Storm Drains and Snails: How Ecological Restoration and Park Aesthetics Clash in Playa Vista

Authors: Rachael Reasch*, University of Arizona, Jason M Post, Tohono O'odham Community College
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Biogeography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Exotic species, urban ecology, urban streams, aquatic health, Playa Vista
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 18
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Playa Vista is a high-end housing development along Ballona Creek in Los Angeles, California. Known for its manicured and artificial lush green spaces, the development was controversial because it planned to use the adjacent Ballona Wetlands to treat its urban runoff. Ballona Wetlands are of great ecological importance as they form the largest remaining estuary in Los Angeles County, and have been a central figure in the efforts to restore native fish such as the Steelhead Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) to the region. As part of permitting (NDPES) and a settlement with the state of California, the Playa Vista Land Company was required to improve a historic creek system flowing through the project known as Bluff Creek. Water treatment and ecological restoration were the major priorities in creating a modern incarnation of Bluff Creek. This study started as a baseline temperature and water quality monitoring project to assess the impact of urban runoff on the aquatic ecosystem of Bluff Creek. Populations of exotic snails such as the Red Rimmed Melania (Melanoides tuberculata) were discovered. These species are well-known hosts of parasitic trematodes which can pose health risks to aquatic, terrestrial, and human life. Further, additional sampling and analysis of storm drain system data has linked the occurrence of exotic gastropod species to ornamental plants featured in Playa Vistas prominent park fountains. This is a story of how conflicting priorities and the juxtaposition of native ecological restoration with ornamental aesthetic greenspaces has backfired, leading to a potential hazard for the Ballona Wetlands.

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