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 Ballona Network Frequently Asked Questions

Q.What is the Ballona Network?
A.It’s an affiliation of people and organizations that support a Regional Greenway and Urban Wildlife Corridor stretching from the LA River to USC, the Aqua Line from USC to Culver City, Ballona Creek, the Baldwin Hills, and the Ballona Wetlands and Uplands to Santa Monica Bay. Many officials, ordinary citizens, and environmental organizations have written letters supporting our Greenway Vision of creating a continuous Urban Wildlife Corridor within the Ballona Watershed. Approximately 90% of the land needed to do this has been, or is in the process of being acquired. To accomplish our goal we must speak with one voice for the acquisition, improvement, and/or restoration of the remaining parcels either through purchase, conservation easements or right-of-ways. We must also support the use of natural methods of restoring our water quality and supply and opportunities to clean street and urban runoff throughout the watershed rather than sending the urban pollutants to the sea. To join with us, go to our home page, top right corner for the sign-on letter.
Q.What is the Ballona Network doing to support a Regional Greenway?
A.A primary way is to get elected officials, ordinary citizens, and environmental organizations out on the land. Surprising things happen when individuals see for themselves that right here in urban Los Angeles there are jewels they can bike, walk or drive to within minutes of their homes. On executive bus tours we have been able to show video and have speakers share information as we drive to various destinations. People tell us they had no idea that these natural areas were so nearby and that they have returned time-after-time. The photos on this website, in large part, were generated by local fine art photographers on our tour. Many of the deputies of elected officials have given glowing reports to their elected who have signed on to our vision. Activists who were on the tours have been in closed-door sessions where they have had amazing impacts on acquisition and restoration of critical habitat because they had the knowledge gained on the tour.
Q.What is a Watershed?
A.A watershed is basically a drainage area. In other words, when it rains, the rain follows the terrain, flowing down over the surface to a central low point - a river, creek, lake, or bay. The watershed is the entire area that drains water to that low point. Watershed boundaries are usually identified by their high points. Often the watershed begins in mountains, or hills. It doesn’t matter if the land is all-natural, all-urbanized, or a mix - it is still a watershed. Everywhere in the world there are distinct watersheds. Everywhere drains to somewhere.
Q.Where is the Ballona Watershed?
A.The Ballona Creek Watershed, roughly 130 square miles in area, includes all of West Hollywood, all of Beverly Hills, nearly all of Culver City, some of Inglewood, the unincorporated portion LA County, a little of Santa Monica, and a large part of the Los Angeles basin.
Q.What are the Ballona Watershed boundaries?
A.The ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains, from Sepulveda Canyon (Sepulveda Drive/405 Freeway) to east of Silverlake marks the northern divide of the watershed. Mulholland Drive approximates much of this. The eastern end of the watershed includes McArthur Park and the Staples Center, but excludes the high rises of downtown LA. The southern boundary includes parts of Inglewood (including the drainage area of Centinela Creek) and the Westchester Bluffs. The western boundary is marked by a rise in the land between Santa Monica, Venice and parts of West Los Angeles down to the Pacific Ocean or the mouth of Ballona in Playa del Rey. The Ballona Watershed is 128 square miles.
Q.How pure is our rainwater?
A.Many of our pollutants are airborne. When it rains these pollutants are brought back to earth with the rain. During the dry season we accumulate rubber from our tires, metals from our brake linings, impurities from our exhaust pipes, oil from leaking engines, dog feces, grass clippings, food and drink containers, etc. in alleys, streets and storm drains. In the first hours of a rainstorm all these pollutants go racing toward a storm drain to Centinela and Ballona Creeks and then to the ocean.
Q.Where does the rainwater or melting snow go in an urban (city) watershed?
A.In urbanized watersheds, rain or snowmelt (an uncommon occurrence in the LA area) washes over city streets and neighborhoods. Most of it then runs off into storm drains and channelized streams. In natural watersheds, more of that rainfall adheres to vegetation and evaporates, or infiltrates into groundwater. Rainfall can’t replenish aquifers in urban areas due to all the paving.
Q.What can we do to keep more of our storm event water where it lands rather then send it to a storm drain?
