A patch of the Ballona Wetlands where a group of Pacific tree frogs has provided the soundtrack to early winter evenings has been saved after a drainage project near a neighboring bed and breakfast was modified.
The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation completed a three-day public works flood control operation February 1st, which was centered around draining a pool of puddled water near the parking lot of the Inn at Playa del Rey on Culver Boulevard and Nicholson Street.
Law enforcement and city officials determined that it could potentially become a safety hazard for motorists driving west on Culver, and an emergency permit was granted by the California Coastal Commission to begin the drainage project during the last weekend in January.
“It was very important that we moved forward on the drainage issue,” said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
The frogs, which live approximately 300 feet from the Inn, could have been harmed if the flood control measures had gone ahead as planned, said Robert “Roy” van de Hoek, co-director of the Ballona Institute, which is located a few blocks west of the bed and breakfast in Playa del Rey.
Van de Hoek said that removing pampas grass, in which the frogs live, could have deprived the frogs of the type of habitat they need in order to survive.
“These frogs need to live infreshwater ponds, not saltwater,” said van de Hoek.
In addition to the public safety problem, guests were also having difficulty entering and exiting the bed and breakfast because of the water, said Susan Zolla, the Inn at Playa del Rey’s owner.
“We were having a hard time with access in and out of our inn,” Zolla told The Argonaut in an interview after the project was completed.
Ruth Lansford, founder of the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, feels that van de Hoek’s concerns are much ado about nothing.
“The flood capacity was reduced because of the pampas grass removal,” Lansford said. “It will not disturb the freshwater marsh there.”
The removal of the grass ultimately did not disturb the frog habitat severely, said Rosendahl.
“Everyone is sensitive to frogs and the surrounding environment,” said the councilman.
Zolla is pleased that the project has been completed and that she was able to work with van de Hoek and Rosendahl to reach an amiable solution.
“It was a very good team that worked well together,” she said.
Van de Hoek agrees.
“Although there was some impact to the immediate area, Councilman Rosendahl was able to negate much of the impact,” he said. “He listened to short- and long-term solutions that we need, which are more freshwater ponds for frogs.”
Lansford said that the frogs are ubiquitous throughout the wetlands.
Zolla took a philosophical and humorous view of the amphibians that have been serenading pedestrians and possibly some of her guests over the last few months.
“Romancing frogs are always welcome to have a place by the Inn — especially in February,” she said.