A contractor was dumping mounds of construction debris in the Ballona Wetlands Photo by Jonathan Coffin

Compiled by Gary Walker

Truck Stuck in Wetlands Prompts Illegal Dumping Probe
State Fish and Wildlife officials, the California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles Police Department are investigating illegal dumping in the Ballona Wetlands after finding construction waste and an abandoned rental truck in the preserve near Nicholson Street and Cabora Drive on Oct. 21. The driver of the truck fled the scene on foot after it became trapped in grasses near a dirt trail under the bluffs, according to witnesses.

Investigators have traced the truck, which had to be towed out of the wetlands, to a contractor working near Manchester Avenue and Pershing Drive. CHP spokesman Vance Perreira said investigators are trying to track the contractor’s movements since their work began in September, but whoever was driving the truck appears to have rented it under another person’s name.

“There were many witnesses to the alleged illegal dumping,” Perreira said. “We heard that someone was even using a backhoe in there, and that just caused further disruption to the area.”

Nature photographer Jonathan Coffin, who frequently takes pictures of wildlife from the edge of the wetlands, said he saw trucks entering and leaving the wetlands for more than a week.

“I contacted Fish and Wildlife after I saw them dump these mounds in an area where sawgrass grows, and sawgrass is the habitat of the wandering skipper [a brown-winged butterfly]” Coffin said.

Perreira said investigators have not determined possible criminal charges. On Feb. 25, a Carmel man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for illegally discarding construction debris and fill material into the San Francisco Bay wetlands.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office called for an investigation after receiving a constituent complaint, and the city has since revoked work permits for the contractor suspected of illegal dumping in Ballona, council office spokesman David Graham-Caso said.

A New Look for Historic Fire Station 62
A group of Mar Vista locals working to repurpose the former Fire Station 62 on Centinela Avenue into an all-purpose community center is expected to discuss new project renderings during its upcoming annual meeting, happening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church (3590 Grand View Blvd., Mar Vista). Over a decade-long fundraising campaign, Friends of Historic Fire Station 62 have also contemplated inclusion of a childcare center and local historical society. Visit historic62.org to contact the group.

Heart of Del Rey Wants to Be L.A.’s Next Great Street
A committee of Del Rey residents is competing for $500,000 in city funding to make Centinela Avenue between Short Avenue and Braddock Drive a participant in the Great Streets program, a special initiative of the mayor’s office to make neighborhood centers more pedestrian-friendly. Locals are calling the project area the Heart of Del Rey.

Early ideas include additional crosswalks and various cosmetic upgrades to the frontages of commercial properties, with the Del Rey/Centinela Streetscape Improvement Group hosting a community meeting at Casa Sanchez (4500 S. Centinela Ave.) from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 12) to discuss results of a recent community survey.

Group member Ron Kato said some locals have suggested adding a protected bike lane along Centinela — similar to the Great Streets segment of Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista, still controversial after nearly two years of operation — but losing a lane of traffic in either or both directions has been a non-starter.
“That would take out a lane of traffic or parking lanes,” Kato said, “so that’s not viable.”

A Heart of Del Rey pop-up street party from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, will close Centinela to vehicle traffic between Short and Braddock, giving the public a chance to see mock installations of possible streetscape enhancements — including the possibility of a new crosswalk on Centinela at Greene Avenue, Kato said.

Sachi Hartley, a Del Rey resident who owns the SACHI.LA coffee shop on Centinela between Greene and Walsh avenues, said most of her customers walk to the shop. She applauds efforts to make Centinela safer and more inviting for pedestrians, including new crosswalks and sidewalk repairs.

“We have a lot of new families and moms with children in the neighborhood who walk a lot, so out of respect for their safety I think having an option to be able to cross the street in the middle of Centinela would be huge,” she said.

Jeff Ross and his wife Rose Brandt, both SACHI regulars who live nearby, are excited about the prospect of a safer, more pleasant walk.

“The main thing that I agree with is the extra crosswalk,” and having newly refurbished façades for the businesses “would make Centinela nicer walk,” said Ross. And, “Instead of just a crosswalk, I would prefer a full-on [signal] light with the crosswalk” at Greene, Brandt added.

Attendees of Del Rey Day on Oct. 20 in Glen Alla Park were invited to participate in the survey being discussed Tuesday.

“I would like to see a few more stores and make the street a little more festive, bright and cheery,” local Genevieve Santiesteban said during the event. “I think that would make people want to walk down Centinela and shop more.”