Everyone can win in the Long Beach land swap

November 12, 2008 § Leave a comment

The view from Long Beach’s second highest point may not entirely warm the heart, but it is interesting nonetheless.  Looking down, at one’s feet, lay shell remnants of a Native American (Tongva) midden.  Looking across the landscape, oil derricks and pumps pock-mark a disturbed landscape.  Yet a pair of raptors soar by.  A ravine below the hill is a ghost of the spring-fed creek and wetland that gave life to Willowville, an early Anglo settlement, and also provided the original source of water to a young City of Long Beach.  Where the spring was, today sits a square detention basin.  An occasional frog’s croaking can be heard at twilight.  Underground pipes follow the path of the former creek, directing runoff from the basin into a stormdrain that eventually connects to the Los Angeles River.  At the bottom of the ravine, a compacted dirt access road, patches of seasonal wetland dominated by cattails and mulefat, and a small seep-fed area of willow, are the final echo of that lost waterway.

Activists inspired by the site nicknamed it Willow Springs Gulch, and fought for the inclusion and restoration of the stream and hilltop within a sports complex that the City of Long Beach had planned for it. (While by no means central to the effort, yes, I was involved)

A few miles away to the east, environmentalists and public agencies have for years desired the restoration of the Cerritos Wetlands.  This once extensive wetland has been, like so many of Southern California’s coastal wetlands, carved up, and developed in a piecemeal fashion.  What remains is a precious and important coastal resource for fisheries, birds, water quality. You may recall Joe’s earlier post about endangered sea turtles taking up residence there.

The city is looking to work with the developers at Studebaker LB LLC to swap the sports park/Willow Springs Gulch land for the privately owned parcels in the Cerritos Wetlands.  This is a big, positive step for the Cerritos Wetlands.  And, as the exact terms of the swap are not public yet, I will publicly hope that in making the swap, the City will also secure the preservation of the hill and restoration of the ravine, maintaining both as public open space. 

A big win could be even better, demonstrating that environmental sensitivity through restoration and preservation in the midst of development is not just compatible, but desirable.  Hey Tom Dean, of Studebaker LB LLC, if you need help visualizing what I’m talking about, give me a call.

Read about it:

L.B. wants deal for wetlands – By John Canalis, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH – In what appears to be a major victory for environmentalists, the city plans to acquire a large swath of the Los Cerritos Wetlands for restoration, city officials said Tuesday. View Full Story

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