Councilwoman Park Stops the Degradation of the Wetlands

Garbage from illegal dwellers found its way into the environmentally-sensitive Ballona Wetlands. Some of the RVs have now been cleared.

Councilwoman Traci Park has helped clear at least 1,000 feet of RVs at the environmentally sensitive Ballona Wetlands along Jefferson Boulevard in Playa del Rey.

“The large-scale RV encampment at our protected Ballona Wetlands has been symbolic of the city’s historic failure to address either homelessness or protect this essential environmental resource,” Park said in a July 27 statement. “I am proud and relieved to have begun the process of restoring this essential asset that belongs to the entire community.”

“The ongoing ecological degradation, fires, violence, and crime at this location should have never been permitted in the first place,” Park said. My only regret is that it took this long.”

RVs started lining and camping in this environmentally sensitive area in 2020, despite posted “No Parking” signs. Bird watchers and environmentalists begged city and state officials to assist wildlife by moving the RVs to another location.

L.A. City closed its operations for Covid starting in March 2020. During Covid, parking regulations were ignored.

The city reinstated parking restrictions in October 2020, but still nothing was done about the illegally parked vehicles in Ballona.

In October 2021, then Councilman Mike Bonin presented a motion, which the City Council approved, to spend more than $63,000 to remove six-tons of trash from Ballona along Jefferson. And Council passed a Bonin motion for a feasibility study to vacate the unimproved/unpaved portions of the public right-of-way and to perform a land survey and title search for properties.

He blamed his inaction to move RVs on “Management of the ecological resources in the Ballona Wetlands is currently impeded by misplaced jurisdictional lines. The City of Los Angeles lacks legal protection for habitat that lies within a public right-of-way that runs through and is immediately adjacent to State-protected land.”

In April of 2022, Los Angeles City voted to lift the moratorium on recreational vehicles and in a L.A. Times story (“Los Angeles Left Moratorium on Towing RVs, Pledges to Move Problem Campers) wrote “City officials say they will begin to enforce the regulation next month, prioritizing RVs and campers that are unregistered, inoperable or heavily damaged, as well as ones that interfere with construction, pose a safety hazard by blocking driveways or traffic or have had multiple responses from the Department of Sanitation.”

LADOT was directed to cite and tow abandoned and oversize vehicles and to resume parking enforcement for vehicles that were used as dwellings that were found to be in violation in any of these categories: 1) traffic safety hazard, 2) public health hazard, 3) environmental hazard, 4) inoperable vehicles and 5) unregistered vehicles.

Bonin still refused to do anything about the scofflaws. His inaction worsened the environmental situation for the millions of birds that fly along a 7,500-mile migratory route between northern Alaska and the southern tip of South America.

“The RV dwellers are destroying these habitats,” Friend of the Jungle’s Lucy Han said in an August 2022 CTN story (…s-write-a-letter/) “They are defecating, urinating, dumping septic tanks, disposing of hypodermic needles in these environmentally sensitive habitats. Stolen vehicles, bike chop shops and a meth lab exist here. The dwellers have assaulted residents. Others have been shot at. A murdered body was found in the Wetlands.

This was one of many fires started near RVs in the Ballona.

“The dwellers were responsible for a five-acre fire last year. There have been several more in the past month,” Han said. “Santa Anas could blow a wildfire onto the adjoining Gas Company and ignite their gas tanks causing a major explosion. Thousands of residents would be affected and possibly killed.”

Han said to City and State officials, “We are pleading with you to tow the vehicles from the Ballona Wetlands and marsh. Councilman Bonin REFUSES to support parking enforcement here.”

But, Bonin claimed to be an ardent environmentalist, . . . and wrote on his website that had overseen completion of Prop O water quality projects in his district.

CTN contacted other officials about Ballona.

Mayor Eric Garcetti pointed to L.A.’s Green New Deal in 2019, and L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s website noted “I have supported legislation that increases investments in our natural ecosystem and places California on track to 100% renewable energy by 2045.”

State Senator Ben Allen, who chairs the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee, and is overseeing the state’s climate goals, was stymied about the wetlands, which he felt was a City issue.

In the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax, Seuss writes, “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. For the trees have no tongues.”

Officials deferred to Bonin, which meant no one spoke for the birds, plants or water.

During 2021, Bonin was subject to a recall. Even though organizers said they had 39,000 signatures, they were short 1,352. Bonin decided not run for reelection for Council District 11.

Traci Park was elected in November 2022 and took office in December.

Councilmember Traci Park at Ballona after many RVs were removed because they were in an environmentally-sensitive area.

“I was elected last year with a commitment to address our homelessness crisis and that is exactly what my office had been doing,” Park said in July 27 statement. “I want to thank Mayor Karen Bass, LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority), Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, and community activists and partners who have fought long and hard to help me deliver the results.

“We’ve only begun the process, and this will be ongoing for as long as it takes to return the Ballona Wetlands to our community in a far better condition than we found it,” Park said. “Our team has been doing continuous outreach for many months with individuals at this location. We are pleased that some accepted services and disappointed that others declined and will continue to work with them.”

Operations to clear the Ballona of illegally parked vehicles started in March and  will continue through August.

Finally someone speaks for those who can’t: Park speaks for the wildlife at Ballona.

Birds, such as this white-faced Ibis, found at the Ballona Wetlands need advocates.
Photo: Paul Reinstein

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4 Responses to Councilwoman Park Stops the Degradation of the Wetlands

  1. Julie Hanson says:

    Finally! Thank you for keeping on this important issue. I almost gave up hope.

  2. Lynzie Flynn says:

    Thank you for detailed coverage on this issue. We are all looking forward to the last RV leaving.

  3. M says:

    Good for her! Finally, we are seeing results all around the City.
    The underpasses in several areas have been cleaned out. More to do, but with Traci and Mayor Bass working together, we are seeing progress.

  4. Paul Reinstein says:

    hopefully, birds will have a safe place to rest during fall migration. thanks Tracy, and Sur, for following up on this.

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