Thursday, July 9, 2015

When polluters and funders design a wildlife preserve's restoration plan, what do ya get?

Three Competing Visions for the 
Ballona Wetlands

Under the law in California, (the California Coastal Act), the Ballona Wetlands cannot be developed, only restored.
Here's a pretty long article on the question of what the word "restoration" means:
https://www.hcn.org/issues/47.8/the-los-angeles-wetland-wars
From High Country News, May 11, 2015

The chief spokesperson for the massive bulldozing scheme is quoted:
"historical ecology is “only a snapshot,” she says, and she doesn’t believe the wetlands have to be returned to what they were in 1850 for a restoration to be meaningful."

Luckily, this is not what the law says.
http://ballona-news.blogspot.com/2014/05/is-going-back-4000-years-ago-restoration.html

Monday, June 29, 2015

L.A. Politicians Get Sued When they Favor Concrete over New Parks for L.A

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, MONDAY JUNE 29, 2015

FOR QUESTIONS, call or text REX FRANKEL, president of the plaintiff, Friends of L.A. Clean Connected Creek to Peak Parks: 310-738-0861, or email at rexfrankel@yahoo.com



LAWSUIT FILED BY PARKLAND ADVOCATES: L.A. COUNTY SUPERVISORS APPROVE SECRET $20 BILLION NO-NEW-PARKS TAX HIKE WHICH BREAKS LONG-STANDING PARKLAND CREATION PROMISES AND WILL INSTEAD TURN EXISTING PARKS INTO CONSTRUCTION ZONES FOR MANY YEARS TO COME


The Friends of L.A. Clean Connected Creek to Peak Parks filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn L.A.'s most powerful politicians' very quiet approval of the master plan to “soak” the taxpayers and enrich engineering firms and concrete pourers as part of L.A's largest public works project.

The goals of the project are good; cleaning up the pollution and crud that flows down our rivers and creeks with every rain storm which then lands on our public beaches. This is being done in order to finally comply with the USA's Clean Water Act. However, the means chosen by our politicians to accomplish it, so far, “suck”.

Rather than give the public a choice between the bad/very expensive and the good/less expensive way to clean up water pollution and health code violations at our local beaches and creek swimming holes, Los Angeles County's Board of Supervisors on May 27th decided to endorse the bad approach and to make it virtually impossible for concerned citizens to protest this bad choice before their local political boards and city councils. Already, the L.A. City public works department, representing 40% of the land area and population of the County, has plugged its own no new parks plan into the County plan and has done it in a way to prevent public input and protest.

This lawsuit filed on Friday June 26th seeks to prevent the squeezing of the public out of the decision-making for this MASSIVE project, and to require full and meaningful informing of the public about the costs and impacts and alternatives to the politicians' favored plans.

What we have termed the “Creek to Peak” plan is the clean up and conversion of concreted creeks throughout Los Angeles County into restored park greenways with trails and bike paths which will connect L.A.'s existing ring of parks that surround our developed metropolis to our communities. This greenway plan has had many names through the years, starting first with the Olmstead Plan, https://www.flickr.com/photos/cityprojectca/sets/72157601130687757/
also the Mountains to the Sea plan and the Emerald Necklace.


READ THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS, FILED WITH THE L.A. COUNTY COURT 6/27/2015



HOW PROMISES OF MORE PARKLAND PURCHASES WERE MADE TO THE VOTERS AND TAXPAYERS OF LOS ANGELES AS PART OF THE CLEAN WATER ACT COMPLIANCE PLAN


WHAT A NATURAL RIVER AND CREEK RETORATION PLAN WOULD LOOK LIKE AND HOW IT CONNECTS TOGETHER L.A.'S EXISTING PUBLIC PARKS SYSTEM:


THE TWO COMPETING PLANS TO CLEAN UP L.A.'S RIVERS, CREEKS AND BEACHES:


L.A. COUNTY ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT STUDY: COST COMPARISON OF NATURAL VS. INDUSTRIAL PLANS TO CLEAN UP L.A'S WATER POLLUTION PROBLEMS ( hint: natural costs half as much!!!):


-----------------------------------END------------------------------------

Thursday, June 18, 2015

$20 billion tax-hiking No New Parks Plan is Ok'd by State Board

State Water Board OK's L.A. County's Stormwater Capture Plans


6/17/2015 http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-stormwater-runoff-20150617-story.html

excerpts:

Some environmentalists strongly opposed the plan, complaining that the changes did not go far enough. And cash-strapped municipalities also objected, saying that they could not afford the expense of new stormwater infrastructure.
"The revised draft order represents a gross abuse of power and an abdication of responsibility," said Steve Fleischli, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council water program.
Fleischli said the approved rules allowed municipalities in certain watershed categories to avoid the issue of rainwater reuse and also degraded the state's ability to enforce water quality. He said he feared the regulations would allow some cities to plan water capture systems without ever having to build them.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has argued that stormwater capture could potentially provide more than 253,000 acre-feet of water for Los Angeles County after every inch of rainfall — or nearly 40% of the city of Los Angeles' annual water use.

...While government organizations such as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works voiced support for the revised permit, a number of municipalities said they were alarmed by the potential cost.
Gardena City Councilman Dan Medina said compliance with the permit threatened to "bankrupt our city and probably force it into a disincorporation."
Medina said a consultant had told the city that belonging to an enhanced watershed management program could cost the city $12 million to $24 million a year.
"The city's general fund is only about $50 million a year," Medina said. "Nearly 80% of that goes to public safety."

