As the leader of the monthly wildlife walk in the Sepulveda Basin conducted by the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, I have been observing recent developments there with more than usual interest. Thank you for your detailed coverage provided by many articles over the last year.
The most recent article, of Dec. 2, details the difficulty the Cultural Foundation is having raising funds for its "arts park."
Perhaps such difficulty is a blessing in disguise. Locating a major building project in a flood basin is most unwise. Ever since the area went underwater in the floods of the late 1930s, building in the area has been considered inappropriate.
The last major flood was in the winter of 1969, but even the relatively feeble recent rains caused the Los Angeles River to approach the tops of its banks. A major flood will put the site under water once again. Although the Corps of Engineers changed the flood line contours for the most recent master plan, no major change in the drainage (such as new dams or channels) has occurred to justify such a change. The Cultural Foundation or, worse, the taxpayers of Los Angeles may find themselves having to pay a very expensive flood repair bill.
Because of its unsuitability for development the Sepulveda Flood Basin is now the only undeveloped open space on the Valley floor. It also represents the only prime agricultural land left in the once agricultural San Fernando Valley. Prime land is a state designation for uniquely productive agricultural land that should be kept agricultural because of the fabulous yield that can be obtained. Construction of the arts park will destroy up to 160 acres of cornfield.
An unfortunate effect will be to deprive up to 2,000 Canada geese, a federally protected bird, of their primary food supply--the corn stalks left behind. In addition, the site is close to the area where two plane crashes have occurred in recent years. Who is to cover the liability of a plane crash into a full auditorium should one happen?
Quite by accident, the Sepulveda Basin has developed into a unique wildlife area. Both the local Sierra Club and Audubon Society run well-attended walks through the basin. Anyone is welcome to attend. To lose this habitat to a well-intentioned but poorly conceived plan such as the arts park would be a shame.
STEPHEN H. DUCATMAN, M.D.