Ballona Ecological System Is Becoming Overwhelmed with RV Garbage and Human Waste

This freshwater lagoon is hidden at the corner of Jefferson and Lincoln Boulevard. The serene setting belies the garbage found on the other side of the water.

The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, located in Playa Vista, is an approximately 600-acre protected area owned by the State of California and managed by California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Now it is in the process of being destroyed by people who don’t seem to care about the health of this last remaining coastal wetlands in Los Angeles.

Circling the News toured the site on August 15 with two birdwatchers, who told us the fresh water in these wetlands is an important source for birds and other small animals and that more than 268 bird species have been seen. According to the Cornell School of Ornithology, the Ballona Marsh is among the 10 best birding locations in L.A.

Most of the RV’s parked along the preserved freshwater wetlands have garbage that is now leaking into the sensitive land.

This wildlife is now being threatened by garbage, feces and urine from people illegally camped in dozens of RVs along Jefferson between Lincoln and Culver. The long line of campers is easy to see from Lincoln.

There have been reports of “grey water” dumping along the roadway and into the lagoon, and in other areas, the fences have been torn down and one can see the toilet paper and feces in the bushes just off the roadway.

As the birders enthusiastically pointed out different birds, CTN spotted the large area that was burned by a brush fire on March 23 at 5701 Lincoln, which reportedly started as a trash fire and burned five acres at the ecological reserve.

We came across an RV dweller who was going to throw a net in the lagoon because he “wanted to do some fishing,” but was stopped by the bird people who told him it was a protected area.

Members of the public who would like to walk around the lagoon, are told to park on Jefferson. Unfortunately, it is filled with RVs, garbage and those who do not follow the rules about “no” camping.

At 8:30 a.m. on August 15, CTN walked by two men who were so strung out – possibly on heroin — they had trouble sitting upright. A woman screamed at us that she was poor, and we should get out of her area.

The two men were so strung out on drugs they had trouble sitting up.


This sign at Ballona is clearly posted.
Photo: Steve Sanders

We came across a storm drain filled to the top with trash that had been shoved down into the space. It needs to be cleaned before the rains start next year or the garbage will go into the ocean.

It was heartbreaking to see in person that the wildlife/birds could not be protected from people who appeared to have no interest in the environment.

CTN contacted Friends of Ballona, and executive director Scott Culbertson responded in an August 17 email. “It is indeed an intolerable situation at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh (FWM) for both the homeless and the environment and getting worse by the day.”

The RVs are parked in a no camping area by the Ballona Wetlands, but the City has not moved them. The dirt pathway on the other side of the vans is littered with garbage.
Photo: Steve Sanders

He said that elected officials had been notified of the damage that was being done.

“The freshwater marsh was built as a result of negotiation by the Friends when Playa Vista was built,” Culbertson said. “Sadly, little to nothing can be done until the mayor’s moratorium on towing vehicles in which people are living is lifted. Efforts to move the RVs to less sensitive locations continue to meet roadblocks which is disappointing.

“Organizationally we are putting considerable effort into resolving the situation for the homeless and the environment,” Culbertson said.

The amount of trash on the path is overwhelming.

CTN contacted the officers of State Senator Ben Allen and Assembly Member Richard Bloom, and sent photos. Both officials are environmentalists and were asked for a comment on this environmental disaster.

Bloom’s communication director Melissa Kaufler responded in an August 23 email, “Apologies for the delay. We are still inundated with unemployment-related casework, so I appreciate your patience and understanding.

“Assembly Member Bloom appreciates you bringing this to our attention and has been made aware of this issue. While Ballona is not in our district, environmental protection and preservation are extremely important to Assembly Member Bloom. We’ve contacted State Parks about this and have also notified Assembly Member Burke’s office as a courtesy because Ballona is in her district.”

Allen’s office responded on August 24, “Senator Allen is aware of these ongoing issues and shares his constituents’ concerns regarding the degradation of LA County’s last marine wetland. Our office has been in contact with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and will continue to work with all relevant jurisdictions in search of long term solutions that protect the reserve’s ecological treasures.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s and Councilman Mike Bonin’s offices were contacted for comment, but neither office had responded by the time this article was posted.

“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss was published in 1971 and chronicles the plight of the environment. The title character the Lorax “speaks for the trees,” and confronts the Once-ler, who causes environmental destruction.

CTN asks officials, “Who speaks for the birds, the small animals and the vegetation at Ballona?”

The fence surrounding the marsh has been broken in several places, which allow RV inhabitants to use the surrounding land as a bathroom.


Garbage lines the road.

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