Preserving More Hillside Land for Conservation and Biodiversity

The Los Angeles City Council recently approved an ordinance giving the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy first right of refusal to purchase any surplus hillside land owned by the city so it can be preserved.

June 27, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By clementkhlau @clementkhlau

A view of the Pacific Ocean and California coastline from high in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Carson Albanese / Shutterstock

A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to ensure that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) have the first right of refusal on hillside land sale offers for conservation at the City of Los Angeles’ purchase price plus any administrative and management costs incurred by the City. After two years, SMMC will have an additional re-offer option if the land sale is not completed and is offered again to new buyers.

In 2008-2009, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa initiated the “Own A Piece of LA” program to itemize, account for, and offer undevelopable slivers of city surplus land and/or remnant parcels to adjoining neighbors since they are deemed incapable of independent development and can only be of use to adjacent property owners. However, with advanced engineering innovations in recent decades, development in sensitive ecological areas has increased, resulting in the fragmentation and degradation of essential remaining wildlife habitat connectivity and corridors, particularly in the Santa Monica Mountains Zone which is home to the Southern California subpopulation of the Mountain Lion. Local mountain lions are now a “candidate” species under consideration for listing as “threatened” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Los Angeles is located in a global biodiversity hotspot called the California Floristic Province, which means that it includes over 1,500 endemic plant species, that at least 70 percent of the area’s original habitat has been lost, and that the rest is endangered by human activities. Much of the remaining biodiversity within Los Angeles is located in the mountains and hillsides. Plants and animals need these interconnected ecosystems to continue to exist and flourish within this urban context and this biodiversity hotspot is jeopardized by increased development and habitat fragmentation.

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