By Suzanne Thompson
Were you there when they crucified my lord? (old gospel tune)
Oh… sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble… were you there when they crucified my lord?
This time of year, this song comes to mind, especially when I think of the recent vote at L.A. City Council to destroy what is left, the 5 percent of our wetlands, the liver of the city of Los Angeles.
This last open space could not only be used for habitat, but also as a treatment wetland. This natural treatment wetland could clean Ballona and Centinela creeks before they reach the preserved 600-acre Ballona Ecological Reserve and Santa Monica Bay. Instead, it was given over to development of Playa Vista, Phase 2.
For more information go to www.naturaltreatmentsystem.org, Yes, jobs. Green jobs!
On March 26, in a packed council chamber, the councilmembers voted 12 to 2 to approve the plan, with Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who represents Playa Vista and Venice, and West LA Councilmember Paul Koretz voting no. I commend both of these men for their compassion and sensitivity to the environment and courage to stand up to money throwing developers and single issue labor representatives.
Council President Eric Garcetti was absent and sorely missed especially as Councilmember Dennis Zine demonstrated a lack of experience in running the meeting. Several community members, myself included, were not allowed to give public comment and questioned whether a Brown Act (open meeting law) violation was committed.
Rosendahl received over 500 personal letters opposing the project and faced many unhappy westsiders at town hall meetings who were opposed to further expansion of Playa Vista and destruction of this delicate ecosystem.
Koretz was not satisfied with the developer’s representative’s response to protecting the animals from road kill by proposing an underground tunnel for the animals to cross the street.
According to the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, Playa Vista 2 would add 2,800 residential units, 175,000 sq ft of office space, and a huge shopping center to Ballona. This would result in a minimum additional 26,000 car trips per day. And, permission to build on the property would also represent a multi-million-dollar giveaway to the Wall Street investment consortium landowners.
Rosendahl decided to honor his 2005 signed pledge to voters that he would not approve further development of Phase 2 until the first phase was completed. He redeemed himself by keeping his word. Some wished he had pushed harder for other councilmembers to vote against the project and save Ballona Wetlands. Valley Councilmember Richard Alarcon was seen ducking under his desk when a member of the community addressed the council and noted that as a former candidate for Mayor, Alarcon had signed the pledge in 2005 as well.
Maria Elena Durazo, head of the L.A. union federation, voiced labor’s support for jobs and encouraged a yes vote for expansion of the project. Steve Soboroff, leader of the pro-developer pack, turned around to the audience after addressing the council, raised his hands in the air for what appeared to be an orchestrated self congratulating cheer from his congregants. Perhaps it’s also due to his alleged contributions to councilmembers’ favorite non-profits. He is president of one of wealthiest foundations in the area, the Weingard Foundation.
Choir members Kathy Knight of the Sierra Club, Marcia Hanscom director of the Ballona Institute, attorney Sabrina Venskus, Tom Francis, and Mary Davis of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, Rex Frankel, Patricia McPherson and others, sang loud and strong. Hundreds wrote letters, sent emails, made phone calls and attended the council meeting. Even though the vote was lost, Rosendahl kept his word. And, now we can keep the faith, in the struggle as we move on for justice to protect the liver of Los Angeles.