A.Anyplace that can have paving removed helps to detain and infiltrate storm-water. Cisterns to capture water for re-use also are helpful. Green-roofs on buildings are being constructed to soak up rainfall where buildings cover land. Provide places along the watershed (swales) where storm water can set a while until it is reabsorbed into the earth. Pan Pacific Park is an example of an area that has a natural hollow. During a storm, the rain creates a miniature lake but during the dry season the park is used for recreation. We can also divert storm water coursing down our concrete channels like Centinela Creek and Ballona Creek to a degraded wetland like the east end of the Ballona Wetlands at Jefferson and Centinela. There the water could be naturally cleaned and reabsorbed. Other alternatives are cisterns under schools and parks and more mechanical Hyperion plants.
Q.What is a storm drain?
A.Storm drains are basically man made conveyers of streams, if we didn’t have the storm drain we’d have a stream - so one way or another we have to have something that conveys storm water, whether it’s the natural or artificial.
Q.How can we avoid using storm drains?
A.Ideally, we want to divert runoff, before it goes into a storm drain, to greenways and cisterns for irrigation, put trash and dog waste in receptacles, clean storm water runoff with natural methods where possible and with mechanical means as necessary. The challenge is to stop pollution at its source.
Q. What affect does Styrofoam floating in Ballona Creek have on the herons and other wildlife that inhabit the Creek and the Santa Monica Bay?
A. We see birds along Ballona Creek feeding it to their young. Also, fish swallow this waste. For easy ways to reduce the over-use of plastics, visit this website:
Q.Is Los Angeles a desert?
A.Most residents think of Los Angeles as a desert. It has a semi-arid Mediterranean climate, but it is not a desert. In fact it attracted people because it had so much natural water. Our Ballona watershed had 45 miles of perennial blue line streams and over 116 miles of intermittent streams. Throughout the 1900s, the city, county and later the Army Corps of Engineers built storm drains and concrete channels to minimize flooding, sending water out as fast as possible to the ocean. This made Los Angeles homes and business safe from flooding but it created a whole new set of problems. Today rain picks up contaminants on its way to the ocean, resulting in frequent bacteria warnings at the beaches after storms.
Q.How many watersheds exist in greater Los Angeles?
A.Greater Los Angeles has 4 major watersheds: Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River, Dominguez Channel, and Ballona Creek.
Q.How did our rivers, creeks, and streams disappear? Where are they?
A.Most streams "disappeared" by being culverted - in other words, storm drain pipes were laid in their beds, and they were covered. Others were channelized. Many converted from perennially flowing streams to intermittent streams, or from intermittent streams to ephemeral streams, as the groundwater table dropped. There are some remnants of streams high up in the watershed. Occasionally, neighborhoods have protected a stream like Kenter Creek in Brentwood. Because they are low spots or ravines behind houses, few people know they still exist. When you are driving through Los Angeles look for street names like canyon, arroyo (dry stream bed), lake, etc. Take note of how large the storm drains are as you drive from the upper watershed (Silverlake and Mullholland) to the low land. Today roads have been built over many miles of earthquake faults / streambeds.
Q.Are there any natural springs we can visit in Los Angeles?
A.University High in West Los Angeles there are three natural springs. There are also natural springs at Franklin Canyon.
Q.What are wetlands and why are they worth saving and restoring?
A.There is a remarkable parallel between the job the kidneys of our body do to keep our bodily functions in balance and the wetlands that can keep our earth in balance. Just as kidneys filter contaminants for the body, wetlands filter contaminants out of stream-flows. Until recently, our life-preserving kidneys and the urine they produce had a negative connotation. Like our kidneys, wetlands have been undervalued and negatively characterized as swamps to be filled and covered over. Wetlands are any area in which the water table stands near, at, or above the land surface for at least part of the year. Such areas are characterized by plants that are adapted to wet soil conditions.
Q.What is the relationship between wetlands and uplands?
A.Joy Zedler, an expert has said that when uplands are destroyed near a wetland, 50% of the species in the wetlands below disappear.
Q. Are there any natural springs we can visit in Los Angeles?
A. There are three natural springs at University High in West Los Angeles. More information is here: Also, there are natural springs at Franklin Canyon.
Q.Who inhabited the Ballona Watershed before Europeans discovered it?
