A Well Job Done

Workers have finished resealing the Marina del Rey oil well that erupted in January

Oil well blowout

Pouring more than 2,000 cubic yards of cement over a span of nearly three months, work crews have finished sealing off the abandoned oil well
that sent mud and gas spewing in the air near Via Marina and Tahiti Way on Jan. 11.

Construction ended last Thursday — about two weeks ahead of schedule — and remaining equipment was removed Tuesday, according to the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors, which has been updating residents on progress at the site and the findings of various government agencies monitoring progress.

The 1930s oil well had been sealed to a depth of 800 feet in 1959. Now seven cement plugs seal the well to a depth of 1,500 feet. State standards call for a depth of 3,900 feet if possible, but a piece of equipment that fell into the well and could not be retrieved safely required adjustments to the work plan.

Contractors employed by the developer constructing a hotel complex on the site and supervising state agencies “did what we could to comply with [state standards] as best as possible,” Beaches and Harbors spokesperson Nicole Mooradian said. The developer must now change construction plans to ensure that county officials will be able to access the well at any time in case of emergency, she added.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health will continue to monitor air quality data at the site.

Despite initial delays in releasing public information about the status of the well, county officials have worked hard to keep locals in the loop these past several months, Mooradian said.

“We’re always mindful of the impact of the community,” she said, “… and we truly appreciate their patience.”

— Gary Walker

Paul Grover

A Long Road to Justice

Hit-and-run driver who killed Playa Vista jogger faces six years in prison

Five years, two months and 25 days after a hit-and-run driver struck and killed Playa Vista resident Paul Grover, the driver who fled the scene and evaded capture for years pled no contest to a charge of vehicular manslaughter last Tuesday at the Airport Courthouse in Westchester.

Brittnee Crawford, 28, faces up to six years in state prison at a sentencing hearing next month, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

Prosecutors say Crawford was under the influence of alcohol and speeding southbound along Lincoln Boulevard when she struck Grover near LMU Drive a short time after 4 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2014. Grover, 62, had been out on an early morning jog.

The LAPD’s Fugitive Task Force arrested Crawford and her boyfriend in Nevada in January 2017, but the case against him was dismissed in February.

“Nothing will bring Paul back, but I’m relieved that it’s finally over,” said Grover’s sister, Susan Offutt, who thanked law enforcement for sticking with the case. “I hope that young woman will turn her life around once she’s out of prison.”

— Gary Walker

Fewer Happy Returns

Local taxpayers are seeing smaller refunds this year and owing more to the IRS

Samuel B. Moses has been a tax accountant for nearly 30 years, but he recently experienced a career first: a sobbing client. When the Santa Monica CPA told a working actress that she owed the IRS $2,000 instead of the $4,000 refund she was expecting, she burst into tears.

“I told her to stop acting,” Moses recalled of the breakdown. “She replied, ‘I’m not acting.’”

His client is one of many local taxpayers unprepared for the downsides of the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which eliminated deductions for unreimbursed employee expenses — hitting workers in the arts, entertainment and wellness industries particularly hard.

The new law also changed withholding tables, which employers use to determine how much income tax to deduct from employee paychecks. As a result, workers who saw in increase in take-home pay but didn’t adjust their withholdings are seeing smaller refunds or balances due. This is especially true in Southern California, where incomes and expenses exceed the national average.

“More people are affected because they earn more and the various tax codes affect wealthy states more,” Moses explained. “The change of withholdings affected them. The
loss of the deductions affected wealthier people. So, it’s been magnified.”

Homeowners have been hit particularly hard by those changes, said Ellen B. Holden, a certified financial planner and California tax preparer in West L.A.

“Almost everybody in my neighborhood has property taxes alone of $10,000 — and that’s if you’ve owned a house a long time,” said Holden, adding that newer buyers of expensive homes likely owe more than $30,000. “Plus, you have state taxes taken out of your paycheck, so many times people have $15,000 and $40,000 in SALT taxes [State and Local Taxes].

“But this year they’re only letting people write off $10,000,” she said. “It’s a joke in the field that it’s Trump getting back at the high-tax, mainly Democratic states: California, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York — the places where people have high property taxes.”

There isn’t much taxpayers can do now, Moses said, but for tax year 2019 they can give more to charity, consider forming a corporation and most of all adjust their withholdings.

Holden, who also experienced a crying client this year, agrees: “Go to your payroll department and say you need more withheld from your paycheck.”

— Lawrence Yee