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What’s with the Oil Well Behind the Beverly Center?

Thu, Nov 15, 2012   By Gustave Heully, Design Critic   

Ever Wonder what is behind the high walls emblazoned with hazardous material warning signs on the back side of the Beverly Center?

Shielded from San Vicente Boulevard is, in fact, an actively drilling and pumping oil well.

WeHo Oil

(Illustration by Gustave Heully)

Managed by Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) this well taps into both the Salt Lake Oil Field and the adjacent Beverly Hills Oil Field. Discovered in 1902, one tip of the Salt Lake Oil Field begins in West Hollywood and runs generally along Beverly Boulevard all the way past Highland Avenue and south to Wilshire Boulevard. (See map above) where it is the source of the tar at the La Brea Tar Pits next to LACMA.

Oil wells exist all across urban Los Angeles, long predating the neighborhoods that have been built around and over them. Most of these wells have long since been abandoned, but at the Beverly Center site drilling continues. Advances in drilling technology, by drilling at an angle from behind soundproof walls, make this single location able to reach faraway deposits of oil, boring down as deep as 3,300 feet below the city streets.

The desirability of areas like Mid-City and Beverly Hills may seem at odds with being located above an oil field, but the wealth in these areas can be partially attributed to the subterranean geography. Oil companies pay royalties to those who own land above the oil field — thus the black gold that stirs thousands of feet below the surface help pay for the many Jimmy Choo heels and Mercedes SUVs that navigate the streets above it.

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About Gustave Heully, Design Critic

Gustave Heully is a designer, artist, critic and West Hollywood resident. He has experience as both a designer in LA architecture offices and as an academic, writing about researching and curating exhibitions on architecture, urbanism and design. @GusHeully

View all posts by Gustave Heully, Design Critic →

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