...Board Chair Felicia Marcus told municipal officials that the estimates seemed too high....

 -----------------------------------

SEE THIS DOCUMENT, AT PAGE 3, PARAGRAPH 5 FOR LA COUNTY'S OWN ESTIMATE OF THE $20 BILLION COST
http://file.lacounty.gov/bos/supdocs/93934.pdf

Friday, June 12, 2015

Annenberg Listens to the other side (or at least does what we told them to do, whether they care what we think)

Annenberg Never Needed to Build Massive Private Complex on Ballona Wetlands Preserve

By Rex Frankel

BIG NEWS for June 2015: I've just learned that the Annenberg Foundation has made a deal to locate their HQ and animal adoption complex in the middle of the Playa Vista office park in a developed area. This is a big turnaround from their previous plans to locate in the fragile Ballona Wetlands wildlife habitat area which taxpayers spent $140 million to purchase in 2003.

The proposal to massively alter the Ballona Wetlands with fleets of earthmovers in order to do what some wrongly called a "restoration"project has seen a lot of the wind in its sails disappear recently

In the last year, the state bureaucrats who secretly negotiated the deal 3 years ago to turn over a major chunk of the Ballona Wetlands State Preserve to the private Annenberg Foundation have all left the state agencies and are now off the public payroll.

The director of the project resigned and set up a private website to advocate for the massive bulldozing project still: that website is empty. See it: https://accessballona.wordpress.com/

we wrote more on this here:
http://ballona-news.blogspot.com/2014/12/sometimes-money-is-not-enough.html

Who is actually running the project currently is a bit of a mystery, as this ad posted by the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust in the Argonaut Newspaper June 11th asks:

Regardless of who is in charge, we continue working to keep the Ballona Wetlands restoration proposals easy on wildlife and historically accurate, for recreation and wildlife, not privateers and polluters.



A public hearing by an L.A. City Associate Zoning Administrator is scheduled for July 30, 2015

See their brochure:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5SGRAMv8RXubERzWmVwbFpza1E/view?usp=sharing

Monday, May 18, 2015

High Speed Hearing Endorses Bad L.A. Creeks Plan

UPDATE: we got to speak after waiting 5 hours, for 2 minutes, to protest the new $20 Billion L.A. water pollution cleanup plan which was originally supposed to include restored river and creek parks but now is an engineering firm's pipe dream.

MORE:

------------------------------------------------

If you support expanded parks from our Creeks to our Peaks, come to the L.A. County Board of Supervisor's meeting on Tuesday May 26th and tell them to Keep their promise of new parks as part of the L.A. stormwater cleanup plan.

The plan is a near complete reversal of longtime plans to turn concreted creeks throughout L.A. into restored and expanded parts of the park system, instead largely relying on turning existing public parks and playgrounds into pollution catch basins. This crummy plan also features a massive tax hike which county planners are trying to sneak past all of us to avoid a rebellion like occurred in 2013. For what happened in 2013, read this: L.A. County to revise proposed parcel tax to fight polluted runoff

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy wrote this in their comment letter: "There seems to be a bias against projects on private land..." in the plan. The SMMC supports land acquisition to create new  "multi-benefit stormwater cleanup parks"  that include wildlife habitat. They stated: . We "recommend inclusion of these types of acquisition projects and this approach in the plan. "




For the hearing notice and my comment letter and other background:

http://ballona-news.blogspot.com/search/label/Restoring%20and%20Unpaving%20Local%20Open%20Spaces%20to%20Clean%20Up%20Santa%20Monica%20Bay%20Beaches

Saturday, May 16, 2015

CREEKS TO PEAKS

WHAT L.A.'S PARK SYSTEM COULD LOOK LIKE -- IF L.A.'S CONCRETED CREEKS WERE TURNED INTO PARKS

TELL L.A. LEADERS TO KEEP THEIR PARKS PROMISE!

Public hearing is May 26th by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in Downtown L.A.

http://dpw.lacounty.gov/lacfcd/ewmppeir/



Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sometimes money is not enough...

the Annenberg Foundation Will Not "AccessBallona"

12/4/2014...
the big news in the L.A. papers yesterday for us Ballona lovers is that the ranks of supporters of bulldozing the Ballona Wetlands keeps shrinking:


HOW THE PRESS REPORTED IT:

the Daily Breeze




and then have a look at the empty pro-bulldozing website which is sponsored by the former president of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, the ex-head of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission who has pushed the mega-bulldozing scheme since 2008, the Playa Vista rep on the Westchester Neighborhood Council, and a board member of of PV JOBS, Playa Vista's charity: https://accessballona.wordpress.com/

(click on image to enlarge)


HOW WE SEE IT:

Yesterday, the billionaire heiress to the TV Guide fortune pulled back the $50 million lifeline she had offered to the project 2 years ago, which she had negotiated in secret with the very secretive State managers of the land. The cash was offered to help "restore" the land in exchange for the TV-Guidester's private foundation (ie., tax dodge) getting to build a supermarket-sized nature center and office complex for her group. The State managers took over the land in 2004, after the taxpayers bought 600 acres from the greedy developers who planned to pave it for 35 years. The State folks invited involvement of the public, yes, You and Me, but in practically no time they started meeting in secret and far away places and hatched a plan in 2008 to use the wetlands to solve problems of local polluters (calling it "natural filtration"), and to serve the non-natural needs of at least two real estate developers and later, the TV Guide charity. They and their hired propagandists went to great lengths to convince the public that their project was a legally allowable "restoration". The problem here is that you cannot restore something to what it never was. My guess is that the billionairess figured this out and did not want to wait through years of litigation which I and others promised them.

