The Westside's 640-acre Ballona Wetlands are a battle ground these days. Local philanthropist Wallis Annenberg is fighting to build a huge interpretive/pet adoption center with walkways, bike paths, and parking on about an acre of the land east of Lincoln Boulevard. Meanwhile, there's a controversial restoration plan that would help open more of the land to the public, but that ecologist and conservationist opponents say will create unnatural conditions (a full-tidal, ocean wetland) that are bad for wildlife. Now the LA Weekly has unearthed a bombshell: Playa Vista developer Playa Capital installed storm drains by the wetlands more than 10 years ago and have been "illegally withdrawing water from ... a habitat that requires water." No one would know except that environmentalists randomly happened upon the two openings last year.
LA's Bureau of Engineering issued permits for the drains in 1991, but the California Coastal Commission never approved any drains and had no idea about them until recently (Playa Capital swears they worked with the CCC, but the commission's enforcement analyst says that's completely untrue.)
Playa Capital says the drains are for public safety, to protect from flooding, but at least one engineer at the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission says "there would be no chance of any flooding ever reaching the adjacent roadways." (Back before LA was developed, the Ballona Wetlands swamped most of the Westside, but those days are long over.)
Following a rebuke from the CCC, Playa Capital says they'll cap the drains.
· Is Heiress Wallis Annenberg Hijacking the Ballona Wetlands? [LAW]
· Pet and Wildlife Center Project Moves to Ballona Wetlands [Curbed LA]
· Ballona Wetlands Getting Restoration, But Sierra Club Hates It [Curbed LA]