Friday, February 20, 2009

State's scary plan for Ballona is not set in stone

The Ballona Restoration Plan is still "a work in progress"

by Rex Frankel

2/20/2009--I had the pleasure to meet on Feb. 17th with Dr. Shelley Luce, who is executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission. She served on the Science Advisory Panel for the Ballona Wetlands restoration project and is one of two local public employees along with Sean Bergquist that are based here and who work extensively on the restoration of our 600 acre Ballona Wetlands State Preserve. The Commission's offices are at Loyola Marymount University located on the bluffs in Westchester, as opposed to the State agency overseeing the show, the Coastal Conservancy, which is based in Oakland.

I met with Dr. Luce to explain my organization's objections to the State plan unveiled last September that would have dredged out nearly the entire 600 acres and converted it into mostly open water, as opposed to the current delicate mix of three habitat zones and hiking trails.

What had seemed like a project on the fast train has been slowed way down by the State's budget crisis, but also by the community's response to the mega-dredging plan. Last month, Dr. Luce unveiled a new plan that preserved more of the higher elevation habitat, the upland/grassland/sagebrush area, especially the zone east of Lincoln Blvd.

There was "definitely a consensus that more uplands were needed", she told me. In response to the concerns of many that the State had unilaterally made a final decision, Luce said that even the latest plan unveiled last month is still "a work in progress". In fact, while it may not have been communicated clearly to us last September, Dr. Luce says that it was always the State's intention that the plans were going to be modified after further review by the public.

We both agreed that the public meetings to involve the community back into the planning process need to resume. I see the end of local public meetings as when the whole process went awry. During 2007 and 2008, these meetings which were originally every 1 or 2 months soon became every six months. The Science Advisory Committee which ultimately made their final decision last September to endorse the mega-dredging plan had several 7 hour meetings in Costa Mesa, 30 miles away, and public comment was limited to the end of these long meetings. Whether this was intentional or due to budget cuts, the outcome didn't make any longtime Ballona activists happy.

We had a long talk about sources of water for the restoration, whether from the ocean or from the ocean and Ballona Creek. I suggested that we need a "modular" approach to planning the restoration, since it may be many years before the urban street runoff pollution in Ballona Creek is cleaned-up, and therefore, any plan that includes breaching the levees and letting the Creek back into the rest of the wetlands could have the negative effect of polluting the wetlands. That's why I favor bringing water back into the wetlands directly from the ocean. If someday we can clean up Ballona Creek than we can re-connect the creek and the wetlands. But basing the future of our wetland preserve on some other project that may or may not also happen could make us wait many years until anything changes at Ballona. Now, while some locals would rather that nothing changes at the wetlands unless it is done by hand or with shovels, (a position that is equally justifiable) I could support bringing some more water into our wetlands.

In response to the calls of many, especially local Ballona wildlife tracker/photographer Jonathon Coffin, Luce agreed that "What is missing is a comprehensive survey of what is on the land".

I agree with the calls of many that there is no rush to restore our Ballona wetlands. The maxim of "do no harm" needs to be followed here. We need to restore Ballona solely for what is best for all the wildlife of Ballona and all the respectful users of this land.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

more corporate welfare for Playa Vista?

Playa Vista Seeks $300 Million "Gift" from the People of Los Angeles via Massive Increase in What they're Allowed Build.

They seek OK for their Last Phase--the same project we overturned in 2007.

--Meanwhile, L.A. Residents Face the First Mandatory Water Restrictions in 20 Years

"Under the plan adopted in principle by the governing board of the L.A. Department of Water and Power, homes and businesses would pay a penalty rate -- nearly double normal prices -- for any water they use in excess of a reduced monthly allowance."

PLAYA VISTA: Concerns are reviewed a year after work on community was stopped when first study found flaws.

2/17/2009, Daily Breeze
By Kristin S. Agostoni, Staff Writer

More than a year after a court ruling halted Playa Vista's second phase, developers of the master-planned community are hoping a new environmental study will move the project closer toward completion.

Since an appellate court ruled in September 2007 that an analysis for the so-called Village contained flaws, the land targeted for shops, homes and offices off Jefferson Boulevard has sat dormant and mostly vacant.

The grading is nearly complete and half of the roads have been put into place, but the court issued a stop-work order until a handful of disputed land-use issues were reviewed.

Now those issues are being hashed out in a revised environmental impact report that will trigger a new collection of city approvals.

Residents have until March 16 to submit comments on the "recirculated" EIR, which analyzes a development identical to the earlier one - with 2,600 homes, 175,000 square feet of office space, 150,000 square feet of retail and 40,000 square feet of community uses.

"We're moving forward with the plan that was approved by the City Council for The Village," said Playa Vista spokesman Steve Sugerman, adding that officials and residents are anxious to move on. "The court was pretty specific that all of the other areas (of the original EIR) were fine," he said.

