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Heal the Bay Blog

Author: Matt King

Party People, we’ve got some good news to share about our huge gala next month.

We’ve got an eclectic list of honorees for our annual “Bring Back the Beach” bash, drawing from the worlds of politics, entertainment and media.

We’re super stoked to salute the good work of three leaders who embody the spirit of protecting what you love: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Univision news anchor Gabriela Teissier and sustainability advocates Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik.

All guests of honor will mingle on the sand with us May 17 at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica. A lively mix of artists, surfers, policy wonks, engineers, business owners and everyday ocean lovers always turns out for the year’s biggest beach party.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has a long history of collaboration with Heal the Bay, starting with his days as an L.A. City Council member. (He’s pictured above on the L.A River). His administration has made significant progress in making our region more environmentally healthy and economically prosperous under his ambitious 20-year Sustainability pLAn. He is the first L.A. Mayor to design and implement a master sustainability blueprint for the city. Under his leadership, the city has partnered with Heal the Bay and other nonprofits to meet a goal of producing 50% of our water locally by 2035.

Gabriela Teissier is a longtime supporter of our work. Led by her vision and editorial direction, Univision has provided thoughtful coverage of such issues as plastic pollution, climate change, contaminated seafood, and beach safety. By covering these issues, the region’s leading Spanish-language broadcaster has connected Latino audiences to the shoreline, to their watershed and to each other. Her husband, famed surfer and chef Raphael Lunetta, is also a longtime fixture on Venice and Santa Monica beaches.

Zooey Deschanel, a native Angeleno, may be best known for her work in film and music. But the actress and singer spends considerable creative energy on The Farm Project, an initiative to connect people directly to their food. Together with entrepreneur husband Jacob Pechenik, they help reduce carbon emissions – and warming seas – by empowering city residents to easily grow their own food at their home or business through their new service Lettuce Grow.  The couple also has been creating awareness around the dangers of plastic pollution in our ocean and food chain through short-form videos.


We hope you can join us May 17 to celebrate good people doing good work. The event is loose and fun, but it’s seriously our biggest fundraiser of the year. We rely on the support of the community on this one night to sustain us year-round

Seats always sell out each year, so please purchase your table or individual tickets today to avoid being disappointed. Here’s a visual roundup of last year’s gala in case you missed it.

See you on the sand!

 

 



After months of thorough reading, analysis and discussion, Heal the Bay and our fellow Wetlands Coalition members this week submitted formal written comments on the Ballona Wetlands restoration project. Heal the Bay strongly supports Alternative 1, a plan that would reconnect land and sea, create the most wetland habitats and provide ample trails and overlooks for all to use.

You might remember that back in September, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released much anticipated (and long delayed) plans for the restoration of the beleaguered Ballona Wetlands, the nearly 600-acre ecological reserve near Playa del Rey.

The Ballona Wetlands are the largest remaining wetlands in L.A. County and have suffered decades of neglect and abuse. The restoration plans presented three options (along with a no-project or do-nothing alternative) to improve the damaged and degraded wetlands.

The restoration proposals focus on a few major desired outcomes: reconnecting the wetlands to the sea, enhancing habitat for wildlife and creating more public access.

To do this, the options ranged from taking out nearly all concrete channels from the reserve and removing millions of cubic yards of dumped fill (related to the building of nearby Marina del Rey decades ago), to leaving concrete flood channels in place and making smaller changes.

When the agencies released the draft Environmental Impact Report/Study, interested stakeholders and the public had 60 days to review the plans and submit comments on them in writing and in person at a Nov. 8 public hearing.  The lead agencies wisely extended the review period to Feb. 5. The move gave the public more time to understand and digest the lengthy and technical document, which provided a thorough, science-based analysis of current conditions and potential projects.

So, that brings us to this past Monday when the public comment period ended and we hit the send button, crystallizing months of hard work in a single moment.

Heal the Bay enthusiastically supports Alternative 1, the option that best achieves the goals set forth by the state of California, which include among others:

  • to restore, enhance, and create estuarine and associated habitats
  • to establish natural processes and functions that support estuarine and associated habitats
  • to develop and enhance wildlife-dependent uses and secondary compatible on-site public access for recreation and educational activities.


Source: ballonarestoration.org – This Alternative 1 rendering may not be representative of the final plans.

Alternative 1 best addresses the degradation that the Wetlands have suffered by removing the most fill, removing the most concrete along Ballona Creek, and by restoring, creating, and enhancing the greatest amount of tidal salt marsh habitat.

Alternative 1 also creates the greatest local resiliency to climate change and sea level rise while providing the greatest level and quality of public access.

Alternative 1 is composed of two phases. The first phase will create a naturalized creek. The second phase establishes even more natural tidal flow and connections between the land and sea. These proposed restoration activities will result in wetlands that are the most self-sustaining and require the least amount of on-going maintenance, providing benefits for wildlife and people.

