Grassroots Coalition Announces -- California Coastal Commission Finds Playa Vista’s Illegal Water Drainage Devices Are Destructive to Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in Los Angeles

California Coastal Commission Rejects Claims of No Wrongdoing by Playa Capital LLC, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and Seeks Sanctions for Violations of the Coastal Act Upon Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve.

Photo of Ballona Wetlands looking west down Ballona Creek to the Ballona Wetlands and Santa Monica Bay. (Photo: Business Wire)

LOS ANGELES--()--Grassroots Coalition (GC), an organization that has long worked to protect the Ballona Wetlands and surrounding habitat along the Los Angeles coast, has received a copy of the April 11, 2014 California Coastal Commission (CCC) response and notification letter to Playa Capital Company LLC and copied to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, regarding their continued violation of the Coastal Act by use of an unpermitted water drainage system in the Ballona Wetlands. The Unpermitted Drains were installed by Playa Capital LLC, the former landowner. The new landowner, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW), has allowed the continued use of the Unpermitted Drains since 2004.

Grassroots Coalition and other groups believe the $25 million bond dollars, set aside exclusively for Ballona’s studies and restoration, at the time of the $140 million dollar purchase of the wetlands by the State of California in 2004, has been spent without accountability and tangible results required within the language of the public bond dollars.

Environmental studies, undertaken since CDFW take-over of Ballona, have not included hydrology studies pertaining to Ballona’s freshwater aquifers or habitat and significantly, the studies excluded reference to the ongoing drainage of its freshwaters.

The CCC letter addresses the deleterious effects upon Ballona’s habitat, “the Unpermitted Drains direct water away from habitat areas within the Ballona Ecological Reserve, including a wetland area.”

In 2013 the CCC first sent a letter to Playa Capital LLC and copied the California Department of Fish & Wildlife contending Coastal Act violations for lack of permitting of the drainage systems. See JULY 10, 2013, Los Angeles, CA Release: Illegal Water Drainage Devices Discovered in Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve Coastal Act Violation letter sent to Playa Capital LLC from California Coastal Commission.

After further investigation of Playa Capital LLC’s claims of authorization for the Unpermitted Drains, the responsive CCC letter details their reasons for seeking sanctions at this time, ..” the Unpermitted Drains do not provide any necessary flood protection,” the letter states, referencing one of the rejected reasons that Playa Capital LLC and others gave for the drainage devices.

The CCC letter’s detailed response emphasized ongoing harm to Ballona’s ecosystem explaining, “the subject drains are located in the Ballona Ecological Reserve within natural habitat and a wetland that relies on water to function. Thus, the presence of the subject drains is clearly detrimental to natural habitat and the hydraulic functioning of the wetlands.

“Water is the main requirement for a functional wetland. …The Unpermitted Drains disrupt water supply through direct fill and draining of a wetland and habitat within the reserve.

“The Unpermitted Drain is designed to drain water from the soil in the wetland around it, as well as ponding water that flows into the drain, this deleterious effect would not be limited to just the immediate vicinity where water pools, but would extend to any area hydrologically connected to the Unpermitted Drain.”

The April 11, 2014 CCC letter promotes the option of an agreement to Consent Orders which would avoid costly and time consuming litigation. Litigation, the CCC asserts that, …” could only highlight the violations of the Coastal Act for which the parties are responsible.”

The CCC letter provides an April 25, 2014 deadline for response from the responsible parties to the CCC’s offer. The CCC letter reasons that the consent cease and desist and restoration orders would provide the responsible parties more input into the process and timing of:

  • removal of the Unpermitted Drains;
  • mitigation of the damages caused by installation and functioning of the Unpermitted Drains; and
  • potential negotiation of a penalty amount;

and noted that, “liability for Coastal Act violations attaches to the property owner upon which unpermitted development is located and to the party that undertook the unpermitted development.”

For a copy of the California Coastal Commission letter dated April 11, 2014 please contact Jeanette Vosburg, Grassroots Coalition Outreach Coordinator at or go to website.

Patricia McPherson, president of Grassroots Coalition, notified the CCC in 2013 upon discovery of the drains and has been providing further investigative research pertaining to the drains and the parties involved.

“The July 11, 2013 email cited in the CCC letter,” states McPherson, “raises new issues of conflict of interest as it appears clear that the very agencies charged with the protection and restoration of Ballona’s fragile freshwaters and seasonal wetland/upland ecosystems have been clandestinely working instead to take away Ballona’s freshwaters.”

“In drought stricken California it is more important than ever to allow rain water to seep into the earth and protect the ground water of Ballona. It’s a sad time for wildlife when purported lack of funding seems to be driving CDFW’s destructive oversight of Ballona in order to receive money from private interests, including the Annenberg Foundation who wants to put in a 46,000 sq ft dog and cat facility/ 'urban ecology' center.” Joe Young, Sierra Club - Chair, Airport/Marina Group

“Once again the State agencies trusted to protect these natural wetlands are found colluding with corporate interest to the detriment of our Ballona Wetlands to facilitate their bottom line.” Paul Ferrazzi, Director, Citizens Coalition For A Safe Community.


Grassroots Coalition (GC)
Jeanette Vosburg, Outreach Coordinator

Release Summary

Grassroots Coalition announces the California Coast Commission (CCC) finds Playa Vista's Illegal Water Drainage Devices are destructive to Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in Los Angeles, CA.


Grassroots Coalition (GC)
Jeanette Vosburg, Outreach Coordinator