Two owners ago, the Ballona Wetlands' landlord laughed at us when we told them they needed to save at least 70% of the land as natural open space, as other big developers in Southern California had agreed to do, if they wanted to convert some of this area's last natural land into condos, shopping and offices. Soon after that, we and others sued them numerous times for violations of the law. By paying their lawyer bills instead of the mortgage for land purchased at the top of the market, their lender Chase Manhattan bank was forced to seize the land and write off half the value. A new owner walked in and salvaged the project, and also agreed to sell 2/3rds of the land to the State of California for the huge price of $140 million. They then proceeded to continue the condoization of the land they kept. When they sought more condos we sued them again and kept them stopped for 8 years until 2012. The outcome of this all is that 13,000 condos has been cut to 6000. Numerous ten to sixty story highrises have been cut to mostly 4 stories. Traffic generation was cut to 40% of the original proposal. Finally: We saved 70% of the land, a fact used as a selling point now by the developers themselves. And finally, the company CEO told the local press that over the last 20 years, his company and 2 predecessors had lost $600 million trying to get their way. 

The moral of this story, which likely has been figured out by the TV Guidesters, is: rich people can buy off politicians and some fake friends of the public, but when the average folks stand up to the greedy, the greedy may win a few battles and get some of what they want, but they'll also likely walk away with empty wallets.

Rex Frankel

Monday, September 29, 2014

comments on L.A. City and County urban runoff cleanup plans (ie., wetland pollution plans)

Get Your Comments in Today by 5 pm (September 29th) on Plan to Clean up L.A.'s Beaches: hint, the devil is in the details, which so far do not exist

Comments are due today to gbegell@dpw.lacounty.gov


sorry for the lateness, but I'm "swamped".


Just copy and paste if you agree.


the project planners' websites are here:


...Rex


-------------------------------------------------------


COMMENTS ON NOTICE OF PREPARATION FOR DRAFT PROGRAM EIR FOR ENHANCED WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS FOR L.A. COUNTY


September 29, 2014, 1:30 pm


From Rex Frankel, director, Ballona Ecosystem Education Project,


I understand why no one but myself attended the NOP hearing on September 9th in Marina Del Rey. You have no specific projects to analyze for environmental impacts. You are attempting to analyze the environmental impact of words, not specific actions. It is impossible to analyze the impacts of no stated physical projects, just as it is impossible to analyze those unstated projects’ impacts on the environmental setting, ie., the proper baseline, because you have no specific locations for these unspecified projects. Thus all you can say is to analyze the entire county. The two most essential parts of an environmental analysis are missing here: specific projects and specific sites. You have the process all backwards here, and thus, commenting on this NOP in any specific manner is impossible.


Some background: In 2002, local governments settled lawsuits and agreed to consent decrees and promised to stop violations of bacterial health codes at our beaches by 2021. This agreement gave the public agencies an extension beyond the original deadline of 2013 but only if the projects created new parkland and river corridors that could catch and clean water before it fouled the beaches.


In 2006, L.A. City proposed its first big plan under this agreement, an Implementation Plan for the Santa Monica Bay Beaches watersheds. This plan was sent back for redrafting by the RWQCB as it only reached 2% of its target and thus, would not accomplish the goal in the consent decree.


Also in 2006, L.A. city proposed the Integrated Resource Plan which mainly focused on building 25 Hyperion-style urban runoff treatment plants which would have cost the average homeowner ratepayer $400 a month. This plan went nowhere.


In 2012, the County Supervisors tried to quietly approve a $300 million per year property tax hike to build a non-existent list of runoff cleansing and capturing projects. Howls of opposition arose and that plan went nowhere. The public wanted to know what they were paying for.


Now, you are finally starting to design the cleanup plan. But how can you ask the public to weigh in on the scope of the environmental analysis of that plan, when your description of that plan contains no specifics? Your stated plan to defer the environmental analysis of specific project impacts to when each one is up for approval thus ignores the cumulative impacts and therefore is “piecemealing”, by starting major momentum of a project that is composed of many necessary parts, yet deferring analysis and the controversy to a multitude of separate EIRs and CEQA documents and public hearings, all the while public input is diffused. We never get to weigh in on whether we like the complete plan because the Program EIR has no specifics to arouse concern and the real project discussion is delayed until much later in a way that requires massive efforts by the public to keep track of the success of the big plan.


The people who will pay for this plan want to see the specifics before you raise our taxes to pay for it. We want expanded and unpaved river corridor parks. We do not want the plan to include converting existing wetlands and wildlife habitat into pollution dumps and sumps. We want what we were promised, not a lame compromise that puts the cleanup burden on existing public lands, parks and house front yards. We want a complete plan for us to judge whether it will accomplish its promises and goals before you produce an EIR, not the other way around.


Please put me on the notification list for all actions relating to this project. Thank you.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

is going back 4000 years ago a restoration?

What is the Correct Definition of a Wetland Restoration?


