Millions of birds fly along a 7,500-mile migratory route between northern Alaska and the southern tip of South America. Wetlands, including the freshwater Ballona Ecological Reserve in Playa Vista, provide vital resting points during the journey.
With their unique location between salt and freshwater, wetlands shelter more than one-third of the country’s threatened and endangered species, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
This year, migrating birds have encountered a Ballona Wetlands that has become degraded by homeless encampments and people living in RVs along Jefferson Avenue, west of Lincoln Avenue. These “residents” are discarding garbage, rubbish and human waste in this area.
Bird watchers and residents have complained to Councilman Mike Bonin since May, according to emails received by CTN.
On October 4, Bonin finally arranged for a $65,000, six-ton garbage collection from the site.
One resident said, “They [RVs] are parked there illegally, why are we paying for cleanup, when they shouldn’t have been allowed to foul the area in the first place?”
A second resident said, “The cleanup didn’t even make a dent in the garbage that’s accumulated there. There is still no plan to move the RVs. This is ridiculous.”
Back on May 19, a Playa resident emailed Jennifer Lucchesi, executive officer of the California State Lands Commission, and detailed the problem.
“Over the past few years, the residents of the Wetlands area have been dealing with an increase in crime and with the help of LAPD and the LA Sheriff’s Department it was determined that many of the suspects perpetrating the crimes were homeless people living in the Wetlands.
“Mr. [Kelly] Connor [California State Public Land Management] was forwarded information, through a newspaper article, which detailed this story. Unfortunately, the situation with the homeless living in the Wetlands has increased over time. We are now dealing with RVs camped along Jefferson Blvd. The encampment is so large that there are over fifteen RVs permanently parked on the street blocking public access to the freshwater Marsh.
“The area is littered with trash which includes sofas, mattresses and chairs. There are even permanent structures built on the sides of the RVS which resemble makeshift huts. Also, not but least the RV occupants use the freshwater March as a TOILET!
“Our local officials are unable to control this dangerous situation and we are extremely frustrated. Local residents and children are unable to access the trails to the freshwater marsh because the RVS are permanently parked there and to be frank the homeless are not to be told to move. They are quite adamant about living right where they are. This situation is a big problem, and we want our beautiful area back before it’s too late. We need your help.”
Lucchesi responded on May 20: “…We share your interest in having a clean and healthy wetland and marsh and are monitoring this situation. We are also coordinating closely with CDFW (California Department of Fish and Wildlife). One suggestion we have received from CDFW staff is that if you notice camping in the vicinity west of the Freshwater Marsh, calling parking enforcement immediately is recommended: 818-374-4823.”
Residents were told by the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands that Bonin’s “office has informed me that all of those people living in the RVs, who are slowly destroying this area, need to be offered permanent housing before they can be asked to leave.” That means illegal parking is not enforced.
Residents reached out to Margaret Cooper, the South Coast Regional Manager for the California State Coastal Conservancy, about the issue and received this response on May 20: “I am sorry to hear about that. The Department of Fish and Wildlife owns and manages the Ballona Ecological Reserve so I will forward your email to the land manager there.”
Residents then contacted Lucinda Calvo, attorney for the California State Lands Commission, who responded by email on May 24: “Thank you for sharing your concerns and providing this information on conditions and incidents at the Ballona Wetlands and the Freshwater Marsh. State Lands Commission staff are looking into the situation and how we can best communicate with the City on these issues.”
In August, CTN visited the area with several bird watchers and reported on the situation. (https://www.circlingthenews.com/ballona-ecologic…-and-human-waste/ )
On October 9, a birdwatcher was bitten by a dog that was running off-leash by the marsh. A tetanus shot and antibiotics were required. Although the dog was reported to authorities, it was not removed from the illegally camped owner. Nor was it quarantined.
In the process of discovering whose dog it was, residents learned that a woman who had sold her house in Las Vegas, and was now attending USC, had a five-year-old daughter living with her in a yellow RV/bus along Jefferson.
Early this week, Circling the News contacted State Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Autumn Burke and explained, “I’ve written about the complete degradation of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, located in Playa Vista.
“The approximately 600-acre protected area is owned by the State of California and managed by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The sewage and trash from illegally parked RV’s is running into this sensitive area.”
CTN asked, “Can you explain why the State is not insisting that the City clean up the hazards that are going into the wetlands. Why is the State not fining the City for destroying an environmentally sensitive area?
“Can you also explain for my story, why the State is not stepping in to clean this up during bird migration?”
Allen responded the next day, on October 19: “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.”
CTN is still waiting for Assemblymember Burke’s response.