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Wetlands: Development Accord Explained

June 11, 1995

Francis Longmire's letter [Westside, June 1] attacks Jane Harmon's support for the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands. The letter states that the developer of the adjacent Playa Vista project, Maguire Thomas Partners-Playa Vista (MTP-PV), intends to restore or preserve only 200 acres "located within the 517-acre Ballona Wetlands" and intends to develop "a majority of the wetlands."

This information is incorrect. The Ballona Wetlands do not encompass 517 acres. Even when the Friends of Ballona Wetlands fought the development plans of the previous would-be developer, neither the Friends nor their scientific consultants could ever stake claim to 517 acres of wetlands. In reality, no governmental agency has ever designated more than 188 acres at Ballona as wetlands protected from development.

Nevertheless, MTP-PV has conditionally agreed, in settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Friends, to restore 190 acres of wetlands plus an indigenous dune system, a freshwater marsh and riparian corridor (guaranteeing habitat value in perpetuity) and upland habitat, all of which will total 350 acres.

It took the Friends 1 1/2 years to negotiate and document its settlement with MTP-PV, taking into account the relocation of isolated pockets of wetlands so that a continuous swath of wetlands habitat could be achieved. During those negotiations, the Friends recognized that MTP-PV was and is (apart from the agreement reached with the Friends) under no legal obligation to expand the wetlands or enhance their surrounding habitat, except by leaving undeveloped that which can be properly delineated as wetlands. The various commitments of MTP-PV set forth in the settlement agreement with the Friends far exceed MTP-PV's legal obligations, all to the benefit of the wetlands and the surrounding habitat.

Once, more than a century ago, the Ballona Wetlands encompassed more than 2,000 acres. Unfortunately, most of that acreage is irretrievably paved over with development, excavated as part of Marina del Rey or filled. We must now, through proper and careful restoration and management, try to save what little remains of the wetlands. The Friends, MTP-PV and many concerned scientists and consultants have worked together for several years on an appropriate restoration plan.

Unfortunately, misinformation concerning both the Friends' settlement and the wetlands acreage has been repeatedly set forth by critics of the settlement. The Friends of Ballona Wetlands strive to inform the public in the hope that the critics' misinformation will not confuse the public, who should demand that all development at Playa Vista be reasonable and responsible and who should strongly support the planned restoration of the Ballona Wetlands.

CARLYLE W. HALL JR.

of Hall & Associates , Attorneys for Friends of Ballona Wetlands

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