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Wed, Nov

LA City Planning Hopes to Protect Wild Animal Corridors in Santa Monica Mountains

LOS ANGELES

CONSERVANCY - On December 8, the City Planning Commission (CPC) adopted the Wildlife District Ordinance with Code Amendments to seven (7) Sections of the L.A. Municipal Code regarding Land Use restrictions, starting with a zone change to establishes Map boundaries and identify the land parcels subject to Ordinance stipulations. 

The ordinance strives to reduce environmental impacts of new development with regulations limiting lot coverage, floor area, grading and height, as well as with requirements for native landscaping including trees, fence, trash enclosure, window and lighting. The stipulations would “provide co-benefits related to climate resilience and public health”

Also, “the ordinance includes regulations that apply to private properties within the District, including additional discretionary review where lots contain or are adjacent to natural resources, such as waterways and open space…” 12/08/22, CPC Agenda, item 6. 

By 2014, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) had already begun looking into the area’s wildlife corridors that would prevent further injuries and deaths of wildlife as well as protect the remaining open spaces and existing wildlife linkages [pathways that wildlife use to travel between habitat patches], CF: 14-0518. Thus, Paul Koretz, Councilmember of District 5, a section of the affected area, motioned for “Council to instruct the City Planning Department with the assistance of the City Attorney and in consultation with the SMMC”

and local wildlife advocacy groups to prepare and present an ordinance for wildlife corridors requiring a set of land use restrictions for the east Santa Monica Mountains (SMM). 

The Wildlife District is a subdivision of the 2017 SMM Natural Resource Protection Plan Map adopted by the SMMC for the State of California to provide a baseline document that successfully guides all forms of land protection in the SMM between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and further than the 101 freeway to the eastern boundary of Griffith Park. 

The SMM Protection Plan provides three Planning Maps, one is The  Eastern Santa Monica Mountains Habitat Linkage Planning Map first adopted in January 2017 (a prelude to the Wildlife Ordinance),  updated in 2020, and again most recently in April 2021, smmc.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/ESSM-NRPP.pdf 

At the July 2022 virtual public hearing for the Wildlife Draft, the Department of City Planning (DCP) sent out around 62,000 e-blasts to homeowners and occupants in the affected area, resulting in 1,100 participants. Since then, “we’ve sent out 32,000 electronic distributions to interested individuals, and received 1,800 electronic correspondences with comments representing opposition and support,” said City Planner Patrick Whalen at the 12/08/22 CPC. 

City Planner Whalen referred to the valuable feedback received from subject-matter experts, environmentalists, and citywide stakeholders on the key protections for the 2022 Proposed Wildlife Ordinance Draft. 

The public comment of the Dec 8 CPC Wildlife Hearing ran for about 5 hours where Individuals from the affected area and outside of it, as well as representatives of local organization, spoke against and in support of the Ordinance. 

City Planner Conni Pallini-Tipton said as she reviewed the Wildlife Ordinance at the start of the CPC Hearing on 12/08/22, the increased number of people choosing to live near nature has resulted in new housing development trends such as increased floor areas. Decades back, small houses were built tucked in the hills among trees without much ecological disturbance, but by 2020, the average floor area of a home had increased to twice that of a home built in1962. 

Another City Planner described, new hillside development is encroaching and not permitting the animals to coexist in the Map area, landowners have excavated and built to the property line to maximize their homes while reducing the wildlife habitats. 

(Connie Acosta participates in the LA City Neighborhood Council System and is a resident of a hillside area.)