A.The Tongva-Gabrielino Indians in this area have been carbon date to between 10 thousand and 14 thousand years. The Ballona West Bluffs had special significance as a trading area where not only Tongva-Gabrielino Indians but other tribes gathered as well. Villages were located throughout the Ballona Creek watershed.More information is here:
Q.How do we satisfy our dependence on Water?
A.Civilization has always emerged near plentiful water supplies. The Los Angeles River was the original source of water that established this city. Iincreased demand and 20th Century flood control methods resulted in decreased groundwater levels, causing city officials to look elsewhere for our supply. Until recently, cities like Los Angeles have ignored the potential of capture and cleansing of our rain and snow before it mingles with urban runoff as a source for water supply. Restoring wetlands and diverting storm runoff to natural holding areas, for storage and reuse is a win - win situation. It brings nature back to our densely populated, urban, inner city. Wildlife and plant life can reassert itself, when given half a chance. Then everyone can enjoy this renewed open space.
Q.Where do we get our drinking water?
A.Communities in the Los Angeles basin depend upon local groundwater (aquifers) to varying degrees. As a whole, the City of Los Angeles uses about 15% groundwater to supply drinking water. Pasadena and Inglewood use about 40% local groundwater for water supply. Other sources of water include the Owens River, the Colorado River, and the Sacramento-Bay Delta/State Water Project. Recycled, treated wastewater is increasingly used for irrigation at large institutions, like golf courses. This water is treated at facilities throughout the region, including the Hyperion Plant.
Q.What is an aquifer?
A.Underground rock, sand or gravel formation that stores water.
Q.What is an aqueduct?
A.A constructed system of canals, channels and/or pipelines to move water from one location to another.
Q.What is a water filtration system?
A.The process of allowing water to pass through layers of a porous material such as sand, gravel or charcoal to trap solid particles. Filtration occurs in nature when rainwater soaks into the ground and it passes through hundreds of feet of sand and gravel. This same natural process of filtration is duplicated in water and wastewater treatment plants, generally using sand and coal as the filter media.
Q.What is a reservoir?
A.A place where water is stored until it is needed. A reservoir can be an open lake or an enclosed storage tank. To protect our primary Los Angeles water supply, it is being stored in enclosed reservoirs and storage tanks. When we get a boiled water notice, that means the water is being taken from an open lake/reservoir or secondary water supply.
Q.How do you measure water?
A.Water is measure by Acre-Foot. This unit of measurement is used in the water industry to describe large quantities of water, such as the capacity of a reservoir. One acre-foot equals approximately 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover one acre of land (about the size of a football field) one foot deep in water. One acre-foot of water is enough to meet the needs of an average family for two years.
Q.What plants are native to our area?
A.We have a broad range of plants that are native to the Ballona watershed. Along the coast, coastal dune and prairie plants are appropriate natives to use. In moist areas, and in the vicinity of Ballona, Centinela, and our other creeks, willows would have predominated. There may have also been limited amounts of cottonwoods and sycamores. More open wetland areas would have included cattail and reeds. Grasslands and wildflowers are believed to have been common in the lowlands, and coastal sage scrub, oak and sycamore woodlands, in the canyons. While it’s fun to mix-and-match your plantings, using the plants that are most typical of your location in the ecosystem will require the least amount of soil preparation, water, and hassle. They will also provide the greatest ecological benefit.
Q.Do invasive non-native plants threaten our native habitat? Should they be removed?
A.Invasive plants are a significant threat to biodiversity and preservation of our native species. Invasive plants essentially “out-compete” natives because they lack predators, and they then throw the dynamic balance of predator-prey relationships off kilter. The result is not only fewer native plants, but also less native wildlife. Many invasives begin their careers as pretty garden plants. Their seed may get carried beyond garden walls and into wildlands, where they proliferate, and in some cases cross breed with natives.
Q.What birds are native to our area? What, if any, are on the endangered species list?
