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Malibu Lagoon Dispute 

Thursday, Sep 8 2011
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Readers sounded off last week on our story covering a feud between two groups of environmental activists over the future of the Malibu Lagoon ("The Battle for Malibu Lagoon," by Hillel Aron, Sept. 2).

Environmental nonprofits, such as Heal the Bay, want to complete a full restoration of the lagoon, saying they found evidence that the water quality is reaching toxic levels and the underwater mud is contaminated, even though the marsh looks healthy on the surface. Local activists are protesting this restoration because they believe the lagoon is beautiful as is, and they're skeptical of the nonprofits' findings. The locals think a restoration could actually ruin the marshland, even if the nonprofit groups have good intentions.

Dee Fromm writes: "Surfrider representative claims that Marcia [Hanscom] doesn't care about what is in the water? Has he ever been on a tour with her at the lagoon? She and her biologist partner Roy show people the tremendous amount of life in the water — I saw the millions of fish there this summer, and also dragonfly larvae and many invertebrates.

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"Some of us have heard the story about Mr. Ambrose [Rich Ambrose, an environmental sciences and engineering professor at UCLA and a technical adviser for the project] claiming there are only 'negative' types of species of worms in the lagoon. There are no scientists worth their salt who call any species 'negative' — especially when they are natural to the ecosystem being described.

"What about the endangered tidewater goby — a fish that is thriving in the lagoon water? The Save the Lagoon crowd talks incessantly about the goby. How was this point missed by the author?"

Hans Laetz comments: "Honestly, only in California could a person who runs a group called 'Coastal Law Enforcement Action Agency' (another Hanscom-run 'nonprofit') argue against Heal the Bay's and the State Parks' efforts to bring the stinky lagoon into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act and various state water board orders to clean up this mess.

"Only in Malibu could an 'environment group' argue that human waste, in the form of poop-laden water flowing in and out of septic tanks below sea level and in the sand, is not a human health hazard. Yes, I live in a community where some people say, with a straight face, 'Welcome to Malibu, where our sh*t don't stink.' "

And Burdenoffreedom says: "Malibu needs the creek back. No Lagoon. Make everyone happy and put the Creek back the way GOD made it.

"This will make the wave good again. Sucks now yet the crowds come anyway.

"The economy is good there because of the wave. Kill the wave. Lose the cash."

Up the Junction

Another story that pushed some buttons was our piece looking into the finances of the Sunset Junction Festival ("Sunset Junction's Failed Mission," by Amanda Becker, Sept. 2).

The festival was canceled this year because Sunset Junction failed to pay the city thousands of dollars owed in permits from last year's festival. When the Weekly looked deeper into the organization's money troubles, we discovered the so-called charity was spending far more money on lobbyists than it was on its original purpose, youth programs.

Michael McKinley of Sunset Junction, under the commenter name 2Sides2EveryStory2, responded to our report. Here are some excerpts from his 1,100-word comment: "The 2011 admission price of $25 was increased on Aug. 1, 2011, from $20, in order to help pay for the high city fees being charged to the fair. Sunset Junction paid $23,000 in fees its 28th year; fees were not charged the 29th year, and four days before the 2010 event marking the 30th year, organizers were told they owed $263,000 before the street closure approval could be made. ... This is 10 times more than any other comparable citywide event. It is more than the Hollywood Bowl pays for a year of street closures and police and it's more than the Oscars pay for their street closures and security. Public record backs this up. ...

"[W]hile Sunset Junction understands and respects the importance of news reporting for the community, credible journalism should always include the reporting of both sides of an issue. Credible journalism does not represent a highly repetitive one-sided account that continuously relies on the same sources for quotations."

Commenter JJ writes: "If people want to know why McKinley would act so arrogant and be a general prick to folks who have businesses in the immediate area of Sunset Junction despite community concerns and whispers about where the money was going, let alone plan a huge festival without getting the proper permits from the city, you only have to look at the fact that these issues have been big for a long time now (L.A. Weekly wrote an article 10 years ago highlighting some of these same concerns about him and his 'charity'!) and yet nothing was done until now."

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