Los Angeles

LA To Consider Giving Conservancy First Dibs on Slivers of City-Owned Land

The council will consider approving the ordinance during its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday.

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Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area

As part of an effort to protect some remaining wildlife habitats in Los Angeles from being developed, the City Council on Tuesday will consider approving an ordinance to give the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy the opportunity to buy remaining city-owned properties in the Santa Monica Mountain zone before adjacent property owners are allowed to.

The vote, initially scheduled for Friday, was delayed until Tuesday because Councilman Paul Koretz, who is leading the effort, could not be at the meeting.

Council members requested the ordinance be prepared in a 12-0 vote on March 3. The ordinance, if approved, would give the conservancy the right of first refusal to acquire Santa Monica Mountain Zone land identified through the "Own A Piece of LA" program, which was launched in 2009 to identify cityowned slivers of land that are deemed undevelopable and offer them to adjoining property owners.

The ordinance requires unanimous approval. If it doesn't receive the full City Council's support, it'll be considered again in the following week, when it needs simple majority support. Mayor Eric Garcetti will also need to approve the ordinance.

The motion was introduced by Koretz and Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who cited that "engineering innovation has advanced in the past decades," which could mean that the land gets developed by the buyer.

Los Angeles is within the California Floristic Province biodiversity hotspot and includes more than 1,500 endemic plant species, the motion states.

However, at least 70% of the natural habitat has been lost, and what remains is largely in the mountains and hillsides.

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"While I have been working with the City Planning Department for the better part of a decade to protect wildlife habitat connectivity in the Santa Monica Mountains, it is imperative that we be certain we are not at the same time inadvertently selling off parcels for development that could obstruct the very linkages we are working so hard to protect," Koretz said in March.

The council members noted that the slivers of undeveloped land provide habitat connectivity for animals in the Santa Monica Mountains, including mountain lions, which are being considered for listing as "threatened" under the California Endangered Species Act.

"Wildlife habitat connectivity is so essential to the survival of the cornerstone species we share our Santa Monica mountains with, and many areas are in serious danger of being blocked if we do not act urgently and consciously," said Paul Edelman, chief biologist and deputy director of natural resources and planning for the conservancy.

Koretz's office credited Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife for bringing the issue to the council's attention. The organization's co-founder, Tony Tucci, said recently that the measure "recognizes that undeveloped city owned lands of any size in our hillsides let us all 'breathe' and that this land has an inherent and immediate value to our environment and a long-term benefit for the well-being of both our wildlife and human populations of Los Angeles."

The council will consider approving the ordinance during its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday. People can watch here or attend in person at City Hall, 200 N. Spring St.

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