This website might help:

the federal EPA's website features this definition of "restoration" as stated by the National Research Council (NRC). In its 1992 report, Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems, NRC defined restoration as the "return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance."
http://water.epa.gov/type/wetlands/restore/defs.cfm
Definitions & Distinctions | Restoration | US EPA

The question is what year do you return to? 200 years ago or 4000 years ago?

I agree in part with Ruth Lansford (founder of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands) that some things cannot be changed, such as there will always be roads cutting through the area; there will most likely always be polluted water in Ballona Creek; there are older low-lying neighborhoods in Playa del Rey that we need to avoid flooding, just as there are new condos at Playa Vista that are served by roads that could be flooded by future sea level rise. So in the state's plan for flooding the wetlands full-time comes secondary impacts that may affect all of us in the pocketbook.

That is part of the controversy in the proposals for restoring the Ballona Wetlands. The basic engineering in the State's "preferred" plan mimics not the conditions of "prior to disturbance", which logically is about 200 years ago when the wetlands were a low lying river delta region which had only a limited connection to the ocean except in winter, when floods would break through the sand bar. Instead it mimics a full time always-connected to the ocean bay-like area which last occurred here 4000 years ago. To do this is estimated to cost $100 million.

To see maps of the difference between 200 and 4000 years ago, see this link:


 

These differences are described in the State's existing conditions report, which is posted here:


https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5SGRAMv8RXub2hjTzFjN0FEMVk/view?usp=sharing


The difference between these two is that 200 years ago, we had three natural habitat types: saltwater, freshwater and upland wildflower areas, and that 4000 years ago, the area was mostly ocean water, like is proposed to be the dominant feature in the State's proposal. As the site will now be mostly wet, most of the long-used walking paths will be eliminated except for a trail around the perimeter.

Some have said that the state's plan seeks to replace the lagoons at Ballona which were open to the ocean all year-round that were lost to development. 
For a map showing this:
https://goo.gl/photos/CYhEZFg6T4KwNY8S6



I would agree that some of the western lagoon areas that are still present in the Ballona region (Ballona Lagoon, the Grand Canal, Del Rey Lagoon) were usually open to the sea year round, at least based on the historical USGS maps. These are owned by the City of Los Angeles. Additional lagoons shown on this map are now part of the Marina Del Rey harbor, which, contrary to popular belief, actually has fish and seals and other creatures. So it also functions as a wetland habitat. However, most of the state-owned lands at the Ballona Wetlands were not lagoons 200 years ago as mother nature had filled them in. Thus the state's proposal to turn them into lagoons is not historically accurate.

As page 17 of the 8/18/2006 Ballona Existing conditions report says:
"2,000 to 200 years ago - Fluvial sediments continued to fill the lagoon. Deposited sediments resulted in coastal plain accretion in a southwesterly direction and saltmarsh expansion west towards the inlet. Altschul et al. (2005) inferred that a double barrier at the inlet formed about 1,000 years ago as a result of the sediment-rich environment and that extensive mudflats also formed within the lagoon. By 200 years ago, sediment accumulation almost entirely eliminated the lagoon and formed a complex of salt and freshwater marshes, ephemeral freshwater pools and sandy islands behind the barrier. At this stage the marshes extended south to El Segundo Sand Dunes and Del Rey Bluffs, north beyond Ballona Lagoon and Venice Canals and east as far as the confluence of the Ballona and Centinela Creeks."

In order to create the state proposal, 20 feet or more of dirt must be scooped out of 100's of acres of the marsh, and it would be dumped on the south side along Jefferson and Culver Blvds. rising 10 to 15 feet above these roads. These might be very conveniently beneficial to Playa Vista's condos as Jefferson and Culver are in a tsunami zone and tall (and un-natural) earthen walls would prevent flooding there. But should our state-owned wetlands be filled in so as to prevent flooding their condos which they built in a flood plain when they must have known that climate change, or whatever you call it, was causing the threat of sea level rise?

The dirt would also be dumped in the location preferred by the Annenberg Foundation for their supermarket-sized nature center complex near the 90 freeway, giving them an unnatural hill that will undoubtedly give them an ocean-view site where there is not one now.

The state plan also features removal of the levees along Ballona Creek, which while they are not-natural, this would allow the heavily polluted water in the creek to pour into the protected wetlands, leading to a different and worse non-natural result. The cost of cleaning up the water in Ballona Creek is estimated at $3 billion, and that is not mentioned in the $100 million cost estimates of a restoration plan that removes the Ballona Creek levees. This is a good reason to not remove the levees.

So ultimately, the state's plan features an unnatural deep ocean bay filled with urban polluted street drainage and two areas of unnatural hills. I am sure that engineering firms would love this plan but it is not historically accurate. So it's hard to call it a restoration. This is why I support keeping the levees, and restoring the wetlands to a marshy delta concept that is first, more like what the area looked like "prior to disturbance" when development of this area began and second, it requires less land alteration and habitat destruction with bulldozers and will thus cost much less. Finally, it preserves more of our trails and existing wildlife biodiversity.

To see an artist's rendering of a marshy delta restoration:
https://goo.gl/photos/edDobu8JsmFzAe5p9



...Rex Frankel

Friday, May 9, 2014

Destroy our Ballona Wetlands in order to save them?

Do the Ballona Wetlands Need a Big Fix?

