By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Volunteers organized by the Ballona Institute, an affiliate of Wetlands Action Network, have been trained to identify native versus non-native plants. Planning consultants, biologists, nursery costs and supplies were paid in part by about $380,000 from developers of the Latitude 33 condos directly adjacent to the Grand Canal.
Rosendahl is credited by the Ballona Wetlands Institute's Marcia Hanscom, and attorney Carstens, for a turnaround in attitude from City Hall.
Among the most active of the volunteer organizations are students at the Westside Leadership Magnet School on the Marina Peninsula adjacent to the wetlands.
"We're the only school that has that in Los Angeles," says Alice, president of Westside Boost, the school's parent association, referring to the adjacent wetlands. Younger children water the native plants, and science classes for the older kids are taught at the canal.
"It's a great way for the kids to see the bigger picture of what's around them," Alice says. "The goal is to get them to nurture this community and take it back home."
Her hope is that the kids' involvement reverberates across Los Angeles. Eighty percent of the school's students are bused in, some from disadvantaged areas.
But can 4,000 feet of soil, the length of the dual banks and their submerged areas in this fledgling restoration, make a difference?
"We've lost 95 percent of the wetlands of Los Angeles County," says Lewis MacAdams, president of Friends of the Los Angeles River. "Every inch of wetlands that Los Angeles can save is crucial."
He points to the smallest incremental attention to watershed health as reaping major victories: "A steelhead trout was seen in the mouth of the Ballona Creek last spring," he says. "That image is really haunting."
"When the river was channelized starting in 1938," he adds, the trout "all disappeared."
He now is pressing for the restoration of 125 acres of land at Union Pacific's Piggyback Rail Yard along the L.A. River, where it passes the San Antonio Winery downtown.
At Venice Grand Canal, about 20 acres eventually will be restored. "In the field of biogeography," says van de Hoek, "when you increase the area, you exponentially increase the number of species, and the project will have impacts beyond its physical boundaries. ... You can't have a mountain lion living in one acre of chaparral."
But despite the activists' victory, Carstens does not see their smooth relations with Rosendahl as an indicator of change at City Hall.
"These days, the city is moving in the opposite direction — cutting out the public even more," Carstens says.
In fact, he says, the Villaraigosa administration has "proposed nine ordinances that would eliminate or reduce public involvement in proposed projects ... like eliminating a finding that a proposed project does not adversely affect 'the public's welfare.' Why would you eliminate that?"
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