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Playa Vista is all Wet

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Developers will finally have their way with the Ballona Wetlands, as the Los Angeles City Council has given the go ahead to plans to construct a second phase of the Playa Vista mixed-use development (click on the project web site just for the corny flash intro and mind-numbing Muzak soundtrack. Priceless schmaltz!).

City officials who backed the expansion, which would be everyone besides Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, presented it as the sort of smart-growth, high-density, mixed-use development so necessary to efforts to shift Los Angeles' built environment away from a loose conglomeration of car oriented communities into a dense urban core.

Sounds great so far. Most Angelenos would agree that denser and more transit-oriented is the way to go. It wouldn't hurt us to be a little more New York and a little less San Berdoo.

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This project has major problems, however. The thing is set smack in the middle of an environmentally fragile wetland. It is cut off from the city on the north by the Marina Freeway, and on the south by the Westchester bluffs, effectively preventing any pedestrian travel between the development and nearby business districts. It is served by one arterial road, overloaded Lincoln Boulevard. The 405 will also have to absorb more commuter traffic, as there is no viable mass transit option for Playa Vista residents.

Safety issues also loom large: what happens during a major earthquake, when the ground below thousands of apartments liquefies (it ain't called a "wetland" for nothing)? Will the underground methane deposits explode? Who knows?

It's a bad idea, but its time has come. Playa Vista is about to make good on its marketing slogan. They're "Re-imagining the Westside", and it won't be pretty.