Frequently we read letters in the local press from the new directors of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands who say the wetlands need major bulldozing by the owners, the State department of fish and wildlife, to fix them, or they'll "die". Source: http://www.ballonafriends.org/blog/2013/12/restore-ballona-wetlands-now/   

12/12/2013: "Continuing to drag out the environmental review process only allows the Wetlands to further degrade (threatening species) and makes it more expensive to restore. Second, we are fighting “Tea Party” type groups that don’t want the government to do anything and consequently would effectively let the Wetlands die."

Really? 

In 1981: "We, (and this includes the biologists who run our monthly walks) pointed out how rich and varied the wetlands are in their present state, that they are NOT severely degraded....and that even if not one cent were spent on them, they would continue to serve as an irreplaceable resource, both for wildlife and for people." Ruth Lansford, chair of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, June 1981, Letter to the L.A Times

It certainly sounds like the Friends didn't buy the claims of advocates of restoration by bulldozing. In the 1980's, the Friends were the sole environmental group standing up to protect the wetlands. In 1989, the Friends made a deal with the landowner, Playa Vista, to save more of the land. Unfortunately, the deal required them to repudiate others who disagreed with the deal. 

"In 1994, MTP demanded more. Friends of Ballona Wetlands were asked to sign a supplement to their 1990 settlement agreement. Under the new terms, MTP can require the Friends to appear before a public agency and disavow any statement (made by a group that has at least one current or former member of the Friends) that "criticizes the Wetlands Restoration Plan or states that the Revised Playa Vista Plan will have an adverse impact on the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands." After the Friends denounce the criticism, the supplement requires the group to say that its position is unequivocally to the contrary."from the L.A. Weekly 11/24/1995

In 2003, our state's taxpayers handed over $140 million to Playa Vista to double the size of the preserve saved by the Friends in 1989. Did the Friends retire, happy to save the wetlands that did not really need to be restored? No.

Fast forward to 2014: the organization's board of directors and managers are almost entirely new, with several being current or former top employees of Playa Vista. Others work for wetland restoration engineering firms. http://www.ballonafriends.org/about_directors.html

So now, it is intriguing to compare the Friends' revised views on the health of the wetlands:

"we know, based on detailed surveys and the professional judgments of many of our members, that the Wetlands have been severely degraded"

The Friends are very proud of their partnership with the project managers at the State bureaucracy. The State's restoration newsletters feature a prominent plug for the Friends. And on the Ballona Wetlands restoration website created by the State's project managers are several large photos of trash and homeless camps, which creates an impression that the wetlands are a mess in need of this major bulldozing job. Source: http://ballonarestoration.org/need/

This website is jointly run by the State and the Annenberg Foundation, according to the State's newsletter titled Baywire (April 2014 edition)

And while the Friends support the Annenberg Foundation's proposed supermarket-sized nature center and pet adoption facility on top of the reworked Ballona Wetlands, they have said this previously: "Feral cats, or free-roaming pets, hunt and kill birds such as the endangered Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, and the South Coast Marsh Vole. Allowing access of these animals and pets into a protected Ecological Reserve is both harmful and illegal."
source: http://www.ballonafriends.org/blog/2012/09/dumping-your-pets-at-ballona-is-illegal-irresponsible-and-cruel/

It is our opinion that the definition of "restoration" used by the advocates of major bulldozing is so flexible that it is junk science, all attempting to justify a project that is the most expensive for the taxpayers, and the most profitable for engineering firms. Given that we have shown already that the State's proposal is not historically accurate (http://ballona-news.blogspot.com/2012/08/first-big-public-hearing-on-ballona.html), and unnecessary, and ecologically unsound, we hope that those who claim the wetlands are "dead" give it a rest.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why is Playa Vista drying up the Public-owned wetlands at Ballona?

4/11/2014--California Coastal Commission Rejects Claims of No Wrongdoing by Playa Capital LLC, California Department of Fish & Wildlife

For years we have battled the public statements of the Playa Vista developers that the wetlands were too dry and degraded to be worth saving. Thus development of thousands of condominiums would be allowed under state wetland protection law. Later, after the State of California bought the land, we have had to combat the plans of the State's bulldozer-loving bureaucracy which believes that the only way to fix these degraded wetlands is to massively remove virtually the entire site, and drown most of it under deep water, instead of taking a gentler approach and restoring the historic shallow creeks on the land, thereby protecting a mix of water and dry land and a balanced ecosystem of wetness for fish and birds and dry land for mammals and reptiles and butterflies.

So we have viewed with suspicion the revelation that Playa Vista actually installed a drainage system with no permits over 10 years ago that dries out a large area of their former land now owned by the state, seeing it as part of larger scheme to make the land either safe for development or so dry that a really drastic and destructive restoration plan is required.

See the Press release from the Grassroots Coalition:
http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20140429007307/en/Grassroots-Coalition-Announces----California-Coastal-Commission#.U2FE0XaRJiY


For Coastal Commission 's 4/11/2014 letter: 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5SGRAMv8RXuaGxobDljTnFoUmM/edit?usp=sharing

More information:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First Big Public hearing on Ballona Wetlands "restoration"

NOW'S THE TIME TO SAY YOU WANT BALLONA PROTECTED, NOT RIPPED OUT AND TURNED INTO SOMETHING IT NEVER WAS

RESPOND TO THE MASSIVELY DESTRUCTIVE STATE PLAN FOR BALLONA

Scoping Meeting Date, Time, and Location:

A public scoping meeting to receive input on the scope of the DEIS/EIR will be conducted on Thursday August 16, 2012, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Fiji Gateway entrance to the Ballona Wetlands (13720 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, across from Fisherman's Village and Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors).

