A key portion of the Ballona Lagoon would be saved from commercial development if a settlement of a 23-year-old lawsuit between the City of Los Angeles and the Summa Corp. is accepted by the courts.
Environmentalists and Assistant City Attorney Edward C. Dygert said the settlement, which the City Council approved Tuesday, would forbid development in the southern portion of the lagoon bottom, owned by Summa. They said the agreement would kill a plan by some lagoon-area property owners to dredge and double the width of the lagoon and build a 450-boat marina.
"The Summa lot is the keystone," Dygert said. "That property is needed (by marina proponents) for the other property to be developed for a marina.
"The effect of the settlement is the marina plan is dead."
Dygert said the city will press on with an unsettled portion of the suit filed against the owners of the northern portion of the lagoon.
Under the terms of the settlement with Summa, the corporation would retain ownership of its portion of the lagoon bottom but would give the city the use of the parcel for public recreation and environmental preservation, Dygert said.
Sherman Stacey, the attorney for Venice Peninsula Properties, which owns the remainder of the lagoon bottom, said he will continue with his client's case. Stacey said his client is one of the property owners attempting to build the marina.
Stacey said the settlement with Summa, which he does not plan to oppose, gives the city the rights to use the Summa property. If the city approves the marina plan, it could use its rights to allow the use of the Summa parcel for a marina. The marina plan must be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the county and the state Coastal Commission, as well as the city, before it can go forward.
However, Dygert said the terms of the city's agreement with Summa forbid using the property for a marina channel.
Use of the southern portion of the narrow lagoon, which extends from the tide gate at the Marina del Rey channel north to Hurricane Street where it connects with the Venice Canals, is was the key to plans for the proposed marina put forth by the property owners group, the Silver Strand Marina Assn.
Under the marina plan, the southern end of the lagoon, which is connected to the Marina del Rey Channel through underground tide gates, would be opened to permit boats to sail from the ocean into the lagoon.
Residents dedicated to preserving the environmentally sensitive lagoon have formed the Ballona Marine Preserve Inc. Armed with a $50,000 grant from the state Coastal Conservancy, the group plans to hire consultants to draw up a plan to preserve and restore the lagoon and its banks.
If the plan is accepted by the conservancy, the state agency would finance the restoration of the area as a wildlife preserve.
If the city does not win its case against the owner of the remainder of the lagoon, preservationists would only have the right to restore and preserve the lagoon banks and the southern half of the lagoon bottom.
"The battle is not over in terms of restoration, but it is over in terms of whether there will be a marina there," said Iylene Weiss, president of the preservationist group.