Naturalists Assail Lagoon Boating Plan

Times Staff Writer

Naturalists in Venice said this week that a proposal to allow boating in the Ballona Lagoon could lead to the destruction of a valuable feeding ground for wildlife.

Leaders of the Los Angeles chapter of the Oceanic Society, Venice Town Council and Friends of Ballona Wetlands said that the dredging required to allow boating would ruin the lagoon as a feeding station.

The proposal originated with the newly formed Silver Strand Marina Assn., according to Clifford D. Rome, association president.

But Rome, a lagoon homeowner and a prominent lagoon developer, said the association's main goal is to improve, not destroy, the lagoon. He said the association was formed about two months ago to deal with lagoon problems.

'At Low Tide It Smells'

"It is very charming at high tide," Rome said, "but at low tide it smells, there is an excess of debris and the lagoon is not very aesthetically pleasing."

Rome acknowledged that some association members are interested in the possibility of boating. But he said that boating is only one aspect of a study the organization plans to undertake.

"We will be looking into creating a Neighborhood Watch," he said, "(and) developing controls for the large number of dogs in the area and seeing if there is something that can be done about the sewage plant at the north end of the lagoon."

But Iylene Weiss, executive director of the Oceanic Society, said, "Boating would be entirely inappropriate for the lagoon. We will fight to maintain the lagoon in its natural state."

Weiss said that wildlife feeding there includes the least tern, designateD by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Department as an endangered species.

Construction Near Lagoon

The lagoon, sandwiched in between Marina del Rey and the Venice Peninsula is bounded by Pacific Avenue, Via Dolce, Hurricane and Yawl streets. It runs from the Marina Channel north to the Venice Canals.

About a hundred $700,000- to $800,000-homes have been built in the lagoon area east and west of the waterway since 1981.

Ruth Lansford, chairwoman of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, said that the lagoon is a vital feeding area for wildlife whose habitat is the wetlands, located south and east of the lagoon.

"We are against anything that will disturb the feeding ground," she said.

She said that the new association represents a trend.

"First they build homes in the wild area," she said. "Then they discover there are some inconveniences and want to eliminate them. This is the way so many wildlife areas are systematically destroyed."

Critics said they became suspicious of the new group's goals when they learned that membership was limited to about 25 landowners whose property fronts on the lagoon, rather than all 200 property owners in the area.

They charged that the Silver Strand Marina Assn. was designed to exclude critics of various development schemes that would disturb the lagoon as a feeding ground for wildlife.

"It does not make sense to say that only those property owners nearest the lagoon have an interest in what takes place there," said Weiss, who lives just east of the lagoon. "That is why we are concerned about their plans."

Rome said that the new association was limited to lagoon-front homeowners because they are most directly involved in lagoon improvements. A larger group of property owners would be ineffective in developing plans for the area, he said.

He said that the association is not developer dominated. "Only three of the eight members of the board of directors are what you would describe as multi-lot owners," said Rome. "The other members are single-lot owners either living in homes or planning to build new homes here."

Catherine F. Smith, a systems analyst for a development company in Manhattan Beach, has been hired as the association's executive director and will begin work on the study in April. Property owners are assessing themselves to pay for her salary and other expenses, such as the study.

"My background is in working for homeowner groups, developers and others seeking to find out what is feasible and practical," she said. "That is how I see my role here. I will attempt to develop alternative improvements for the area."

She said that the alternatives will be submitted to the association by the middle of May.

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