The City of San Fernando is exploring joining the protest against the construction of the controversial, 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline by divesting itself from any possible ties.

The move came after a San Fernando resident emailed the city council requesting they publicly disapprove the project, which has moved forward despite massive protests at the site and in cities across the country.  President Donald Trump has signed executive actions streamlining the regulatory process for building oil pipelines.

The City Council wants to do more than just sending a letter and directed the City Staff to look into the possibility of  divesting from companies associated with the pipeline like similar cities on the west coast have done. The cities of Santa Monica, Davis, and Seattle all recently severed ties with Wells Fargo Bank, which financed the pipeline’s parent companies.

However, the council is not too sure how much business the City of San Fernando deals with the bank or other entities involved.

According to interim city manager Nick Kimball, Wells Fargo is currently the intermediary for the city employee’s direct deposit, as well as the broker for their vision and dental benefits. Councilmember Antonio Lopez also mentioned the Wells Fargo branch that operates on Glenoaks Boulevard.

“I think we should try to work with them, encourage them, it is a very large bank and so we can certainly make the political voice known,” Lopez said at the March 20 council meeting. He admitted that he is not aware to what extent or in what manner the bank is involved in the pipeline, but said he is willing to address the issue with them.

The pipeline gained national attention after protesters — calling themselves water protectors — occupied land near the project, hoping to impede its construction near Lake Oahe, the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The pipeline, which would carry crude oil through four states from North Dakota to Illinois and underneath the water reservoir, is set to go online in a few days.

The council agreed to draft a letter by the next meeting, and see how it can effectively protest the pipeline.

“We oppose everything they are choosing to do,” said Councilmember Sylvia Ballin. “I mean water, we should never risk contaminating anyone’s water. Flint (Michigan) is a wonderful example, and it is going to take them years and years to resolve that all based on a poor decision of a governor.” 

At the start of the meeting, Mayor Robert Gonzales posthumously honored Albert and Julián Carrillo, two U.S. Navy veterans and relatives of Gonzales. 

Gonzales commended their service during World War II, as well as their contributions to the community as owners of Carrillo’s Barbershop, which operated in the city of San Fernando since 1951.

The mayor presented an award to the brothers’ family on behalf of the city council and posed for a picture in front of the city seal. 

The warm moment quickly changed however, during public comments when real estate developer Fred Partovi made a statement notifying the council of the negative impact the building moratorium on multiple-family housing projects is having on his business.

“This moratorium that you have imposed on us is bankrupting us. We cannot work in the city, it is affecting all trades,” Partovi said. “What I want to ask you is, if you don’t like us working here, simply let us know. We’ll take our money out of this city.”

The controversial move by the city to place a moratorium on building was not on the council agenda and there was no response to Partovi’s concerns.

The council did approve Kimball’s request for $50,000 so that the current firm providing city planning consultation, Evans Brooks Associates, will continue to do so until the remainder of the fiscal year.

It also authorized the Kimball to promote current city workers to fill two temporary Community Development Department positions until a department head is employed.

On the recommendation from Ballin, the City Council approved forming an ad-hoc committee on homelessness to work with the office of Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra.