By Kris Ellenberg
“Venice Dual Force Main” – a New Sewer Line To Be Constructed
The October 22 meeting hosted by the City of Los Angeles in the Community Room at Burton Chase Park about the sewer project was a disappointment to residents and environmental advocates who wanted to learn exactly how the project would impact their lives and the trees that make this part of Venice a nature sanctuary for residents and visitors alike. One of the topics of great interest relates to the beautiful trees that reside on public land along Via Marina, in and around the County-run public parking lots and at the small park at the south end of Via Marina. Unfortunately, because of the way the City and its consultants decided to run the meeting, answers to questions about the trees and how the sewer project relates to the continued health and survival of these tress still remain:
• exactly how many trees will be completely eliminated/removed/destroyed during the new sewer line project if it indeed does proceed down the Via Marina route that city bureaucrats appear committed to (there have been conflicting numbers given to the public – now the most consistent number appears to be “5.”)
• has a detailed assessment been completed by an independent arborist to determine how the project will impact the roots of other trees along the proposed sewer line route? If not, why not? If so, how will this project impact these trees, which are known to have shallow roots that sometimes interfere with sewer lines?
• given the history of sewer line interference with tree roots, why can’t the beach route (the part of the beach where there is no habitat for Least Terns or other sensitive species) be reconsidered for this project?
DEATH BY 1,000 CUTS – LA’s COASTAL FOREST AT RISK
The new sewer line route is just one of numerous problems and threats to the L.A. Coastal Forest – a nature sanctuary that includes more than 1,000 trees, many of which are at Mariners Village, but which also spills out onto Via Marina and the adjacent public parking lots and small pocket park at the jetty.
Even if we learn that “only 5” trees will be outright killed and eliminated from the area due to the sewer line project, this is just part of what Marcia Hanscom, Executive Director of the Ballona Institute, has called “Death by 1,000 cuts.”
“We’ve already seen the County and developers in the Marina cut down and kill hundreds of trees in the marina during the last few years, allegedly so that ‘native trees’ would replace the trees growing along Admiralty Way and in and around residential complexes that were being ‘remodeled,” explained Hanscom. “Besides the fact that the services of these trees are being disrupted – services like providing shade, oxygen and habitat for birds and butterflies – the trees are being treated like they are merely decoration, not part of the life of the ecosystem in the region. And that’s just wrong. Someone needs to speak for the trees, and the community is rising up to do so!”
“Besides, the trees that the County has installed as replacements are not even native trees, so their obviously false rationale falls to pieces,” continued Hanscom.
“There is a war on trees in the Los Angeles region,” stated van de Hoek, President of Ballona Institute and a certified wildlife biologist, with additional training in horticultural science. “As a scientist, it appears to me that logic and facts are not working, so we need to call in ‘The Lorax’ – Dr. Seuss’ lovable character that helped generations of children understand through story and art – why trees are so important.”
“What we have at Mariners Village and the south end of Via Marina – the part of Venice at the very southern tip of the marina peninsula – is quite special, from an ecosystem perspective,” explained van de Hoek.
“This is the only place where the Great Blue Heron nests in the entire Ballona Valley area, and the reason we have year-round resident Great Blue Herons at the Ballona Wetlands and in the nearby lagoons of Venice, the Marina and Playa del Rey, is because of the tallest of the trees in this area, surrounded by other trees that provide nesting materials and appropriate shelter for adult Herons looking to raise their young,” said van de Hoek.
Until the remodel of what was formerly known as Villa Venetia at the western end of Fiji Way, Great Blue Herons also nested there, and citizens of the region fought to preserve that part of the rookery. Now, only Mariners Village has nesting Great Blue Herons. In addition, the trees at Mariners Village, as well as in the adjacent small park, have been used for roosting by Black-crowned Night Herons and for nesting by the Double-crested Cormorants. All three of these bird species have some legal protection that county officials and developers appear to be ignoring.
During the last year, a number of trees at Mariners Village have been cut down to the stumps, and others were trimmed extensively, which van de Hoek says can lead to weakening of the root structure, especially with Italian Stone Pines, which is one of the trees used for nesting by the Great Blue Herons.
Citizens are wondering whether all of this activity is part of a systematic approach to ridding the area of the trees, given that the development plans by lessee Marina Admiralty, which is owned in part by former LA City Councilmember Cindy Miscikowski, includes the killing and elimination of all trees, all greenery, all waterfalls and ponds – part of what has made Mariners Village special since its inception, and what won landscaping awards as a “garden apartment” complex when the Ring brothers (Miscikowski’s late husband, Doug Ring’s father and uncle) first built it.
When tree lovers learned that more than 1,000 trees at Mariners Village were at risk for complete annihilation, a number of them, like van de Hoek, thought about The Lorax – and an effort to catalogue and identify every tree is now underway via “The Lorax Project.”
Additional trees along Via Marina are thought to be part of the continued County public works department’s project that has already killed and eliminated trees along Admiralty Way.
This little-known, but much appreciated “Coastal Forest” in LA is under assault, and the public is asked to step up and speak for the trees.
Donations for legal and outreach efforts are needed and will be greatly appreciated: http://www.gofundme.com/ProtectLAsCoastalForest
For more information or to become involved, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Above: Great Blue Heron busy parent with three babies
Photo: Lina Shanklin