California State University, Long Beach

Signal Hill


Oil was discovered on Signal Hill, north of the City of Long Beach, in 1921. Soon more wells were brought in and the field spread into the City. As more people moved into the area to work on the wells and the developments that followed them, people in pre-existing neighborhoods worried that the field's spread might bring out of control wells, smelly sump holes and dangerous equipment near their homes. In response, Long Beach adopted regulations that limited oil development. Even as the City incorporated outlying neighborhoods that filled with the homes of oil workers and those in related industries, people on top of the hill, near the center of petroleum development, resisted. And in 1926 they incorporated their own City of Signal Hill which is completely surrounded by the City of Long Beach. Since 1926 its residents have elected their own city council and adopted their own laws. Their relationship with Long Beach remained complex as they, for example, established their own police and fire departments, but remained part of the Long Beach school district. Sometimes they have welcomed businesses that were not allowed in Long Beach but recently, as they face the need to clean up the pollution left behind by oil producers they, like Long Beach developers, have had to follow federal guidelines. Most of these interviews were conducted in the 1989 and 1991 by Kaye Briegel under contract to the City of Signal Hill. Briegel also conducted a few of them earlier as part of the CSULB project to study the Impact of the Discovery of Oil on the Development of Long Beach. Colleen Fliedner, working as a student assistant on that project, arranged for Jonathan Booth to interview himself in 1982.

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