Homelessness impacted by high rental housing, low incomes
Back to the subject of the unattended or abandoned possessions of homeless people, I agree with the letter writer (“Argument is not about property, but on numbers of homeless”, Argonaut, July 25), that it is the problem of homelessness itself that is not addressed by officials, civic leaders and activists, and given real focus.
The numbers of homeless people here in Los Angeles, and elsewhere in this country, have grown markedly in recent years, as the bad economy has torn apart the middle class. It is true that a number of homeless people are mentally ill, substance abusers or alcoholics, and that a number of homeless people are also veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or other medical issues who are not receiving adequate treatment or services.
But a growing block of homeless people are older adults who have been pushed out of the job market due to age discrimination, who have battled lengthy unemployment, and who have lost their homes or apartments, particularly apartments, because they could no longer afford to live in their places – either having to leave on their own, or being forced out by eviction action, often with no place to go. For many older adults, family members and other relatives who could be of assistance may have either already passed on, or are scattered and live far apart, or they may no longer be in contact with them. So older homeless people often have no family resources to draw on, particularly if they are childless with no grown children of their own, when faced with homelessness.
These are homeless people who are not mentally ill, or alcoholics, or drug addicts. There are also many other financially struggling older adults who are scraping by on meager incomes, who also face unemployment, and who are at high risk of losing their apartments and becoming homeless. These can be couples, and men, but they are often women.
I know of an over-50-year-old unemployed woman who recently lost her longtime apartment to eviction who is now homeless, I know an over-60-year-old woman, who is currently struggling to have enough paying work, who went through a homeless period herself a decade ago, and who is still at high risk of becoming homeless again and losing her apartment. I knew another over-50 woman who was unemployed for some time, who came close to becoming homeless herself.
In looking at the causes of homelessness, my anger grows at all the greedy property management companies who have mostly overtaken individual landlords these days as apartment complex owners and managers, who force out longtime tenants, particularly elderly or low-income tenants, in order to raise rents because they want higher-income tenants, and who do not want to have anything to do with Section 8, or with providing affordable rental housing for low-income people.
For many struggling people who are apartment tenants and have lost income due to unemployment, or from taking lower-paying work, property management companies make it difficult for them to remain living in their apartments.
Along with focusing on homelessness in this country, the high cost of rental housing that pushes out low-income people – the very people who need affordable rental housing because they cannot, of course, afford to buy houses – is another issue, alongside gun control or immigration, where changes are badly needed. Yet property management companies continue to have large apartment complexes of 400 units or more constructed, that will rent at high prices, and in which only those who earn $60,000 a year or more are able to afford, not those who are earning meager wages working at McDonalds or at Wal-Mart, or who subsist on disability checks.
It is also an obstacle for lower-income people to qualify for a new apartment if they do not meet the requirement that their monthly take-home earnings are three times the amount of the cost of the monthly rent, and if others, including family members, refuse to be co-signers on rental agreements, which property management companies also require.
Expect to find our homeless numbers growing more all the time, along with the possessions they carry around with them, thanks to unemployment, low-wages, meager incomes, and the high-cost of rental housing.
Patricia Estes

