Playa put on hold

Judge demands new EIR for D'Works project

Handing environmentalists a victory in their long fight against DreamWorks’ proposed new home, federal Judge Ronald Lew on Friday issued an order precluding the developer from further construction within federally delineated wetlands on the Playa Vista site near Marina del Rey.

The judge said the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to allow construction to proceed “in the midst of substantial dispute as to the project’s nature and effects, was arbitrary, capricious and otherwise not in accordance with the law.”

Lew’s ruling forces the Army Corps to conduct an environmental impact statement on the entire project, which covers more than 1,000 acres.

However, Playa Vista spokesman David Herbst said the order regarding federally delineated wetlands covers only eight acres of a 25-acre area currently being prepared for a freshwater marsh, as well as about half a dozen acres elsewhere that have not been permitted for construction. He said the eight acres would be staked off so as to prevent further work there.

The development’s president, Peter Denniston, said the decision would be appealed.

“We have not seen Judge Lew’s ruling, but if it is true, we are surprised, since this ruling is inconsistent with all the past rulings by Judge Lew and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Denniston said in a statement. “The good news is that we are able to continue our restoration efforts in most of the freshwater marsh and at the Ballona outlet. If our opponents are successful, they will stop the important restoration of the Ballona Wetlands.”

The ruling is likely to have no effect on demolition work at the former Hughes Aircraft factory, about one mile east of the proposed freshwater marsh.

Marcia Hanscom, exec director of Wetlands Action Network, said she was “elated, gratified and relieved” by Lew’s decision. “We are very grateful to Judge Lew,” Hanscom said, “for his sensitivity to the very fragmented natural environment we have in Los Angeles.”