Neighbors who live near the Del Rey Lagoon in Playa del Rey who argued that a proposed development at the north end of the site would need to have a full environmental analysis have received some support from the City of Los Angeles.

Community members and local environmentalists note that the northern end of the lagoon, which is known to locals as “Egret Park,” is popular with varieties of wildlife and is along the flight path of birds that come to look for food and return to their nesting areas.

The owner of the lagoon property near 63rd Avenue and Esplanade Street has proposed to construct 13 residential units, ranging from two to four bedrooms and 700 to 2,400 square feet in size, at the site. The proposed development would have a maximum height of 26 feet and would provide subterranean parking.

Some residents have called for a full environmental impact report (EIR) on the project, arguing that a development on the property would have a significant impact on the local wildlife and affect one of the few remaining wetlands in the area. Others believe that having buildings at Egret Park would block views of Ballona Creek and the ocean.

“Given the location of the property, (an EIR) seems absolutely necessary with the potential environmental impacts and impacts to the wildlife,” said resident Cheryl Burnett, a member of the Committee to Complete the Park.

“It would completely eliminate all public views and impact the birds that fly into the area.”

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has said that he does not want to see any development at the site, and has supported the call for a full EIR on a proposed project there. The Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey also voted in November to recommend an environmental analysis for any Egret Park development.

Last month, city Planning Department staff joined the call by finding that an EIR will be required due to “potentially significant impacts on biological resources, land use/planning, public services and utilities.”

Local environmentalists hailed the planning staff decision on the need for environmental review of the proposed project.

“We think it’s about time that the city finally realizes these developments in sensitive areas need to have proper environmental review,” said Marcia Hanscom, co-founder of the Playa del Rey-based Ballona Institute.

Representatives of project developer D.S. Ventures could not be reached for comment on the EIR request by planning department staff. David Schwartzman of D.S. Ventures, owner of the lagoon property, described his proposal in an earlier interview as “nice housing along the ocean.”

Schwartzman has said the property has already received an environmental impact analysis along with several other properties under the Westchester community plan. City staff previously requested that the project be scaled back to 20,000 square feet and the developer complied, he noted.

“We designed a project that fits within the setback,” the property owner said in an earlier interview.

But some residents claim that the specific parcel at Egret Park has not received a complete environmental study. Hanscom said the park is used by various wildlife, such as squirrels, butterflies and birds, and impacts to their way of life can not be mitigated.

“There’s a natural ecosystem going on and if we completely disrupt it, how can we make up for it?” she asked. “It’s not a proper place for any kind of development.”

Community members have said the project is not just a neighborhood issue because the park is enjoyed not only by local residents but visitors from throughout the city.

“This is part of a very large public resource that’s bigger than one neighborhood park,” said Hanscom, referring to the park’s inclusion in the overall Ballona Wetlands.

A group known as the Committee to Complete the Park and other concerned community members have scheduled a town hall meeting to inform the community of the project plans at Egret Park and address development issues. The meeting is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, February 26th at Del Rey Church, 8505 Saran Drive, Playa del Rey.

Some experts in land use and urban ecology are expected to attend, including Huey Johnson, founder of the Trust for Public Land; Travis Longcore, USC professor and director of Urban Ecological Research at USC; and Sandy Genis, board of directors member of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.

Meeting organizers say they plan to raise awareness about the Egret Park plans and will discuss other parcels of the wetlands that may be at risk for development. They also plan to continue their efforts to see that the lagoon property is preserved as part of the overall Ballona Wetlands park.

“We’re hopeful that the state and federal elected officials will understand that this is a public resource that has to be a priority for preserving,” Hanscom said.

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