About 150 acres of wetlands in southeast Long Beach could be restored as soon as 2028 after the California Coastal Conservancy signed off on a land swap deal that’s expected to remove oil production equipment from the area faster than previously planned.

The first step will be removing oil facilities like derricks and other infrastructure currently on the lot at the corner of Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway, according to Peter Zak, a project principal with Los Cerritos Wetlands LLC, the developer the city partnered with for the land swap. Removing the equipment is expected to be done in December 2027, and restoring the wetlands could take an additional 12 to 18 months, according to Zak.

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The plan, approved by the city council in 2018, was meant to give the public access to 150 acres of land that had been used for oil production. In exchange, Los Cerritos Wetlands LLC would get a five-acre parcel owned by the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority and be allowed to drill up to 70 new wells on it.

The company also would have been allowed to drill 50 additional wells at the “Pumpkin Patch” site, which is used annually for Christmas tree and pumpkin sales near the marina.

Under a new deal, however, that drilling may never happen. The revised deal approved by the conservancy Thursday said no new wells will be built on the five-acre parcel and the developer, Los Cerritos Wetlands LLC, is evaluating whether to forgo wells on the pumpkin patch site as well.

A controversial above-ground oil pipeline that was proposed to connect the two sites has also been abandoned, according to conservancy documents.

“Over the past year, we rolled up our sleeves to come to terms on a deal that transitions 154 acres of private oil fields to beautiful coastal wetlands that can be enjoyed by everyone,” Councilmember Kristina Duggan said in a statement.

“This historic occasion not only decommissions oil wells on the site over 15 years earlier than anticipated, but it also serves as a key milestone in our City’s transition away from oil drilling and I am proud to lead this effort.”

Duggan chairs the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority and represents the area on the City Council.

Oil infrastructure sits in the wetlands area located in southeast Long Beach. Photo by Thomas R Cordova

The 150 acres of rehabilitated wetlands of wetlands at Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway are expected to include new walking trails, a visitor center and other amenities.

Originally, planners expected it to take 20 years to decommission oil operations at the site, but a new timeline projects it’ll happen 15 years sooner, meaning restoration work could start much faster.

Under the agreement approved this week, the developer will also provide a $2.2 million endowment to help with preservation efforts.

John McKeown, project CEO of the Los Cerritos Wetlands LLC, said the group is looking forward to moving things along.

One reason the developer is abandoning some of its planned oil drilling is a pending state law that was adopted in 2022 but is now the subject of a referendum vote in November.

Senate Bill 1137 created 3,200-foot buffer zones for new oil operations seeking to create distance between oil production sites and sensitive areas like homes, parks and hospitals.

Los Cerritos Wetlands LLC still plans to build an office building at the pumpkin patch site, but whether voters uphold SB-1137 in November could dictate if new wells accompany the office building.

In the years since the land swap was approved by the City Council, nearly 1,300 new homes have been approved to be built near the site, most of which would be within the proposed buffer zones.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.