
  • On August 10, the Carpinteria City Council voted 4-1 to appeal Judge Anderle's ruling.
  • In December 2009, the city council unanimously voted to put Measure J on the June 8, 2010 ballot.[1]


Efforts by the City of Carpinteria to determine whether the measure was lawful cost the city more than $300,000.[9]

External links

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Additional reading