Environmentalists and Government Officials Are Needed to Save Ballona Wetlands

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People living in illegally parked RVs are destroying an environmentally sensitive area.

Prior to the L.A. County Supervisors meeting on January 11, Lucy Han, a representative of the nonprofit Friends of the Jungle, dropped off 500 letters tp Supervisor Holly Mitchell. The letters pleaded to save the Ballona Wetlands from the illegally parked RV’s and their occupants, who are fouling the environmentally sensitive area.

Residents and birdwatchers have alleged that there’s a methamphetamine lab inside one of the RV’s; they point out that the five-acre fire last March was hampered when firefighters couldn’t access a fire hydrant that was blocked by an RV that couldn’t be moved; septic tanks (plus untreated human waste) are being emptied to the fresh water; needles are left on the parkway; and an August 18 shooting left four men hospitalized.

On January 11, County Supervisors voted to take steps to break up RV encampments where crime has increased and are within 500 feet of schools. The board asked staff to research best practices and to report back within 90 days.

As a guest on a KFI program, Lucy Han was asked: Where are the environmentalists who should oppose the fouling of this environmentally sensitive area — and where are the state officials who can stop it from happening? She was unaware of any efforts they had made.

Back in August, Circling the News reached out to state officials and alerted them to the environmental disaster. We contacted State Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Richard Bloom (who steered us to Autumn Burke, whose Assembly district includes Ballona).

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.”

On October 18, Allen was once again queried about Ballona, and he responded the next day: “I remain concerned by the increase in debris and trash at the Ballona Wetlands. My staff and I have been working extensively with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to ensure they are up to date on areas in need of additional attention.

“We happily welcome the public’s help and input in alerting us to areas of state property needing cleanup so we can notify the proper agencies in Los Angeles. We will continue to work with all relevant jurisdictions in search of long-term solutions that protect the reserve’s ecological treasures.”

The photo of this great egret was taken by birdwatcher Lynzie Flynn in August at Playa Vista.

Assemblymember Autumn Burke was contacted but has not yet responded.

CTN also reached out to the Friends of Ballona Wetlands and was told by executive director Scott Culbertson in an August 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.

“Of course, all of the electeds have been contacted. This is an important issue for our organization. The FWM was built as a result of negotiation by the Friends when Playa Vista was built. 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. Folks can’t have it both ways, not wanting them along Jefferson but not allowing reasonable alternatives,” Culbertson said. “Organizationally we are putting considerable effort into resolving the situation for the homeless and the environment.”

One reader told CTN, “[County Supervisor] Janice Hahn has known about the RV situation on Jefferson since before Thanksgiving. I have spoken several times with her deputy and in fact I drafted a resolution for her to bring to the City Council in an effort to get the RV’s removed. She told me directly that she does not have jurisdiction over the matter.”

The reader continued, “I have reached out to every state agency, local agencies and Friends of Ballona, and NO ONE has done a thing except listen to Councilman Mike Bonin. It is time for action that does not just rely on what Bonin is telling us.”

In fairness to City Councilman Bonin, in his 2019 Neighborhood newsletter, he introduced an experimental “interceptor” (“New Trash Receptor Comes to the Ballona Wetlands”).

“In a perfect world, trash wouldn’t end up in Ballona Creek in the first place,” the newsletter stated. “But since it too often does, Mike is thankful that Supervisor Janice Hahn and neighbors in Playa del Rey have worked together to pilot a new technology to remove plastic and litter from Ballona Creek — before it reaches the Santa Monica Bay.

“The solar-powered ‘Interceptor’  designed by OCEAN CLEANUP is a floating barge that serves as a ‘last line of defense’ against harmful litter and debris adding to the 8 million metric tons of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans every year.”

(Editor’s note: Han responded in a January 13 email that “Friends of the Jungle were the ones that spearheaded the effort to clean up the creek starting 2016.  We had many meeting in 2018 & 2019 with County Public Works. As a result of our coverage on TV and in the press, the County Supervisors approved the Interceptor.

“The current method to clean the creek is a net that goes across the creek. This net is ineffective as most of the trash goes over the net when it is full. The net can’t be emptied when there is a storm because it is hand gathered. Therefore, the trash builds up and with strong currents trash goes over the net.”)

The RVs parked along Ballona allow garbage and human waste to go into the environmentally sensitive area. The City has failed to address the issue.

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