Saturday, September 22, 2007

Los Cerritos Wetlands--what's new?

Wedding venues and wedding vendorsCommunityWalk Map - Los Cerrtios Wetlands

I haven't yet written up a post for the Los Cerritos wetlands, in east Long Beach, because access to this site is restricted, and I haven't yet had the opportunity.

But I have been keeping abreast of the news concerning this parcel, perhaps the only original wetland remaining in Long Beach (certainly the only one of any significant size).

Located on the Cerritos Channel (a tributary of the San Gabriel River), the Los Cerritos Wetlands are the subject of great controversy. The current ownership is a patchwork of city and state agencies, although the balance is privately held by the Bixby Company. The wetlands themselves are off-limits to development.

The fate of the upland areas, however, are in jeopardy. These areas are, of course, former wetlands. And there are plans to restore the marsh to recreate a portion of the extensive marshes that once existed in southeast Long Beach and northern Orange County. This project would rival in scale the restoration of the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach, and represent perhaps the only opportunity for such a large-scale wetland restoration.

The Home Depot has other plans, of course. They would like to build a large store in the center of these wetlands.

Supporters of the project point out that there currently no large hardware stores in the City of Long Beach, convienently ignoring the two Home Depots and the Lowe's Hardware in Signal Hill (that munchkin to our city donut). No Long Beach resident has to drive more than three miles to one of these stores. (Don't believe me? Check out this map on google.)

Our City Council supports this project, of course. Even though Long Beach residents have many nearby big-box stores to patronize, the sales taxes (an important source of revenue since Prop 13 dried up revenue from property taxes) go to Signal Hill, not us. Even our normally progressive and environmentally foreward thinking councilmembers (I'm specifically referring to 2nd District rep Suja Lowenthall here) voted to support the draft Environmental Impact Report. This joke of a document claimes to find "less than signfiicant" impacts to noise, traffic, aesthetics, historic resources, and natural resources. (Access the documents here.)

Fortunately, the California Coastal Commission isn't buying it. Staff at the Commission ruled that by accepting the EIR, the City allowed this area, zoned for industrial uses (it's currently a tank farm for oil extraction), allowed commercial development and violated open space requirements determined by the Local Coastal Program. If the Commission accepts the staff's findings (which they often do, unless outside pressure is applied), they will have to draft a new EIR mitigating loss to biological and other resources.

Read about it in the Press Telegram here.