Mayor Karen Bass Celebrating Earth Day, But Not the Ballona

(Editor’s note: This is the first part in a three-part series about the City not working to Save the Ballona Wetlands.)

This photograph was taken of the Ruddy duck in 2021 in the Ballona Wetlands, a wildlife sanctuary. The migratory birds are threatened by illegally-parked RVs.                                                                             Photo: Paul Reinstein


The questions asked by everyone who has driven by the rows of illegally parked RV’s that line the Ballona Wetlands is “Why are they allowed to camp there? Why hasn’t the city cleaned them out?

It can be summed up simply, the city is worried about lawsuits.

Officials feel that until they have a place to move the RV’s they cannot ask people to move them.

According to a March LA Times column (“The Real and Complicated Reasons Why Los Angeles Still Has So Many RV Encampments”), “Meanwhile, the Ballona Wetlands and adjacent Freshwater Marsh, once prized destinations for bird watching, have taken a beating environmentally, with mature trees cut down, storm drains used as trash receptacles and the entire area doubling as a toilet.

“It’s so messy and so bad now,” lamented Scott Culbertson, executive director of Friends of the Ballona Wetlands.

The L.A. Times writer said, “Like it or not, this RV encampment, like so many others across Los Angeles, has evolved over the last three years into what can only be called a community. An entrenched one, at that.

“Those who live on Jefferson Boulevard see themselves as residents, the block along the Freshwater Marsh as their neighborhood, and their RVs spread throughout it like houses with addresses and yards.”

The amount of trash left by illegally parked vehicles is staggering and makes it way into the Ballona.

That means as Earth Day approaches, no one is looking out for wildlife.  The wetlands serve as 7,500-mile migratory bird route between northern Alaska and the southern tip of South America. Wetlands, including the freshwater Ballona Ecological Reserve in Playa Vista, provides a vital resting points.

The Ballona is a unique location between salt and freshwater, and these kinds of wetlands shelter more than one-third of the country’s threatened and endangered species, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ballona’s estuaries shelter young fish and the area serves as a water filtration system.

The  El Segundo Blue Butterfly and the Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, which are endangered species, inhabit the Ballona.

Mayor Karen Bass was asked “Does the Mayor think the City should save the Ballona Wetlands and the bird migratory route? If she does, will she move those illegally camping off this sensitive area?

Her spokesperson, Zach Seidl, replied “The Mayor’s priority right now is to urgently help get Angelenos off the street. As Inside Safe continues to scale, we were further As Inside Safe continues to scale, we will further develop our strategy to assist Angelenos living in RVs. That work prioritizes not just one of L.A.’s premier ecological reserve’s which serves as a water filtration system and groundwater recharge, a flood buffer, a habitat for local wildlife, and a valuable educational resource for community activity — it will also ultimately save lives. Addressing these challenges require additional resources and a large-scale, organized effort to provide these individuals with critical services and interim and permanent housing.”

CTN responded, “Basically the statement says that wildlife and their habitat come second to moving people in RVs, who are illegally camping. Those breaking the law have priority over endangered species and the bird migratory route. Am I summarizing that correctly?”

Seidl responded, “No. We’re doing both — both are important to the Mayor. We will work to protect one of L.A.’s premier ecological reserves while saving lives.”

This photo was also taken in 2021 before the area became too dangerous for “birders.” 
Photo: Paul Reinstein

Garbage from illegal dwellers is finding its way into the environmentally-sensitive Ballona Wetlands.

To see more of Paul Reinstein’s 2021 shots of the birds at the Ballona click here.

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5 Responses to Mayor Karen Bass Celebrating Earth Day, But Not the Ballona

  1. S says:

    Require the Campers to actually go to the campgrounds at the state parks. Such as Sycamore Canyon , Leo Carillo, etc. The State Rangers and state police definately would be more strict then what is happening now !

  2. Tess says:

    I read that the cost to store these Ballona RVs in the planned airport adjacent lots blew the city’s homeless budget out of the water, so they have to find another cheaper lot nearby. In the same LA Times piece, it was noted that the RV dwellers don’t think of themselves as homeless, and that the RV is their home. What would happen if all of us parked our cars there on Jefferson/Culver? Would we get ticketed or towed?

  3. TR says:

    Great article and a shame this was allowed to happen. FYI the bird in the picture is a ruddy duck not a widgeon.

  4. Gary Rubenstein says:

    Hard to believe that the City does not have available open areas where they could accommodate the many RVs that litter the L.A. Landscape. I would think it would be less costly to provide the needed improvements to vacant city land or even to lease an abandoned shopping center parking lot than the cost to the environment to allow RVs to continue to destroy our limited native habitat. The Ballona Creek Wetlands benefit all of us not just RV squatters.

  5. Sue says:

    Thank you. I just changed the caption. We need more people to speak up for the animals.


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