By Gary Walker
Proponents of changing the name of the Marina (90) Freeway to the Ballona Freeway in honor of the wetlands it runs along came to the Dec. 17 Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting ready for a fight.
Despite support for the name change by the Los Angeles City Council, Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes Marina del Rey and the Ballona Wetlands, was planning to call on the board to oppose the switch.
But after hearing from more than a dozen environmental activists and other wetlands supporters, Knabe tabled his motion, saying he would talk the issue over with area Councilman Mike Bonin, who back in September got his council colleagues on board with the idea of a name change.
Because it’s a state freeway, whether the 90 gets a new moniker is ultimately up to the state Legislature, said California Dept. of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Markham.
State Sen. Ted Lieu (D- Torrance), whose district includes Marina del Rey, is considering whether to draft a bill to change the freeway’s name next year, a spokesman said.
A state highway for more than 50 years, the 90 runs between Slauson Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard, linking West Los Angeles to its terminus in county-run Marina del Rey. Caltrans had at one time planned to extend the roadway to Anaheim and call it the Slauson Freeway.
In his original motion to keep the Marina Freeway moniker, Knabe noted that visitors use the freeway as a conduit to Marina del Rey and residents rely on it a connection to the rest of Los Angeles County.
“Changing the name of this 1.5 mile route would needlessly strip a vital community of a transit gateway strongly associated with Marina del Rey’s identity and would likely cause unnecessary confusion for motorists,” Knabe wrote. “While it is important to recognize the significance of Ballona Creek [which runs under the freeway] and its surroundings wetlands, there are more appropriate ways to do so than by naming a freeway after this natural resource.”
Marcia Hanscom, one of the leaders of the Ballona Freeway campaign, said she felt Knabe’s opposition stemmed from trying to maintain the marina’s “brand” as a tourist destination, but noted that the harbor and the wetlands it was built upon are connected.
In the early 20th century, the Ballona Wetlands included land that is now Marina del Rey and Playa Vista and even extended to parts of Venice.
“The county has taken a lot from the wetlands to build Marina del Rey and it’s time they give something back,” said Hanscom, executive director of the Playa del Rey-based Ballona Institute, which advocates for restoration of the wetlands.
Cassandra Murillo, a Marina del Rey resident and wetlands supporter, said during the meeting that changing the freeway’s name would serve a greater purpose.
“Honoring the wetlands would also help the mission of protecting them,” Murillo said.
Hanscom helped launch the campaign to rename the 90 six years ago, after Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison brought up the idea during a Ballona Institute awards dinner.
“We’re grateful Supervisor Knabe’s listening to the people,” Hanscom said. “The result shows the power of the people.”