Above: Planned development of the Ballona Wetlands by the Annenberg Foundation, which would also includes a dog and cat shelter. “There were audible gasps in the audience when this pic was shown,” said Marcia Hanscom of the Wetlands Defense Fund. “[P]eople were shocked at the size of this facility.” Photo courtesy of the Wetlands Defense Fund.
Just 10 years after the the Ballona Wetlands were acquired and preserved (an endeavor that took decades), they are again under attack. The Annenberg Foundation, which has done impressive work, such as raising money to help buy the South Central Farm from developer Ralph Horowitz,* plans to purchase the wetlands and develop part of it. (Also, Area C would be restored--a restoration described by the Wetlands Defense Fund as “a phony restoration” to "give crony engineering companies some business" and “way too aggressive.”**)
Wallis Annenberg wants to build a complex that would include a dog and cat rescue center. Many agree the latter is a good idea—but Annenberg wants it near the beach; she thinks dogs and cats should have a view of the ocean. Also, she hopes to use the area surrounding the center for dog walks. (Currently, dogs are not allowed in the wetlands—they chase other animals, and their waste transmits disease.)
Ballona is among the last five percent of L.A.'s wetlands that have not been developed on.
Marcia Hanscom, executive director of the Wetlands Defense Fund, elaborated on the situation:
“Billionaire Wallis Annenberg, of the TV Guide media empire, is funding the development of a massive construction project on the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, land that was protected and set aside for wildlife. She is also funding lobbyists and public relations people to promote the so-called 'restoration' project and the Orwellian-named Urban Ecology Center, all of which is really a huge habitat destruction project.
“Due to state budget cuts, several public agencies desperate for money have been aiding and abetting this plan. The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and the State Coastal Conservancy, which are supposed to protect the wetlands, have been co-opted by developers and engineers who want to access government money for big construction projects that are unnecessary.
“Not only are they greenwashing this project, they have already signed an agreement with Wallis Annenberg with no public scrutiny. That's why we, the people, have to fight back and reclaim our democracy.”
On Thursday, October 17, a demonstration was held outside the grand opening of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. This author counted about 12 participants. We stood out thanks, in large part. to people crossing the streets carrying banners. Pedestrian traffic was fairly light, but several passersby asked questions and expressed support. The demonstration was organized by the Wetlands Defense Fund, Grassroots Coalition, and In Defense of Animals.
People who care about this issue are being asked to contact politicians—ideally via old-fashioned snail-mail and phone calls. (E-mails would help, too, but the former methods are encouraged.) Those who should be contacted include:
Pres. Barack Obama
Sen Dianne Feinstein
Sen. Barbara Boxer
Rep. Henry Waxman
Rep. Janice Hahn
Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. Karen Bass
State Sen. Ted Lieu
CA Assembly Steve Bradford
CA Assembly Al Maratsuchi
CA Assembly Holly Mitchell
*Unfortunately, as many readers know, Horowitz subsequently changed his mind about the transaction.
**As reported on the Pacifica Evening News (local segment), Thursday, October 17, 2013, starting about 25 minutes into the hour. A response from Annenberg is presented in the same program. According to them their plan is being "mischaracterized." http://archive.kpfk.org/mp3/kpfk_131017_180010kpfknews.MP3
Photo taken at Moompetam in 2012.