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New Interpretive Center Proposed for Ballona Wetlands

One local nonprofit is against the project that would build a 46,000-square-foot structure on the 600-acre wetlands area.

The Annenberg Foundation may build a new interpretive center on the Ballona Wetlands that will house exhibits and conduct educational programs of the area.

The plan has upset local nonprofit Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, which advocates for a restored wetlands area that remain free of man-made structures. While it does not oppose the idea of an interpretive center, it believes it should be placed off-site.

“We encourage the Annenberg Foundation to find a suitable site for this facility that does not encroach on the remaining 600 acre, publicly-owned Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, which is a small fraction of the original 2000 plus acre ecosystem,” Walter Lamb, president of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, said in a letter.

The California Fish and Wildlife Department has been working since last summer on restoration plans for the Ballona Wetlands, and it announced on Sunday that it expects to move forward with the Annenberg Foundation on Monday on the $50 million interpretive center project.

“We are unaware of any attempt to inform the public of this pending deal prior to yesterday’s news release, despite the fact that we have been actively engaged with the above mentioned agencies for several years with regard to the future of Ballona,” Lamb said in a letter. “This follows a long pattern from these agencies of keeping such back-room agreements from the public for as long as possible to avoid public scrutiny.”

The proposed 46,000-square-foot project would include classrooms, wildlife exhibits, an auditorium, veterinary facilities for local wildlife, retail space and an office for staff.

The wetlands area originally encompassed over 2,000 acres, but after years of development, only about 600 acres remain. The California Fish and Wildlife Department, formerly the Fish and Game Department, has been working on an environmental impact report since last summer to revitalize the wetlands. 

If restored, migratory birds and the public would have access to a larger wetlands area. Restoration involves creating levees along the perimeter of the project area as well as removing existing levees to create a meandering channel.

Kathy K. January 28, 2013 at 08:33 PM
I can't believe how hard it is to save natural open space in Los Angeles. Open space is considered a place "to build on" in LA. The Ballona Wetlands Land Trust is not the only group of citizens that fought for many years to save this last remaining piece of the once large Ballona wetlands ecosystem and opposes this development. Many of us are upset. There are already over 3,500 animals a year killed on the roads around the Ballona State Ecological Reserve that we taxpayers bought. It would make more sense for the Annenberg Foundation to acquire some of the land slated for development in Phase 2 of Playa Vista. PV Phase 2 if built will create 24,000 MORE car trips daily in the area, and make it even harder for the wildlife to avoid becoming roadkill. If we want to save the wildlife we should save ALL of the remaining habitat, and decrease the surrounding car trips daily. Kathy K
Marcia Hanscom January 28, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Ballona Institute agrees fully with the BWLT on this topic. We all worked so hard to preserve the 600+ acres of land there, and it is not even big enough for all of the plants and animals that need space on the Los Angeles coast for shelter, food and other habitat requirements. With $50 million we could easily find the Annenberg Foundation another location nearby that does not displace ecological reserve land where they could invest (they are getting the land free from the public trust for this "legacy" venture) - and help create an even better center than what they now propose! And the last paragraph of this article is COMPLETELY false propaganda by those who have ties to engineering, construction and dredging companies who would love to get the contracts (some already have!) to alter the habitat where numerous imperiled species thrive.
Walter Lamb January 28, 2013 at 09:18 PM
This is not good stewardship of the land. Yes, interpretive centers are a good thing, but not when they further fragment an ecosystem that is already so compromised. A quick look at Google maps in satellite mode shows that there are other areas where this facility could be situated. We can't keep sacrificing acre after acre using the same excuses that corporations use (it is only an acre, it is already degraded, this will be good for the economy, etc.) If this is how a progressive oragnization like the Annenberg Foundation views environmental stewardship then we are in deep trouble. Walter Lamb
Hans Laetz January 29, 2013 at 06:23 PM
No piece of the pie for the Ballona Institute = opposition from Marcia Hanscom. Perhaps the grant should be used to tear down the Casa de Baloney on Culver Boulevard? Surely, the structure housing the "institute" is much more desirable as a nature reserve and open land use than the patch of land next to a freeway overpass, where weeds will make way for the Annenberg's gift.
John Davis February 10, 2013 at 07:32 PM
My comment responds to one made on Feb. 1 regarding this topic. My original post is below. It is then followed by my response to another poster regarding (CEQA Guidelines 21092(a) and 20192.1.) ORIGINAL POST The CaDFW is proposing to violate the California Environmental Quality Act by the submission of an "amended NOP". CEQA does not allow for more than one submission of a NOP. This is exactly what CaFW is doing, CEQA Guideline 15082(a) requires the NOP to be submitted to the State Clearinghouse immediately after deciding that an EIR is required for a project. CEQA Guideline 15082(a) (4) {b) then requires requires that each responsible and trustee agency and the Office of Planning and Research shall provide the lead agency with specific detail about the scope and content of the environmental information related to the authority and responsibility of such Agencies. CEQA Guideline 15803 requires that scoping will be necessary when preparing an EIR/EIS jointly with a federal agency. Only after the NOP is provided to the State Clearing House does Guideline 15083 require a scoping hearing which is necessary when preparing an EIR/EIS jointly with a Federal Agency. Unless CaDFW begins again, and allows scoping for the proposed 4500 square ft. Office - Retail Building, it will be running against the law. John Davis
John Davis February 10, 2013 at 07:34 PM
RESPONSE TO POSTER In regard to Guideline 21092(a), the specific notice requirement for a NOP is set forth by Guideline 15082(a) which requires only one NOP to be filed at one specific time, as soon as the Agency determines an EIR is necessary. Invalidation of the original NOP did not occur. No action as defined by the Bagley Keene Act has yet happened. The 2012 NOP is not inadequate. The 2013 NOP is a fake and has no legal merit. In regard to Guideline 20192.1, no Environmental Impact Report has yet been acted upon (Bagley Keene Act Defines Action). Therefore, there is no Environmental Impact Report yet, only an EIR Process, which is not the same as an EIR. Since no EIR exists at this time notice is not required to be given again if significant new information is “added to an Environmental Impact Report”. Here, there is no EIR. John Davis
Walter Lamb February 18, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Hans - I've never heard your name in connection with Ballona before. Your description of the area in question as a patch of weeds indicates that you are unfamiliar with it. Perhaps you could encourage CDFW to arrange a public tour so people such as yourself can see it firsthand. It is a common PR practice for those who want to exploit open space for development to denigrate it's ecological value. Walter Lamb

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