Big surf at Venice breakwater. Credit: Kris Dahlin

Ballona Wetlands Ad
I couldn’t help but notice the full back page ad in the 9/30/21 Argonaut, bought by “Defend Ballona Wetlands,” the latest of several “nonprofit” advocacy groups opposing the State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s extraordinary restoration plan for the Ballona Wetlands. The ad focuses first on the legitimate community issue of the Gas Company’s Playa del Rey storage facility, but then descends into absolutely false and misleading drivel about the state’s proposed wetland restoration project, which has no relation to the Gas Company operation except that it has already forced the utility to begin closing its wells located on state fish and wildlife property in advance of the wetlands restoration project.

“Defend” and other advocacy groups have sued the state of California (that’s all of us) claiming the wetland restoration project Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is faulty. The 1,000 page-plus EIR properly and factually evaluated 13 different restoration alternatives for Ballona using sound science, eliminating nine alternatives and advocating for the most comprehensive restoration plan. Those eliminated plans did not meet our state’s goals, enshrined in law, to restore our tidelands to their maximum ecological productivity. Over a dozen credible environmental organizations, including Heal the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, and Friends of Ballona Wetlands have endorsed the EIR.

The state’s preferred plan will create, enhance and restore highly productive wetland habitats across the 600-acre ecological reserve, in large part by digging out the 200 acres of unproductive, weed-infested fill dirt dumped south of Fiji Way 60 years ago during the Marina’s construction. Most all of this fill, which buried productive wetland, will be repurposed by the project into modern vegetated flood control infrastructure protecting lower Playa del Rey, and will also support 10 miles of new bike trails and footpaths around the perimeters of the reserve. The new infrastructure will eliminate the ancient, obsolete concrete banks of Ballona Creek within the reserve boundaries and allow ocean tides to flow freely back to their pre-Marina limits, including the lands formerly buried.

The strategy of “Defend” and the other advocacy groups suing California is not designed to force a major change in the proposed project, as the plaintiffs know full well that at most, their litigation might force a minor revision and strengthening of the EIR.  The project will then move forward, as it should, but will unfortunately have been delayed another two to three years by this meaningless litigation, which will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be spent on the project itself, including legal expenses demanded by the litigants.

If failure of their litigation is inevitable, then what is the strategy of these advocacy groups? The answer is simple: money. These “groups” are not what I know to be legitimate, board- and policy-governed, professionally staffed nonprofit organizations, but rather single individuals masquerading as a “group.” These individuals tap into the generosity of caring but guileless citizens persuaded to donate cold, hard cash to their “cause,” under a phony promise to stop their phony threat of state-sponsored wildlife mass murder.

In the 18 years and counting that the Ballona project has been discussed, debated and planned in the public forum, none of these groups, to my knowledge, has ever spent a cent of their charitable donations on expert scientific testimony from credentialed and published professionals in any field of wetland restoration science. Instead, I presume they spend the money on food, clothing, transportation and shelter, just like the rest of us that work a job. Even their lawyers likely work pro bono on the promise of taxpayer-funded reimbursement.

Fabricating their fictional narratives about Gas Company conspiracies, impending doom to endangered species and countless other lies in full-page Argonaut ads, these folks simply want to ensure their money spigot flows for as long as possible. Caveat emptor.
David W. Kay, D. Env.
Playa Vista

Re: My take on the MVCC
I was a member of the Mar Vista for All Slate in the most recent Mar Vista Community Council election, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw a letter to the editor from Elliot Hanna, former chairman of the MVCC.

Leaving aside the fact that Mr. Hanna either continues to misrepresent our slate’s positions on multiple issues or simply never understood them, I find it odd that Mr. Hanna states both that he was shocked by Chairperson Wheeler’s Stalinesque purge of all community members from committee leadership and that he is a model of inclusivity.

First, in the most recent election, Mr. Hanna as chairman did not take any action to enact removal or force recusal from the MVCC Outreach Committee of members standing for election. If you’re not familiar with the Outreach Committee, they are a bridge between the MVCC and the community at large. Members of the committee have access to contact information for hundreds, if not thousands, of MVCC stakeholders.

Sitting on this committee while simultaneously running for a position on the MVCC is akin to working in the elections division of the city while running for a council seat. Even if no impropriety exists, it creates the image of impropriety, and anyone with a working moral compass would recuse themselves from this committee when running for re-election.

The chair of this committee at the time was Ms. Wheeler who, when asked to recuse herself from the committee until the election was over by members of our slate, stated that the committee could not function without her. This should have been Mr. Hanna’s first clue that he was backing Pol Pot in a sun hat. It didn’t bother the chairman at the time, but now we are made to believe that Ms. Wheeler’s most recent autocratic actions sent his mind reeling.

Second, while it is true that Mr. Hanna made an effort to include opposing voices on the MVCC, he is also the very same Mr. Hanna that sent unhinged, ranting emails to losing candidates in the most recent election telling them that they wasted everyone’s time and shouldn’t have bothered to run. For Mr. Hanna to now behave as if Ms. Wheeler’s silencing of alternative viewpoints has somehow offended his sensibilities is strange to say the least.

Finally, given that Mr. Hanna accused our slate of not understanding what a community council does, I wonder if Mr. Hanna in his next letter would be so kind as to address Ms. Wheeler’s recent assertion that the MVCC has no right to debate the legality of anything brought before them and that their sole purpose is to pass stakeholder opinion up to the city council.

However, if Mr. Hanna would like to comment on another aspect of Ms. Wheeler’s deranged despotic regime that he successfully midwifed (the dozens of Brown Act violations to which the city has taken a hands-off approach, the hijacking of committee meetings so that Chairperson Wheeler is the defacto chair for most meetings, the secret stakeholder votes that only she has the tallies for that always align with her opinion, the refusal to conduct certain MVCC business via email or through any medium that would leave a paper trail, etc.), I’m sure the community would be equally interested to hear his thoughts.
Ben Warga
Losing Candidate