Investigation needed on wetland drains
Re: “Removing wetland drains would impact plant resources,” (Argonaut letters, July 25).
The letter writer has squandered any credibility he might have had on this issue by consistently defending powerful and monied interests at the expense of the public interest.
He has gone so far as to defend the Annenberg Foundation’s absurd suggestion that the ecological health of the Ballona Wetlands can be enhanced by constructing a giant dog and cat center on restorable upland habitat in Area C, an area that his organization was more than happy to have converted into condos and office space almost a decade ago. Now he is defending a drainage system that the California Coastal Commission acknowledges was installed with no permit.
The letter writer and Friends of Ballona Wetlands should join other conservation-minded individuals and groups in pushing for a thorough investigation and an objective, science-based study of the impacts of these drainage systems on the ecosystem. Whatever the letter writer’s views on the drainage system itself, it is alarming that he would be so cavalier about a private developer installing such devices without any consultation of the appropriate authorities. What kind of precedent does he believe that will establish for other developers regarding coastal development elsewhere in the state?
The Friends of Ballona Wetlands are finding themselves in an increasingly precarious situation in which their consistent and unconditional support for whatever entity wields the most power and money is beginning to attract attention. Because of the valuable programs that the Friends operate in Area C of the reserve, we’ve been as diplomatic as possible in our comments.
However, this organization is dangerously close to “greenwashing” territory and we urge all of its board members, staff, and supporters to evaluate its positions and public statements on issues like this.
Walter Lamb
Ballona Wetlands Land Trust

Grateful to ‘miracle workers’
Literally within a few minutes following my backward fall in the adult pool area of the Marina City Club on Saturday afternoon, June 29, paramedic team leader Stan Fung was kneeling next to me, asking questions for recognition, while his team was busy checking my pulse, temperature, heart rate and other vitals statistics.
The care and assistance rendered was unbelievable.
It was not the first time I witnessed these “angels of mercy” in action – my wife had their benefit for three years until she finally passed. That’s why I call them the “miracle workers.”
I apologize for the late recognition of their great work, but I spent 10 long days at Cedars Sinai taking X-rays, several MRIs, CT scans and more X-rays. I have just finished five days at home.
Again, thank you Stan and your crew!
Elias J. Papachristos
Marina del Rey

Marina projects not in favor of the citizens
The Westchester-Playa Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee must be celebrated. We have no council here in Marina del Rey where more than 1,500 apartments in just three buildings along three blocks have been promised to developers.
We were plowed under by phony traffic reports and a bogus and partial environmental impact report. Now, after the fact and after our Local Coastal Program was amended to suit the county supervisors, the Department of Regional Planning wants us to “vision” (page 31).
At a recent meeting (reported in your July 25 edition), group leaders would only discuss the promenade when it’s traffic, traffic, traffic that’s at stake along with safety. None of us who lives here will be able to see the Marina without hiking along the promenade. All we shall see as we drive home are apartment buildings. Why live in the Marina?
And for those who visit on weekends, there will not be enough public parking as the lots have been given over to commercial and residential development. Trader Joe’s on Parcel 44 (page 10) will bring a huge number of cars to Mindanao and Bali ways at Admiralty Way.
No one says “no” to any of this; nor is there effective public transportation that joins us to Santa Monica and L.A. Regional Planning rubber stamps; the Board of Supervisors rules – but never in favor of the citizens!
Lynne Shapiro
Marina del Rey

Help with the root of the problem
I am a proud native Angelino and for the last 15 years have been a Mar Vista resident and homeowner. I have seen so much positive growth locally in new businesses and a wonderful farmers market.
However, I am shocked by the condition of our streets and sidewalks and I know I am not alone in this opinion. I currently have a dangerous situation in front of my own home.
A city owned 60-plus-foot tall and over 75-year-old Camphor tree’s roots have split and separated my sidewalk, leaving it at a dangerous pitch. I’m hoping our new Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin will read this letter and offer some assistance.
My certified letters/photos to L.A. Street Services and attending local council meetings for guidance has fallen on deaf ears. We pay some of the highest property and state taxes; let’s see our dollars put into the safety of our families and community.
Christina Segler
Mar Vista

