In an effort to protect some remaining wildlife habitats in Los Angeles from being developed, the LA City Council passed a motion Wednesday aimed at giving the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy the opportunity to buy remaining city-owned properties in the Santa Monica Mountain zone before adjacent property owners.
The motion, which passed 12-0, requests an ordinance be prepared by the Los Angeles City Attorney to 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 city-owned slivers of land that are deemed undevelopable and offer them to adjoining property owners.
Once prepared, the ordinance will need approval of a majority of the City Council and the mayor.
The motion seeking to give buying priority to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy was introduced by Councilman Paul 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 remaining in the mountains and hillsides.
“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.
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 Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
“Today’s action by the City Council is so important and affirms the state legislature’s 1979 Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Act, but more steps need to be taken sooner rather than later.”
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 Wednesday after the council’s vote 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.”