Ballona Wetlands Records Lawsuit was a Taxpayer-Funded Witch-Hunt

Re: “Keep a Watchful Eye on the Wetlands,” Letters, March 10

The letter from Mr. Walter Lamb of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust reminds me of the Benghazi hearings.

Congressional committees or panels held 21 hearings investigating the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) lost his bid to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House largely because of his gaffe admitting that the hearings were simply a ruse for Republicans to torpedo Hillary Clinton’s reputation.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D- Md.), summed it up nicely: “The core Republican goal in establishing the Benghazi committee was always to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and never to conduct an evenhanded search for the facts.” The Benghazi inquiries cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

It would be provocative to ponder whether the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust’s recent lawsuit against the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission was similarly a vast, evil conspiracy to torpedo the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project, but I’m sure that is not the case. I believe it’s just another bush league move by a vaguely relevant non-profit group to fabricate a government corruption fable, hoping to scare the public into donating to their cause in order to “protect” the public interest.

The tactic is understandable and common. When I see SPCA commercials on late-night TV, it takes great restraint to not write yet another check to save the poor pooches shown in Texas puppy mills. The difference here is that the puppy mills really exist, but Bay Commission corruption does not. Also, the SPCA does not force taxpayer dollars to be wasted in order to obtain my sympathy or my money.

After reading the judge’s ruling in the Land Trust’s case, which denied many but not all of the Land Trust’s public records information requests, it’s obvious to me there is no story here.

The inquiry focused on the relationship between the Annenberg Foundation, the Bay Commission and the non-profit arm of the Bay Commission known as The Bay Foundation. To no one’s surprise, the Annenberg Foundation donated money to The Bay Foundation at a time when Annenberg was seeking to construct a controversial facility on the south-easternmost parcel of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, where the 90 Freeway and Culver Boulevard intersect. That proposal died, and Annenberg has since moved on to create their facility in the commercial area of Playa Vista. The Wetlands Restoration Project continues to move forward at glacial speed, sans the Annenberg element, with the support of The Bay Foundation.

This should have been the end of the story, except the Land Trust went to trial court seeking documents belonging to The Bay Foundation (including fundraising activities, donors and other information) — presumably to prove some insidious conspiracy to misappropriate federal funds. The judge said “no” to disclosing these documents that are the property of a private foundation and thereby not subject to public records disclosure laws. The judge did order other documents to be disclosed, many of which had already been provided to the Land Trust prior to the trial.

Now, back to my Benghazi reference. Since the Bay Commission is a state agency, it was defended in the Land Trust’s lawsuit by the California Attorney General’s office. The Los Angeles County Superior Court hosted the trial, led by a judge and supported by a court clerk and many other public employees who ensure justice on a daily basis. All of these public institutions burned up our taxpayer dollars to defend against this nonsense. This is the Benghazi parallel: the wasting of precious public resources on a frivolous investigation.

I could not determine from the court order whether the Land Trust’s attorney was compensated for her troubles with taxpayer money. I sure hope not.

David W. Kay, Playa Vista

FROM THE WEB

Re: “There Goes the Neighborhood,” Opinion, March 3

Rent control has never been a good solution. It creates an adverse relationship with the residents we serve. We do our best to follow the laws and meet our residents’ needs. We regularly improve our building, and twice a year we inspect each unit for deferred maintenance when we do our smoke detector inspections. Any items that are damaged or worn are repaired or replaced.

Lately we have seen residents try to sell their rights as tenants to others by bringing in a roommate and not telling us. Then the resident leaves and we have a new person in the apartment who says we cannot raise the rent.

The rents have not kept up with increasing costs, and our income has gone down. We are considering selling because we can’t continue to keep the building in its current great condition.

This explains why others are going out of the long-term rental business. What I would love to see is rent control replaced by a requirement for owners to provide a percentage for low-income housing. Then when the resident is requalified by the city on a yearly basis, we would all know that the resident who needs the discount would get it, and people would stop cheating. Landlords would have no reason to push someone out just to raise rents, because they couldn’t raise the rents.

Bob