A.There are many grassland, coastal sage scrub, woodland, and wetland-associated birds native to LA; unfortunately, many of them are currently extirpated, or unable to live here, due to the loss of habitat. Other species have lost so much habitat that they are now endangered. Red-tailed hawk, least tern (endangered), Yellow-headed blackbird, American coot, Cinnamon teal, Snowy egret, White-faced Ibis, Red-winged blackbird, and Great Blue Heron are among the visitors to the Ballona Wetlands area. Tanagers, wrens, finches, towhees, phoebes, phainopeplas, and owls are common native birds in the upland areas. Some of these are migratory visitors to LA. Roadrunners and quail once were common in the watershed as well, but today are mostly confined to the more protected areas of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Q.What animals are native to our area? What, if any, are on the endangered species list?
A.How far back do you want to go? Of course we all know about the prehistoric mastondons, wooly mammoths, and saber tooth tigers that roamed our basin. In slightly more recent times, grizzly bear and elk were regular visitors. Today, the watershed’s wildlife is a lot smaller and less fearsome to the average human. In our hilly canyons, muledeer, bobcat, and coyote are common. The occasional mountain lion may appear in a large undeveloped tract, like Griffith Park. In lower lying areas, raccoon, skunk, and possum have habituated themselves handily to urban living. Native and non-native squirrel and foxes also roam neighborhoods.
Q.What is a habitat?
A.Habitat is the environment that provides food, shelter, nesting, and water for wildlife.
Hiking Opportunities in the Ballona Watershed
Q.When and where will we be able to hike in the Ballona Wetlands ?
A.The Coastal Conservancy has an interim management plan that is identifying ways to allow for access to the Wetlands. Long-term access will depend on the restoration plan that is currently in process.
Q.When and where will we have access to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook?
A.Today you can hike up to the scenic overlook from Jefferson Boulevard via Hetzler Road or the trailhead just east of Hetzler. Additionally, the Baldwin Hills Conservancy is engaging in restoration and site planning to provide enhanced amenities to the community. For more information, contact the Baldwin Hills Conservancy or go online to:
Q.How can I access the hiking trails in Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area?
A.The main entrance to KHSRA is on La Cienega Blvd., between Stocker Street and Rodeo Road, and is recommended only for motor vehicles. The park is between La Cienega Blvd. and La Brea Avenue to the east. There are trail heads within the park, along La Brea Avenue at Don Lorenzo Drive and at Stocker, and a new trail extends east along the south side of Stocker. Trail maps and other information can be found in the Community Center and online at the Friends of Baldwin Hills web site:
Q.Will there be new nature parks along the Aqua Line from Exposition Park to Culver City?
A.The current Metro planning is limited to the transit way, bikeway, station, parking facilities, and immediately related landscaping. Transit-oriented development and parks are separate processes related to various locations, neighborhoods, jurisdictions, and stakeholders.
General Questions
Q.How does our park space per thousand people compare with that of other major cities in the U.S.?
A.The city of Los Angeles as a whole averages 7,877 people per square mile. Including our national and state parks, the Los Angeles area has about 9.1 acres per 1,000 residents. However, when looked at from the perspective of parkland within the city of LA alone, the average is about 4 acres per 1,000 residents.
Q.How equitable is the distribution of urban park space?
A.The poorest council districts in Los Angeles generally have much less park space; this is also where there are more children. Studies show that in the city of Los Angeles, only 33% of children live within a ¼ mile, or walking distance, of a park. By comparison, 91% of New York children, and 97% of Boston children are walking distance from a park. In these areas, park acreages can be as low as ½ acre per thousand residents, as opposed to the city’s planning standard of 2 acres per thousand residents, the city’s average of 4 acres per thousand residents, and the national recommendation of 10 acres per thousand residents.
Q.What does it cost to clean an oil field for human habitation? How safe is it?
A.This is a very complex subject with no easy, short answers. The Baldwin Hills Conservancy and the State Lands Commission might be good places to start. They are actively working on developing answers for some upcoming acquisition negotiations that could provide good information for future deals and to some extent for the wetlands, although site conditions will be very different. There are many complicating cost factors that will be considered, including specific site conditions and current and future oil company expenses and profits. It is assumed that the land will be rendered safe for parkland use that should require a high level of safety
Q.Where does our natural gas for heating and cooking come from?
A.Here’s one link affiliated with the University of Colorado at Boulder that contains some easy to read basics that appear fairly straightforward:
Q.Where can I learn more about Water Conservation and Cleanup?
A.Coming Soon
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