It seems hard to believe, but the compromise over the future of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands that has eluded the developer, environmentalists and public officials for nearly 20 years finally seems near at hand.
Questions over how many homes should be built and where, how many acres of irreplaceable wetlands should be preserved and whether the residential-marina project should have a navigable boat channel to the ocean have divided city and county officials, the landowner and residents. Plans and tentative agreements have been approved by some factions, rejected by others and at times it seemed as if the only thing everyone could agree upon was that they might never come up with an approach that all parties could accept.
The conflict is understandable. The primary landowner, Signal Landmark Inc., wants to build homes and boat slips on its 1,200 acres along Pacific Coast Highway south of Warner Avenue, which is in unincorporated territory under the jurisdiction of the Board of Supervisors.
But the strip of coastal property is one of the last remaining saltwater marshes on the Southern California coastline. Most of the marshland along the coast has been lost to development, and conservationists, such as the Amigos de Bolsa Chica, which was formed to preserve as much of the marshland as possible, don’t want to lose more acreage.
As in any compromise, no one is getting everything, but the proposed agreement, which now needs the formal approval of the conservation group, gives the public and the environment the best development plan that has been on the table in the nearly two decades of controversy.
The compromise reached by a planning coalition strikes a balance between public and private interests. It should be accepted so Signal can develop its land and the wetlands can be restored.