Archive for December, 2020

2020 Accomplishments

Posted on: December 9th, 2020 by Lisa Author

2020 was an extremely challenging year for all of us but we are extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish in this difficult environment. You can learn more about how we adjusted our educational programs here, and more about our legal efforts here.

We made progress toward our goals of improving public access at the ecological reserve for education and stewardship and of converting excess paved parking areas to habitat, but we fell short of achieving these goals outright. We hope to be, and are confident that we will be, successful in these efforts in 2021 if we have your support.

With regard to access, after years of effort, we were finally able to get the Department of Fish and Wildlife to issue a memorandum outlining their concerns about implementing public access. Using this outline, we developed detailed plans that would allow access while maintaining the sensitive ecological and cultural assets of the ecosystem.

With regard to the excess paved parking areas, we filed a petition with the Fish and Game Commission requesting a determination of the compatibility of that land use, which the Commission was required by regulation to make. When the Commission refused to make such a determination, we filed suit to compel them to do so.

In addition to our education and advocacy work, Lisa and Sofia also continued to take periodic water quality measurements in Ballona Creek, once it was deemed safe to do so. This work will continue in 2021.

The Land Trust was represented at over 20 meetings of public agencies and we have done several public presentations of our own on the topic of the Ballona Wetlands.

We hope that you can support our work so that it may continue in 2021. If you are able to make a donation, please do so here.


Posted on: December 8th, 2020 by Lisa Author
Sofia and Lisa explore Harold A. Henry Park to help kids (and adults) find nature in their neighborhood city parks.

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic turned our education programs updside-down would be an understatement. Luckily, Lisa and Sofia adapted quickly and began translating our field trip program into virtual nature education classes and online content. Lisa and Sofia have taught scores of online classes to elementary school students, cub scouts other organizations. It goes without saying that we can’t wait to start coordinating field trips again, but even when this pandemic is finally behind us, we will be able to use these distance learning techniques to bring nature education to more kids across the city. The pictures below help illustrate how our education program has adjusted. Names and pictures of students and schools are blacked out for privacy purposes.

Sofia and Lisa start each class by introducing themselves, including a brief discussion of how they pursued careers in environmental science. This is very eye-opening for the kids, who may have never considered a nature-oriented career.
Lisa and Sofia then introduce the concepts of wetlands, watersheds, habitats and other aspects of the ecosystem.


Posted on: December 8th, 2020 by Lisa Author

Litigation is always a last resort for the Land Trust. However, it is frequently the only way that we can compel various agencies and entities to adhere to environmental laws and public interest laws. Regrettably, we found ourselves needing to litigate seven different cases in 2020, and we may need to file additional litigation in 2021. Below is a brief description of each case and why we believe each case is important to the welfare of the Ballona Wetlands.

We sued the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission twice, one suit is for refusing to disclose public records and the other relates to the Commission’s patently illegal delegation of its public duties to a private entity called the Bay Foundation. The Commission, a state agency, has a statutory mandate to monitor, assess, coordinate and advise all state programs that impact Santa Monica Bay and its watershed, including the Ballona Wetlands. Allowing a private Foundation to assume that oversight role, and allowing the Foundation to keep various documents hidden from the Commission, created a vacuum of leadership and accountability, which has led to harmful management decisions. We are very confident that we will prevail in both cases and that the Commission will be compelled to redefine its relationship with the Foundation in a manner that is consistent with the law. In three previous suits against the Commission, we received a favorable court ruling and two favorable settlements, as well as reimbursement of our legal fees of approximately $243,000.

We also filed a lawsuit directly against the Bay Foundation for breach of contract and fraud. This suit relates to a settlement agreement we had entered into with the Foundation designed to protect the independent decision-making of the Commission.

We sued the California Fish and Game Commission for refusing to make a required determination regarding the appropriateness of leasing ecological reserve land, acquired at great taxpayer expense for the express purpose of habitat conservation, the County to alleviate its parking needs.

We sued the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with the California Coastal Commission for approving the removal of mature trees from the ecological reserve without sufficient analysis or evidentiary support that such tree removal would not negatively impact the habitat in the ecological reserve.

For the third time, we also sued the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors for its refusal to disclose public records. And, for the third time, we obtained the records in question and reimbursement of our legal fees over $8,000, totaling over $23,000 for the three cases. It is very unfortunate that this County agency, which maintains the above referenced paved parking lots in the ecological reserve, has been so careless in its adherence to the California Public Records Act. We are confident that we will soon be able to compel the removal of excess parking areas in the ecological reserve, allowing that additional land to be converted to native wildlife habitat.

Finally, we sued the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau for violation of the Brown Act, which is the open meeting statute for local governments. The Bureau played a substantial lobbying role with regard to the leased parking areas in the ecological reserve.