ON THURSDAY, SUPPORT SAVING OUR TRAILS, KEEPING POLLUTION OUT OF THE WETLANDS, AND "RESTORING" THAT SERVES ALL THE WILDLIFE THAT IS THERE NOW!  SUPPORT BEEP'S ALTERNATIVE VISION PLAN! (see picture at bottom of this page)


Comments may also be submitted until October 23rd, 2012 to DONNA.MCCORMICK@icfi.com.
Or mailed to:
Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project
C/O Donna McCormick
1 Ada, Suite 100
Irvine, CA  92816


THE STATE'S PROPOSAL INCLUDES: 

--Removal of most long-used public trails

--Removal of the Ballona Creek levees and the pouring of billions of gallons of polluted street drainage into the Ballona Wetlands

--Permanent discharge of fill (dirt) within 43.5 acres of non-wetland waters of the U.S. (435,000 cubic yards) and within 65 acres of wetland waters of the U.S. (600,000 cubic yards),

--Conversion of a balanced ecosystem featuring three rare and fragile wildlife habitats into nearly entirely an arm of the ocean filled with polluted urban street drainage


FOR FULL NOTICE AND DETAILS:


MY OPINION, (by Rex Frankel, director of the Ballona Ecosystem Education Project --BEEP):

There are miles of trails in these wetlands which the State wants to eliminate. They say the public will damage the land by walking on it, yet they want to unleash massive bulldozers which will do massively worse damage in the name of "restoration". Thus, the State has declared the entire area closed to the public. I believe this is because the state wants to keep the public from seeing what a thriving natural habitat it is, believing we then won't counter their scare stories that the place is a disaster and must all be ripped out and replaced with the bureaucracy's non-historically accurate vision.

NOT HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?
It's not a restoration because it won't be returned to what it was before man arrived here. The State plan takes it back not 200 years but 4000 years to when it was an arm of the ocean and home to only sea creatures--what scientists call a monoculture. But 4000 years ago it was clean, not filled with urban pollution. (See this video presentation by Dr. Travis Longcore of USC explaining how the history of Southern California wetlands contradicts the State's preferred vision for Ballona restoration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1viLaZaVhQY)
Now, just like 200 years ago when man arrived, Ballona is a biodiverse ecosystem and has three natural habitat types: salt marsh, freshwater marsh and wildflower and sage covered uplands. Under the State plan, two of those three natural habitats and their wildlife will be mostly eliminated.  So it's not a restoration to what it was when man arrived, but a return to a date that happens to coincide with their plan to to turn it into an all polluted urban street drainage dump, while now it is protected from L.A. 's pollution by the creek levees. Yes, the levees along the creek are not natural but serve an important natural purpose, which is to keep all the urban trash and grease and dog poop from flowing from the creek into the clean wetlands. Given that L.A. is here to stay, to rip out the levees with no plan to clean up the creek first is a recipe for disaster.

A POLLUTION DUMP?

Why does the State bureaucracy want to dump L.A.'s polluted urban street drainage into the Ballona Wetlands? Because they are under a court order to comply with a federal law that requires the massive L.A. urban region to stop allowing its storm drain system from funneling urban pollution to our ocean and beaches. But rather than planning and creating their long-promised upstream treatment system (see posts on this here:  http://ballona-news.blogspot.com/search/label/Restoring%20and%20Unpaving%20Local%20Open%20Spaces%20to%20Clean%20Up%20Santa%20Monica%20Bay%20Beaches
), the Ballona Wetlands, which lie between L.A. and the ocean,  have instead been chosen to be sacrificed as a massive pollution filtration system.

The State's plan is, to put it bluntly, just crazy! We need a plan that protects the three existing wildlife habitats and our trails AND allows some re-wetting of appropriate portions of the wetlands, and brings in clean water from the ocean--like it was 200 years ago. Every time we suggest this to the squadron of state bureaucrats, they say sorry, we've made up our minds. Well the public is speaking out and we want a new plan!

ON THURSDAY, SUPPORT SAVING OUR TRAILS, KEEPING POLLUTION OUT OF THE WETLANDS, AND "RESTORING" THAT SERVES ALL THE WILDLIFE THAT IS THERE NOW!

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WE HAVE THREE CHOICES FOR THE BALLONA WETLANDS:

LEAVE IT LIKE IT IS TODAY.

DO THE MASSIVE STATE BULLDOZING PLAN.

OR FIND SOMETHING IN BETWEEN THOSE TWO.


BELOW--BALLONA WETLANDS TODAY--ok, it's drier than it was 200 years ago due to road construction which blocked the ocean from getting to it and it has problems with trash dumping and non-native weeds. But it has huge areas of clean natural wildlife habitat that with a sensitive and non-destructive plan could be easily restored to its pre-urban L.A. glory days.



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BELOW--BALLONA WETLANDS UNDER THE PREFERRED STATE PLAN
The levees that now keep trash, grease and dog doo out of the wetlands would be removed and all this will flow straight into our fragile wetlands.


