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Neighbors Take Wary View of Agreement

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Old suspicions and bitterness can die hard, especially after 20 years of fighting.

Some Bolsa Chica area residents, weary and wary after two decades of conflict, are less than thrilled with the news that the scenic wetlands near their will be saved from development under an anticipated agreement between the state and the Koll Real Estate Group.

They are unhappy that Koll still will be able to build on the mesa above the wetlands.

“I’m happy about it being saved, because the wetlands will probably be fixed and restored,” said Jaque Galanti, a resident who has enjoyed her view of the grassy mesa for 20 years. “It’s a travesty that they’re building on the mesa.”

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Other residents are concerned whether Koll will fulfill its obligation under the agreement with the State Lands Commission to clean up the contamination left by previous oil operations.

“I doubt seriously they will do the restoration” said Marilyn Oba, whose house is directly across from the mesa. “They make promises and don’t follow through.”

But the deal won favor in one respect--some residents are relieved that the reduced development plan will mean future traffic won’t be as heavy on Pacific Coast Highway.

“I take PCH to work, and it’s bumper to bumper as it is,” Oba said. “It couldn’t take any more.”

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For another resident, Carol Payetta, preservation of the wetlands means the pelicans and hawks she loves to see fly above her house will remain.

“We need some space just to be preserved,” she said. “There’s so much land being built on. It’s enough.”

Others are willing to live with the compromise struck under the agreement.

“Anything is better than losing it all,” said nature photographer Peter Knapp, who travels from Los Angeles to come to what he considers the best place to catch rare wildlife.

Bob Anderson, who was watching birds at the wetlands Monday, called the deal a “win-win situation,” for the wetlands and for the owners, Koll Real Estate Group.

Residents have followed the saga, reading environmental impact reports and organizing protests. Galanti, who has a red “Save Bolsa Chica” bumper sticker on her car, said there’s a reason people become emotional over a piece of marshland.

“Because it feels so good there,” Galanti said. “It feels like a sanctuary. How can anyone let that go?”


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