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The gold rush is long over in California, but not in tiny Hermosa Beach.
This beach community, population 19,000, is virtually atop a reservoir of black gold. And early next year, voters are likely get the chance to do something that hasn't happened in California for more than three decades -- cash in on the state's vast supplies of offshore oil.
"This is an opportunity to earn four-hundred-million dollars. That is a lot of money," said former Hermosa Beach Mayor Gary Brutsch.
But others, who covet these two square miles of sun and sand, say getting into business with an oil company is inconsistent with the city's environmental conscience.
The controversy dates back to 1995, when city officials signed a deal to allow Macpherson Oil of Santa Monica to drill a well on city-owned land. Voters, however, later imposed a ban on oil drilling, causing the city to breach its contract. Facing a $750 million lawsuit, the city began negotiating a settlement.
Last month, they made a deal, negotiated by two city council members.
In an election likely early next year, after studies and language is agreed upon, voters will decide whether to lift the ban -- doing so would give the city 15 percent of all gross oil sales, and allow the school district to earn royalties of up to 20 cents on every barrel pumped. If voters defeat the measure, the city would owe the oil company $17.5 million in damages.