Before development exploded in California, the state contained about 5 million acres of wetland habitat. Unfortunately, over the years California has been willing to part with 91 percent of its wetlands, Southern California having lost 95 percent. Los Angeles County has only one wetland remaining. This being the Ballona Wetlands located between Marina del Rey and the Westchester bluffs, it was once a major part of California’s natural wetland systems. Before development, Ballona wetlands natural habitat covered 2002 acres. This area, 800 to 1000 acres, referred to as Playa Vista by its owners is made up of salt marsh freshwater marsh and part upland and dune areas. It is considered Los Angeles’ largest ‘wetland ecosystem’. Although degraded over the years it still functions as a normal natural wetland - providing vital services. A major function it provides is that it filters out toxic wastes and pollutants from stormwater runoff before they reach the Santa Monica Bay. It is "a coastal plain, and acts as a flood plain for the surrounding area" (FOBW Information folder 1998: Fact Sheet). Ballona is an integral part of the Pacific flyaway, providing vital feeding and nesting habitat for over 185 species of birds, including some on the federal endangered species list. The southwestern willow flycatcher, an endangered species, was just recently seen by developers in an area cleared for construction. Ballona is no doubt a welcomed refuge to all species, both flora and fauna, from the industrial landscape of Los Angeles. The Friends of Ballona Wetlands have said it is "a spawning ground for commercial and sport fish, and a vital source of nutrients for the entire coastal marine environment" (FOBW Information folder 1998: 20 years of Commitment,). Its uses go deep into the recreational, educational and spiritual areas.
The Ballona wetlands is the center of much controversy. There has been a settlement made between the Friends of Ballona Wetlands and Thomas Maguire partners (now Playa Capital) to develop two thirds of the land with the DreamWorks’ "Playa Vista project." One third is to be saved and will undergo a restoration project headed by Playa Capital. Playa Capital has agreed to provide for 297 acres of wetland and surrounding area, in exchange for the right to develop the rest of the land. They have promised to manage and maintain these 297 acres of land to function as a natural wetland. They have donated $12.5 million for a restoration fund they say will not be used as mitigation by Playa Capital.
With all the restoration and funding being put into Ballona, there are still many environmental groups that are adamantly opposed to the settlement and prefer to save all of Ballona’s acreage. These groups consist of the Ballona Ecosystem Education Project, the Sierra Club Ballona Task Force, Ballona Valley Preservation League, Alliance for Survival, Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, LA Green Party, LA Earth First, CALPIRG, Sea...