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OR BELOW--A VISION WE SUPPORT THAT IS MORE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE, KEEPS POLLUTION OUT OF THE WETLANDS AND PROTECTS OUR TRAILS

BEEP'S ALTERNATIVE BALLONA PLAN


CLICK ON ABOVE IMAGE FOR HI-RESOLUTION VERSION


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A new lawsuit is filed over Playa Vista's last phase...

PLAYA VISTA GETS CITY OK TO BREAK UP LARGE PARKS INTO PUBLIC-UNFRIENDLY MINI PARKS; LAWSUIT FILED

To read the lawsuit complaint, filed July 10th:
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B5SGRAMv8RXuTllxSFZ4S29nSTQ



Monday, May 28, 2012

Baldwin Hills park-- meeting on new 5 acre nature center

COME PLAN YOUR NEW COMMUNITY NATURE CENTER AT THE BALDWIN HILLS


WEDNESDAY MAY 30TH FROM 7 TO 9PM


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

some sad news, yet we count our blessings.

CA Supreme Court declines to take our case--so our legal battle over the last phase of Playa Vista has ended

4/4/2012--Dear Friends,
We are sad to report that the California Supreme Court has declined to take our case over the second and final 111 acre phase of the Playa Vista development in the Ballona wetlands area. Our case over this last phase was filed in 2004, and in 2007 we were successful in overturning the plan which totaled 2600 condos and 300,000 square feet of shopping center and offices. The state’s Appeals court called the developer’s environmental impact disclosure documents “dishonest” numerous times. This is because Playa Vista’s lawyer and these documents covered up the true nature of the project: to award a massive $300 million gift of development rights for land upon which this developer had traded away their development rights in order to build their first mega city in their Phase 1 project.

The City’s own 1993 approval documents for Phase 1 specified that one of the “benefits” to the public from approval of Phase 1 was the “elimination” of the remaining development rights on the rest of their land. Unfortunately, in the opinion of this court, our state’s environmental laws allow the developer to fix the huge errors we discovered with a little paperwork correction, and they allow the City Council to then ignore the impacts of the actual project once they are revealed.

So, Playa Vista has been awarded the rights to build on the rest of their land. BEEP has challenged their development plans since 1985 and, despite this court loss, our work has resulted in 70% of the original 1000 acre site being saved as wetlands, wildlife habitat and parks. The original car traffic totals from their project have been reduced from over 200,000 more cars a day to under 80,000. The total amount of condos has been reduced from over 13,000 to 6100.


A project that was seen as a “done deal” has been made a lot less offensive through our work and that of our partners.

Some of L.A.’s biggest developers have wracked up hundreds of millions in losses (at least $600 million) in trying to get around the community opposition. As the president of the Playa Vista company said in 2004, "Would these guys get together in a room and do it again? They would say 'No.'"

We at BEEP are proud of our work, and, yes, we would fight this battle again.

We will continue watching over the future restoration plans for the saved Ballona Wetlands preserve, by the new owners, the State of California Department of fish and game, and we urge you to visit the wetlands sometime, or attend the Wednesday evening hikes at local nature spots led by our president, Rex Frankel, which are listed here: http://lameetuphikes.blogspot.com


BEEP’s next project is posting our massive environmental research and local history library on the internet so future developers looking to wreck natural treasures in Los Angeles will see the battle they face.

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A LITTLE BACKGROUND:

http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/case/dockets.cfm?dist=2&doc_id=1975009&doc_no=B231965

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http://radio-weblogs.com/0138798/stories/2004/07/02/playaVistaPresidentRevealsFinancialTroubles.html

Los Angeles Business Journal, Jan 19, 2004 by Danny King

Will Playa Vista's big-time investment group, made up of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Oaktree Capital Management, finally make any money on this deal? Playa Vista President Steve Soboroff expects the return to be modest on what's estimated to be a $1.2 billion investment by the time construction wraps, probably no sooner than 2010.

"Would these guys get together in a room and do it again? They would say 'No,'" said Soboroff. "Will they get any sort of return on their money? De minimis, but that's because everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong."

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Playa Vista: Wetlands Development is a Financial Quagmire... for the developer

July 13, 2006

The head of Playa Vista, Steve Soborrof says his project has lost $600 million for its investors...see the last paragraph in this story from the Santa Monica Mirror in 2006:

http://ballona-news.blogspot.com/2008/03/playa-vista-financial-quagmire-july-13.html

"Panel moderator David Abel put the key question: Can Playa Vista serve as a model for other developments? Can it be replicated? Soboroff said that the project had produced $600 million in losses to three companies and taken 20 years, all because people thought of it as a real estate project instead of a public policy project.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ballona Bulldozing Backers seek $6 million from State

FRIENDS,

A local public hearing by the state's Coastal Conservancy has been scheduled for this Thursday, January 19th at 1 PM at the Baldwin Hills Overlook park located on Jefferson Blvd for the request for $6.5 million to do engineering studies of yet another alternative plan for the "restoration" of the Ballona Wetlands, which was purchased by the state's taxpayers in 2003. This new plan has not been discussed at any public meeting before and only came across my desk thanks to the Google-Alerts system. It's almost like the backers of bulldozing Ballona don't want us to come to this hearing.

I say "restoration" because it involves massively bulldozing out much of the existing wetlands and upland wildflower/coastal sagebrush areas and replacement of it with whatever the L.A. Harbor department and others not from our area are dreaming about putting here. The L.A. Harbor department wants to massively dredge out the existing healthy and functioning habitats at Ballona to replace healthy habitats they want to destroy in San Pedro as part of harbor expansion plans. Rather than buy land to expand the Ballona preserve, they would simply "improve" Ballona and not save any more lands for wildlife habitat.

