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Ballona Group Pickets DreamWorks Forum

A small group of protesters wearing gags gathered Friday in Westchester to picket a leadership forum on the DreamWorks development proposal for the environmentally controversial area just north of Playa del Rey.

Asked early in May to participate in the seminar, sponsored by Coro Southern California, which trains future civic leaders, members of Citizens United to Save All of Ballona say the invitation was withdrawn suddenly last week, turning the daylong seminar into a platform for project developers and their allies.

Bruce Robertson, spokesman for the 49-group coalition, said the gags symbolized yet another instance of stifling the voice of opposition in the public debate over the hotly contested Playa Vista development. Recently, he said, the Ocean Park Community Assn. and the Marina del Rey/Mar Vista/Venice Democratic Club had extended invitations to opponents of the development, withdrawn them, then reinstated them.

Coro representatives say the session subtitled “How Can Southern California Balance Economic Growth and Community Concerns?” was not intended as a public discussion of the issue. Instead, it was a class for its students to examine how decisions are made when cities compete for economic growth.

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Coro Executive Director Carol Baker Tharp called the protest the result of a misunderstanding.

Coro senior trainer John Greenwood, who organized the event and initially invited two environmentalists for a panel discussion on development’s impact on surrounding communities, said the panel had to be eliminated because of time constraints, not pressure from Maguire Thomas Partners, developers of the 1,087-acre tract once owned by Howard Hughes.

Citizens United to Save All of Ballona is suing Maguire Thomas Partners and DreamWorks, the Spielberg/Katzenberg/Geffen studio that is also a partner in the development of the property.


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