A towering, noisy rig drilling a new water well for Rolling Hills Country Club that had loomed over a Lomita neighborhood and operated 24/7 since before Thanksgiving curtailed night operations in time for Christmas, giving long frustrated residents of the neighborhood peaceful and silent nights again.
Country club manager Greg Sullivan said Monday, Dec. 24, the contractor completed night-time drilling operations last week for the $700,000 well about a week early—although work was to be suspended Sunday, Dec. 23, through Christmas—in response to complaints from the community. Daytime drilling of the 750-foot deep well isn’t expected to wrap up until the end of March, Sullivan said.
Residents who have complained—describing a noisy rig with bright lights at night—were caught unawares.
“It was a surprise,” said resident Jill Church. “It has been really nice.”
The 24-hour a day drilling of the well was the final straw for many residents who had long complained of noise, dust, heavy truck traffic and other issues related to a years-long $70 million reconstruction of the golf course that included an expanded clubhouse and began in 2015.
Damage to the site from torrential rains then delayed the project’s conclusion for months, adding to the frustration. Work finally ended earlier this year.
Church said the years of construction work wore down the patience of some residents and “put us through hell.
“We were getting giant clouds of dirt and silt coming into the home,” she said. “It was dirt dust — it wasn’t just dust dust. It was really disgusting.”
Lomita residents were caught up in a bureaucratic quandary involving multiple local government jurisdictions.
The country club is in Rolling Hills Estates, but the drilling occurred on land now within the Torrance city limits.
In addition, Rolling Hills Estates and Torrance executed a land swap of several acres because the country club wanted its enlarged course within the upscale community of Rolling Hills Estates, where real estate values are generally higher.
The drilling occurred on land that was part of the swap, which further complicated the issue. Indeed, residents said at one point Torrance officials incorrectly insisted the land was not in their city.
“We have no power to take any enforcement action against it — that’s the difficulty,” said Lomita City manager Ryan Smoot. “We are as frustrated as our residents are.
“Our residents have put up with a lot and frankly this drilling operation has exacerbated that,” he added. “I think their biggest frustration is getting the runaround.”
Smoot should know.
He said he experienced the same thing as he bounced between officials in Torrance, Rolling Hills Estates, the country club and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, which issued the drilling permit. Torrance officials were non-responsive, Smoot said.
Larry Betancourt, a neighbor of Church’s agreed with the assessment.
“The part that’s getting to me the most is nobody is saying anything to us,” he said. “And then you try to find out information and nobody has any.”
Country club manager Sullivan has a far different perspective from residents, Smoot and Torrance officials.
He said the cities and residents received notifications every step of the way and that some affected residents who complained about the noise and were offered lights up in hotels on the country club’s dime. Some lights on the drilling rig were also removed and others redirected away from homes.
But Linda Cessna, Torrance’s deputy community development director, said she knew little about the issue when contacted last week.
“We weren’t consulted on the construction hours and if we had been we would have required some noise attenuation before they were allowed to go 24/7,” she said, adding the city was told at the end of November that it was only a five or six-day job. “Clearly, they went longer than that.”
Even the timing of the cessation of drilling was a matter of dispute.
Sullivan said night work stopped night Tuesday and that all cities were informed.
But Church said she wasn’t told and didn’t notice drilling had stopped until she woke up—refreshed after a rare full night’s sleep—on Saturday morning. And city officials in Lomita and Torrance told the Southern California News Group late last week drilling would resume after Christmas and were unaware of the abbreviated work schedule Sullivan provided Monday.
If there’s a silver lining,” said Smoot, “I guess that’s it.”