We advocate a slow, community-planned restoration of the Ballona Wetlands, not an industrial scale bulldozing operation that wastes million of dollars and only benefits massive engineering firms.


And to read BEEP's views on the restoration proposals, on page 4 of the Fall 2011 newsletter:
http://ballonacreek.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/bcrnews31.pdf

PLEASE COME TO THIS HEARING AND DEMAND THAT ANY RESTORATION PLAN REFLECT WHAT THE LOCAL COMMUNITY AND EXISTING USERS OF OUR HIKING TRAILS WANT, NOT WHAT OUTSIDE WETLAND DESTROYERS WANT.

I have attached the staff report and the latest map. If they don't come through, they are at the following web-link:

STAFF REPORT:

LATEST MAP:

Here is the agenda for the Coastal Conservancy Hearing:

Also, to see a chronology of the various evolving proposals by the State's managers since 2008, click here:


--Rex Frankel, director, Ballona Ecosystem Education Project (BEEP)
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Finally, for those looking to know more, here are some background reports I recently posted that show the natural and historical value of the Ballona Wetlands as they are.

PHASE 1 DEIR STUDIES OF A-B-C-D, FROM 1991

COMPLETE DRAFT JOHN CLARK STUDY FROM MAY 1979, FOR A-B-C- AND WESTERN AREA D

EXCERPTS OF THE FINAL JOHN CLARK STUDY, JUNE 1979

SCHREIBER STUDY FROM 1981, PARCELS A-B-C, FROM 1981

A SUMMARY OF ALL THESE STUDIES:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Smoking gun" documents show that Ballona Wetlands developer dealt away their rights to build more

Should a 55,000 car a day project by the Ballona Wetlands get to expand with another 24,000 cars a day?

No. In fact. Playa Vista traded away the right to develop more condos, BEEP’s lawsuit will show.


CONTACT: Rex Frankel, director, Ballona Ecosystem Education Project

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August 17, 2010

Dear Supporters of saving all of the Ballona natural open spaces:

Should we allow the Playa Vista development to increase its impacts by another 50%?

3 years ago we beat Playa Vista and its owners, the notorious Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs, in a landmark case over their 24,000 cars a day, 111 acre “Village at Playa Vista” proposed city which is located nearby the Ballona Wetlands next to historical Centinela Creek. We proved, despite the denials of city officials, that Playa Vista had no rights to build the project, and had falsified their environmental impact report to claim that they instead had massive long-ago-approved development rights and thus, their project was creating no new impact.

The Los Angeles Appeals Court saw through this smoke-screen and agreed with us, slamming the project in a 100 page opinion and issuing an injunction to halt all construction of the proposed mini-city of 2600 condos and a shopping center.

Since that victory, this developer returned to city hall, seeking to get around the Appeals Court’s ruling, and not surprisingly, the L.A. City Council members gave away the store again earlier this year. That leads us to our new lawsuit, for which the opening brief was filed on August 16th..

What our first lawsuit showed was that Playa Vista has no massive development rights on this land. What our new lawsuit shows is WHY Playa Vista has no massive development rights and why the L.A. City Council cannot simply change a few phrases in an environmental impact report and again hand over $300 million in massive development rights to them.

Simply put, the approval of the first 350 acre part of the Playa Vista project in 1993 included the promised benefit to the surrounding community that if the developer in the first phase could build 3200 condos and 3.2 million square feet of office and retail space, and the city gave Playa Vista several hundred million of dollars in tax exempt housing and infrastructure bonds and discounts on city fees, plus $30 million to build and widen roads for Playa Vista’s benefit, that PV would give up the right to build just under another 2 million square feet of office and retail space. This trade-off, described as a part of the benefits of the PV 1993 project, was not well-publicized at the time but we found it in the City’s approval documents.

This trade off is like a contractual exchange between the developer and the residents of Los Angeles. Every first year law student knows that when two parties make a contract, and one side (the residents of Los Angeles) fully performs (PV gets to build what they want and gets all the taxpayer subsidized handouts), it is a breach of contract when Playa Vista refuses to perform their part of the bargain back to us (the agreement not to try to build even more).

What Goldman Sachs and their lawyers are attempting to do is convert these allegedly “unused” and “available” rights to build 2 million square feet of office and retail into 2600 condominiums and a shopping center. The crux of their argument is that when they said “eliminate” 2 million square feet, they meant “relocate” the 2 million square feet to the rest of their land near Centinela Avenue, which they call the “Village” site.

What this means to residents of Los Angeles who sit every day in traffic jams is that when Playa Vista was allowed in the 1990’s to build a massive city on L.A.’s last flat privately-owned open space and also given huge-taxpayer funded handouts by our City Council, this developer made promises to get this deal. Our lawsuit seeks to enforce those promises.


To read the lawsuit brief:
https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B5SGRAMv8RXuYmVlYmM3ZjgtODBmMS00YzJkLWI4YTItYTc2MjhiZWMwOTdk&hl=en


To see the city approval document from 1993 in which the future development rights were traded away:
https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B5SGRAMv8RXuYjdmZDBkZjctNGJiYy00ZWM3LTg5ZWItM2U2MDNhOThkZjlh&hl=en