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Know the West

Wagons around Ballona


Articles about this precious Southern California ecosystem are always welcome, and this one delves more deeply into the complexity of Ballona than the typical “this side versus that side” article, which is refreshing (“The Wetland Wars,” HCN, 5/11/15). However, what is still missing from the discussion is the realization that the lack of transparency and accountability among the state agencies is the reason why this ecosystem remains neglected over 10 years after its acquisition. Good, well-intentioned people can disagree about what kind of restoration should occur. What is not acceptable is for members of the public to be deprived of the information they require to come to their own conclusions.

The Annenberg Foundation proposal, which is only briefly mentioned in this article, had a major negative impact on the restoration timeline and squandered precious time, money and credibility. It was the classic example of money and politics trumping ecological common sense. When the foundation withdrew, it rendered useless the project alternatives into which so much time and money had been invested.

Now, instead of providing more transparency, the agencies are circling the wagons. That is why the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust filed a lawsuit against the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission for its failure to disclose critical information about the restoration planning process. In response to our push for greater transparency, the public commission is on the cusp of shifting local responsibility for Ballona to its private partner, the Bay Foundation, which has adamantly resisted calls for transparency, despite being funded almost entirely by public money.

If we can establish reasonable levels of transparency and accountability, the right restoration plan will follow. Until then, it is just going to be more polarized back-and-forth.

Walter Lamb
Ballona Wetlands Land Trust
Culver City, California