The battle over The Village began not long after the council approved the project in September 2004.

Opponents, including the city of Santa Monica, the Surfrider Foundation, representatives of the Tongva/Gabrieleno Indians and groups dedicated to preserving the nearby Ballona Wetlands, said in two separate lawsuits that the environmental impact report was flawed.

In January 2006, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge had ruled that the city and Playa Vista provided the public and decision-makers with adequate information.

But the appellate court, which consolidated the cases and reviewed more than two dozen issues raised by opponents, singled out three "deficiencies."

The judges questioned the analysis of the project's effects on the Hyperion wastewater treatment plant, the treatment of human remains and artifacts dating back 3,500 years, and whether the city accurately described permitted land uses for the site.

On the latter issue, the court ruled that the EIR did not acknowledge that the proposed retail complex would "dramatically increase the amount of development permissible" on the property spanning 111 acres. Therefore, Playa Vista is required to seek a collection of land-use amendments.

Rex Frankel of the Ballona Ecosystem Education Project, one of the groups that sued, said he was pleased to see the new report acknowledge that the proposed land uses go beyond what is permitted - 108,050 square feet of office and light industrial space.

But Frankel also said he wants the analysis to include alternative plans that would adhere to the lower zoning threshold.

A community retail center still could be built, he said, but he'd like to see consideration given to other uses for the surrounding property, such as park space or a treatment wetland.

"The city has a lot of leverage right now to decide what is appropriate on this land," Frankel said. "We should have an honest discussion in an EIR. If you tell the truth, then the public at least knows we don't have to accept this project."

As for the treatment of Indian remains in the area, it's unclear what, if anything, will come from the revised report.

The area where most of the remains were discovered is now occupied by a drainage channel that was approved as part of Playa Vista's first phase and runs behind the land reserved for The Village. And as of December, the majority of the remains unearthed from the area have been reinterred nearby.

While opponents argued Playa Vista could have shifted the course of the channel to avoid a major burial site, the revised EIR states that "impacts to archeological resources would still have occurred" in four alternatives considered and that the channel might not operate as effectively.

On the Hyperion issue, the EIR says that new data indicates "there is less demand on the city's wastewater collection and treatment system than previously projected," and that the city has conducted studies on expansion plans, if needed, after 2020.

Sugerman said officials hope the City Council will reconsider the EIR this summer, and that construction would begin in mid-2010.


Los Angeles city planners are accepting comments on a revised environmental impact report for The Village at Playa Vista through March 16.

Submit comments to David Somers, Los Angeles City Planning Department, Room 750, City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, 90012, or e-mail Reference file

No. ENV-2002-6129-EIR.

Review the report at (the link is under the "environmental" section, then click on Draft EIRs), or at these libraries: Playa Vista branch, 6400 Playa Vista Drive; Westchester/Loyola Village branch, 7114 W. Manchester Ave.; and the Marina del Rey library,

4533 Admiralty Way.

To buy a copy, call 213-978-1355.

Monday, February 16, 2009

If You Support Unpaving Ballona Creek , its Buried Streams and Filled-In Wetlands -- Come to this Public Workshop Held by the L.A. City Sanitation Department

INVITATION FOR STAKEHOLDER WORKSHOP: March 3, 2009, at Hyperion treatment Plant in Playa del Rey

TIME/DATE: March 3, 2009 from 1:00 to 3:30 pm Hyperion Treatment Plant, Conference Room 116 12000 Vista Del Mar, Playa Del Rey , CA , 90293


Dear Stakeholders: On behalf of the Ballona Creek watershed cities and agencies, Dr. Shahram Kharaghani (Division Manager of the Watershed Protection Division, City of Los Angeles ) would like to request your participation as a stakeholder in the second Implementation Plan Development Workshop for the Bacteria, Metals and Toxics TMDLs in the Ballona Creek watershed. These Implementation Plans will be developed over the next 2 years and have the overall goal of reducing urban runoff pollution to comply with TMDL requirements for the Ballona Creek watershed. More specific goals of the Implementation Plans are the following: . Identify pollution hot spots and prioritize the drainage areas to be addressed; and . Identify Best Management Practices for reducing pollution by urban runoff and select and verify potential locations for implementation. The TMDL Implementation Plans will be completed in 2009 (Bacteria TMDL), 2010 (Metals TMDL) or 2011 (Toxics TMDL). Several stakeholder workshops will be scheduled to support this process. The first workshop was held on November 6, 2008 and focused on the initial characterization of the Ballona Creek watershed.

This second workshop will focus on the next steps:

. BMP types and process selection
. Breakout sessions focusing on specific areas of the watershed

Your participation as a stakeholder is important to provide input to the development of the Implementation Plans.

For more information and to RSVP please contact Ida Meisami at, or (213) 485-3999. Please RSVP by February 19, 2009 with your name and the number of guests that will be in attendance.