Annenberg in the Dog House

By John Davis

The philanthropic Annenberg Foundation has undertaken many projects that benefit society as a whole. However, it’s proposal to build a dog and cat kennel on the wetlands preserve is absurd. The City of Palos Verdes flatly rejected this project.

It was then offered to the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, who accepted.

Cal DFW euphemistically calls the big dog house an,“interpretive center.”

As described, the project will also consist of retail, office space, and baseball diamonds. The footprint of the 46,000 square foot building would be extended by a parking lot. Builders’ stakes have already pierced the public land, even before the people decide if the project will go forward or not.

Cal DFG announced the big dog house will be part of the “restoration” of the Ballona Wetlands. The basic idea is oxymoronic. Placing a building on wetlands or upland habitat restores nothing.

Public agencies are not supposed to act as cheerleaders for projects they undertake. Their purpose is to inform the public, collect comments and execute the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process. The agency is to remain neutral.

It appears that Annenberg foisted a stratagem on Cal DFW to build the wetland dog house. It provided to the State a document called, “Ballona opposition emails.”

On the other hand, Annenberg and Cal DFW arranged what it called “Conservations with the Neighbors,”  recording the attendance of two meetings. The public was not noticed. Only persons favored by the State Agency and Annenberg were invited, excluding all others.

The list included Cyndi Hench, President; Denny Schneider, Board Member and Past President; and Sibyl Buchanan, executive of Playa Capital Corporation and Board member, all from the Westchester/Playa Neighborhood Council. Elizabeth Zamora, Vice President of the Del Rey Neighborhood Council was invited too. Lisa Fimiani and Stephen Groner of the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, a private business, participated.

Representatives of a number of non-profit businesses also attended, as did officials from the County of Los Angeles. The meetings were held on December 6th and 12th, 2012.

The list is long. It did not include the Venice Neighborhood Council.

The question is, why did a State Agency engage and meet with this select list of people and groups, while failing to let any other stakeholders participate? The VNC should clearly have been invited.

Annenberg wants a long-term lease on the public property. It would result in bulldozing and filling valuable habitat in the Ecological Wetlands Preserve. The land deed restrictions do not speak to a long-term lease. Only Annenberg has the connections to pull it off.

There is no money to complete the overall project. That is probably why Annenberg was let in. If the enormous outlay of taxpayer money necessary for the project was disclosed, the public would shudder.

Categories: Environment