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Wetlands: 'Friends' Sought for Valued Site

June 18, 1995

After reading Carlyle Hall's letter in the L.A. Times (Westside, June 9), I felt compelled to respond by focusing upon the difficulties that I have with the Friends of Ballona Wetlands and their compromise agreement with developer Maguire-Thomas Partnership.

Hall touts the FBW compromise agreement requiring restoration of 190 acres of coastal wetlands as an "important victory for preservation of the wetlands and surrounding habitat." The reader should know that the agreement is part of the settlement with Maguire-Thomas to move forward with the multibillion-dollar Playa Vista "mini city" on the open space east of Lincoln Boulevard. Allowing the largest development in Los Angeles' history to be constructed directly in front of and surrounding the last remaining coastal wetland in the county is clearly a breach of the public's trust.

Hall states that "no government agency has ever designated more than 188 acres at Ballona as wetlands protected from development." The varying designations of wetlands are more about politics than biota.

Most of the remaining wetlands in the United States are degraded and usually not protected from development.

However, they are home to many species. With only 5% of the original coastal wetlands remaining in California, we should not be developing these areas because they do not meet certain criteria. In 1923, a U.S. Geological Survey map identified 1,620 acres of wetlands at Ballona.

The real issue here is not how many acres are protected as wetlands but whether we should take into account protection of the surrounding earth, which is necessary to maintain biological integrity in the middle.

Will the egrets fly in over the many nine- to 12-story buildings and touch down to nest? The Playa Vista project will generate many tons of air pollution each day. Vehicular traffic along overburdened Lincoln Boulevard will more than double, and the resulting urban runoff referred to as "freshwater marsh" by Hall will effectively create a huge septic tank for Playa Vista.

The FBW failed to hold the line against the ill-conceived, profit-driven urban plan. It is time for the group to step aside to allow a new force of local citizens to step forward--those who are unwilling to compromise the well-being of the community in their efforts to truly preserve the coastal wetlands and protect the men, women and children from the substantial impact that Phases I and II of the Playa Vista development will have upon our air, land and water.

BRAD NEAL, Venice Beach

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