Don’t rush to judgment on wetland drainage system
Re: “Removing wetland drains would impact plant resources,” (Argonaut letters, July 25).
The presence of the drains is curious, and rather than taking a stand about whether they should be removed or not, first I would suggest we find out the following: 1) the extent and intended purpose of the drainage system; 2) how the drainage system actually functions, including the effect on all the wetland areas, not just the created, managed freshwater marsh; 3) what effect removal of the drainage system would have on the Ballona Wetlands; and finally, 4) whether the presence of the drainage system affects the baseline hydrology and vegetation studies already completed to inform the proposed Ballona Wetland restoration plan.
The letter writer seems to feel that a “properly functioning wetland” needs to “enjoy twice daily tidal action.” This may be true for an open tidal system but is not necessary for all coastal wetlands. His view is in apparent contradiction of the historic condition of the Ballona Wetlands before major impacts by humans.
The data gathered for the Historical Ecology of the Ballona Creek Watershed (Dark et al. 2011) suggests that before a jetty was constructed to open it to the ocean in the late 1800s, the Ballona Wetlands (called Ballona Lagoon in the study) had only moderate or no tidal influence and was dominated by freshwater inputs from the watershed. Tidal connection was only accomplished in high rainfall years when the sand dune that separated the lagoon from the ocean was opened. Herbarium records cited in this study reveal species from fresh to brackish marsh with some salt marsh species, but no species that would be found in perennially open tidal wetlands.
I am not sure what the letter writer means by the state restoration plan “correctly” reshaping the Ballona topography. So far the preferred alternatives for the Ballona Wetlands restoration that I have seen show perennially open tidal wetlands. If using historic ecology records as a guide, the planned reshaping of the Ballona topography is not correct. I would like to see a plan to restore the wetlands that is appropriate to the current conditions, and in as much is possible to the historic conditions. Such a plan would establish sustainable and resilient habitats that would likely require far less initial disturbance to establish and likely less management over time.
The writer states in his letter that removing the drains “could cause long-term freshwater ‘drowning’ of the wetlands’ salt-tolerant flora and fauna” in high rainfall years. This implies he knows the purpose of the drains. Based on the original report in The Argonaut and the letter, the drains could be for flood control. Or, might they be protection against saltwater intrusion into the freshwater marsh or other parts of the Playa Vista development? It is hard to know without more information on the drainage system.
However, the letter writer worries that removing the drains will eliminate the salt marsh plants. First, this implies that the drainage system is really important to the Ballona Wetlands, which at this point we do not know. And second, in my experience establishing salt marsh and brackish marsh habitat, many salt-adapted plant species’ seeds germinate in years of high rainfall and greater freshwater input. Natural systems are not static. While prolonged (over several seasons) freshwater in a brackish or salt marsh may cause changes in vegetation over portions of a wetland, a return to previous, normal rainfall conditions will result in salt-tolerant species expanding with some tidal influence.
By way of background, my own wetland restoration experience ranges from establishing coastal saltmarsh with twice daily tidal action to establishing inland alkali meadows on soils far saltier than the ocean, including both unmanaged systems and highly managed systems. At Ballona in 1990-91, I completed an initial analysis of water requirements for the riparian and marsh vegetation for the riparian corridor east of Lincoln Boulevard and freshwater marsh west of Lincoln for the Playa Vista development.
I hope that the California Coastal Commission staff asks for more information on the drainage system before any decision is made for removal. And, until the effects of this drainage system can be determined, the baseline hydrology and vegetation studies for the Ballona Wetlands restoration will be incomplete and inadequate to plan a sustainable wetland restoration.
Margot Griswold, Ph.D.
Restoration ecologist

Where’s enforcement on medical pot law?
Its been several months since the Los Angeles City Council voted to accept the new medical marijuana ordinance allowing 135 legal and legitimate dispensaries to operate within the city limits.
I read an article that stated around 1,200-1,500 dispensaries were actually open and selling marijuana. When there is an ordinance, a law, why is it not being enforced?
Most of these dispensaries are still open, dealing drugs and no one is doing anything about it?
Is Los Angeles, with a new city attorney in Mike Feuer, still a lawless city where you can deal drugs all day long and the City Attorney’s Office just allows it to happen with no enforcement?
Why was this even at the City Council for a vote if the outcome means nothing happens?

Steve Wallace
Los Angeles