The city gained temporary possession of the Madrona Marsh last week, but not before being chastised by a Superior Court judge for being "hardheaded" in its quest to get deeds to the marsh from developers of the Park del Amo residential and commercial project.
Possession of the marsh, one of the last remaining stops in the area for migrating birds and other small wildlife, was not granted through a preliminary injunction as the city sought, but rather through an easement offered by the developers, Santa Fe Land Improvement Co. and Torrance Investment Co.
In 1983, the city agreed to allow the developers to build 1,482 residential units and 850,000 square feet of commercial space in exchange for preserving nearly 43 acres of the marsh. The developers agreed to dedicate 34.4 acres to the city and sell the city an additional 8.5 acres for $1.5 million.
Since then the two sides have argued over whether the developers should be allowed to buy back the land if the marsh dries up. The city does not want that provision in the deeds.
In December, the city filed a lawsuit asking the court to resolve the problem and seeking a preliminary injunction granting the city temporary possession of the marsh until the lawsuit is heard. City Atty. Stanley Remelmeyer said it could be two years before the case is heard.
Meanwhile, Judge John L. Cole blamed the city for not having resolved the problem sooner.
"The city has been its own worst enemy in this matter," Cole told city representatives last week. "It would have received everything it is entitled to . . . if it had not maintained this righteous and absolutist position. The city has shown me a hard-headed, stubborn position. The city's position has been to the detriment of the marsh."
Cole said he wanted the two sides to reach an agreement that would allow the city to preserve the marsh. The developers suggested the city take temporary possession under an easement. The city agreed after conferring with the Friends of Madrona Marsh, a local environmental group that had held up development of Park del Amo until the agreement was reached to preserve the marsh.
Despite the scolding by Cole, Remelmeyer said he was happy the city got possession of the marsh.
"We got murdered verbally," he said, "but we got a stipulation for possession."