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California’s Other Lions

California’s Other Lions 

When things are good, the California sea lion lives the ultimate beach lifestyle of surf, sun, and sushi, but sometimes this gregarious, vociferous, and intelligent marine mammal needs a helping hand from the humans who cause most of this species problems. Our local mountain lions often grab the headlines, but there’s another native “lion” who is newsworthy, too. We have the story in our Discover section! Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash. Cover concept and design by Urs Baur.

Still active. Still moving. Still soggy. Still dangerous. Too dangerous to allow crews to begin work, at least for now. That’s the official word on the Topanga Canyon Blvd. landslide, as the road closure drags on, and on. Until the soil begins to dry out and the hillside stabilizes nothing can happen. An additional inch of rain over the weekend didn’t help the situation. 

The closure of this narrow, winding strip of asphalt has revealed how vulnerable the canyon is, but also how strong this community is. There is currently no end in sight for the road closure, but warmer and dryer weather is in the forecast for the rest of April, and that will help dry out sodden earth. While we wait, Topanga’s small businesses need our support. This challenge, coming so soon after the pandemic closure, is a terrible burden. It’s a burden for families with children who go to Westside schools, and everyone who works in the canyon or commutes through the canyon to work. As summer beach weather approaches, the closure will place even more pressure on Malibu Canyon and Kanan, the only other major canyon roads from the Valley to the coast, and Malibu Canyon isn’t in great condition this spring, either. Another rock closure near the tunnel shut that route down over the weekend.

This winter’s road closures have reminded all of us of the incredible volume of traffic that flows through our mountains when things are “normal,” how much the community depends on things being normal, and how quickly normal can become something else entirely. It’s going to be a rocky road for quite a while.

Activists fighting the proliferation of cell towers in Los Angeles County won a major victory in court this month. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ruled that Los Angeles County officials must comply with state environmental law when issuing permits for new wireless infrastructures.

The lawsuit, filed by the nonprofit Children’s Health Defence and a coalition of environmental groups, alleged that Los Angeles County violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it passed a pair of ordinances exempting wireless infrastructure from environmental review. 

A pair of Canada geese take flight. In mythology, these birds are envoys, symbols of loyalty, prosperity, and perseverance, and traditional harbingers of spring. This species was hunted almost to oblivion in the nineteenth century, and was even declared extinct in the 1950s, but a small population survived and thrived. These spectacular birds have now adapted to life in the urban landscape, sometimes abandoning migration for a yearlong life in more temperate climates. In some areas they have become so abundant they are regarded as a nuisance—it’s a remarkable success story. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

The ruling found that CEQA, as it applies to wireless projects, can only be preempted by federal law, and that the county overstepped its authority. The ruling also notes that environmental impact analysis is necessary for proposed wireless projects, including 5G antenna and other small cell installations on scenic highways or near historical sites.

Local activists have been actively opposing 5G towers in Topanga since the technology was first proposed. Topanga Canyon Blvd. is a designated state scenic highway. The telecom lobby is expected to push companies to push back, and the ruling may be appealed, but it is being hailed as a victory. 

CEQA is in the news in another high profile story. The California Coastal Commission is going after Elon Musk. The state agency charged with protecting coastal resources is raising concerns over Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which wants to launch up to 36 payloads this year from Vandenberg AFB. The launches light up the night sky, but they also drop plastics and chemical waste into the ocean, and create noise pollution in the form of powerful sonic booms. Residents of nearby communities and beachgoers are being affected, so is the environment. It’s not clear whether the state commission has the authority to demand changes—many of the payloads being launched by Space X are for the US Department of Defense, which will be arguing that it is exempt from state regulations—but that’s not stopping the commission from taking this issue on, head first.

Here at TNT we are looking forward to Topanga Days over Memorial Day weekend. This is the 49th year for the Topanga Community Center’s storied, celebrated, eclectic, eccentric and wonderful annual fundraising event, and this year is going to be great, road closure or no. Advance tickets are already on sale. We have all the details in our Artbeat section!

Also in this issue, join Books & Such columnist Jimmy P. Morgan for a trip to the Wild West with Kit Carson, TNT cook Nathalie Krull shares her cherished family recipe for zucchini quiche, and your editor heads for the beach to spend a day with the local California sea lions.

The sun is out, the sky is blue, and there’s no rain in the forecast this week. Things could be worse.

Stay safe, be well.

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