Executive Summary:

L.A. County’s priciest property can be found in the South Bay.

Seven oil refineries located there have a combined estimated worth of $4.8 billion, according to the county Assessor’s Office, including the value of the land, improvements, fixtures and equipment. The predominance of oil refineries and other industrial complexes among the county’s highest assessed properties is explained by the value of the fixtures and equipment located in these plants.

There were no fewer than 3,373 operating oil wells in L.A. County in 1996. The largest oil field is in Wilmington, where 19.9 million barrels of crude oil were produced in 1996 making it the state’s fifth-largest oil field.

The data from the Assessor’s Office do not reflect the recent completion of the Getty Center in Brentwood; although it appears on the List at No. 7, the property was assessed long before the structures were finished. This facility, reported to have cost $1 billion to build, will very likely dethrone the Arco Refinery as L.A. County’s highest assessed property on next year’s List.

The Pacesetter:

The Arco-Los Angeles Refinery in Carson is a familiar landmark to travelers on the San Diego (405) Freeway through the South Bay. With the ability to process 265,000 barrels of crude per day at top capacity, it is the largest refinery in California.

Originally called Richfield Oil’s Watson Refinery, the facility was built in 1937 but it was not until the merger with Atlantic Petroleum in 1966 and the subsequent discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska that the refinery took its current shape. The enormous volume of oil coming from Alaska starting in the early ’70s prompted Arco to shift its operations, moving its corporate headquarters from New York to Los Angeles and undertaking a retrofitting of the refinery in Carson which now has a 25 percent share of the Los Angeles gasoline market.

For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, the company reported refining and marketing earnings of $134 million after tax, down from $138 million for the same period last year.

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