We submitted comments individually and also with our Coalition Steering Committee (made up of Friends of Ballona Wetlands, L.A. Waterkeeper, Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter, and the Trust for Public Land).

Our Coalition Steering Committee came to a consensus to support Phase 1 of this plan with some modifications. The group wants to see that the state-endangered Belding’s savannah sparrow bird is protected, that public access paths be increased in certain areas and restricted in sensitive areas, and that additional information about proposed parking lots be included in the final document.

We came to this consensus through many meetings filled with hard work, technical analysis, and long discussions over the last four months. It was not always easy and we didn’t agree on every small detail but our overarching positions were always aligned. We followed our nine Principles of Wetland Restoration, which prioritize ecosystem function, scientific basis, resiliency, appropriate scale, and ecological balance.

Heal the Bay and L.A. Waterkeeper also supported Phase 2 of Alternative 1, which removes more concrete and tide gates along the Creek.

Now, the lead agencies have the task of reviewing and responding to all the comments they have received. The comments and responses will be made public through the Final EIR/S, which we hope to see within a year’s time.

The Final EIR/S will have a chosen Alternative and at that point, funding and permits can be obtained and the project can get started at long last. We still have a lot of work ahead of us and we are committed to advocating and fighting for the robust restoration of Ballona Wetlands so they are healthy, functioning and open to all Angelenos.

THANK YOU to all who joined us AND our partners at the Ballona Wetlands over the last four months and who have engaged and advocated for the restoration of this unique and precious resource. Stay tuned for ways to get involved and ensure that the wetlands get the help they need.

Read our Heal the Bay’s comment letter and our joint Coalition comment letter.

 



Nelson Chabarria always dreamed of being a chemist. Then life got in the way. With his Koreatown family needing help to make ends meet, Nelson had to hang up his lab coat and love of science after graduating from Los Angeles High in 2001. He took a job working in L.A.’s Garment District.

Some dreams die hard, but thanks to Heal the Bay, Nelson is back in the lab – testing water samples from the Los Angeles River for harmful pollution. Nelson and four classmates from Los Angeles Trade Technical College spent the summer working with Heal the Bay staff scientists to monitor newly opened recreational zones along the river.

The good news is that all of Nelson’s hard work has paid off. Because of his team’s monitoring, we demonstrated that popular recreational zones are riddled with bacteria that can make kayakers and swimmers sick. After we publicized the results, the city of Los Angeles launched a formal protocol for posting troubled areas of the River and notifying the public about potential threats.

Here Nelson, now 34, tells what the program means to him as an East L.A. native and how it has affected his life:

We were in the school library – finishing up some data entry. The River Report Card had been released a week prior and we were about to refresh it with the latest bacterial test results. Weeks and hours and sunburns went into the grades, and to make them publicly available was simply gratifying. This moment felt pretty cool.

I was born and raised here. I’ve seen this “river” as I crossed the bridge to and from East L.A. I always thought of it as a ditch that divided the city. I am glad I was wrong about this. The river has its own ecosystem and interested groups that are invested in it.

I started classes in LATTC to come out of it working with some sort of water filtration or conservation leaning career. I want to be able to contribute in some way to making sure my city is smart in how it treats and uses the water we receive.

I never gave storm drains a second thought while driving. The few times they took my attention was during heavy storms where they flooded – the pooled water splashing unlucky pedestrians as cars passed. Sometimes I was unlucky. Now I am aware of their function, their contribution to the way water is handled here, and the importance of NOT contaminating streets with trash or toxic waste.

On a personal note it was great to be featured in an LA Times newspaper article. I had explained the work to some family, but not all. I never expected to talk to a reporter about my background and the work I do in the river. Once the article was released it spread to people that were unaware of the work I was doing. The bombardment of questions, congratulations and support was one of the best feelings to come out of this program. I cannot thank Heal the Bay enough for making this possible.

My job was the same each week. I went out and collected water samples. The next day they were read and the data was collected and posted. Even though it was the same every week, each time was always filled with new experiences. The memories come both from the people we met on the river and the dynamics of our great team.

Heal the Bay’s internship program covered a wide range of public service opportunities in the water systems of Los Angeles. The idea, team and process meshed right in with what I am interested in. It is one of the main reasons why I decided on coming back into school during the summer!

Our work isn’t possible without the real passion, action and commitment from people like Nelson and you. Help us spark more positive change in our region, up and down the coast, and around the world.

Make a Year-End Gift to Heal the Bay

 


Photo of Nelson in the L.A. River. (Summer 2017)

Photo of Nelson in the L.A. River collecting samples and observing conditions, by LA Times. (Summer 2017)

Photo of Heal the Bay’s L.A. River water quality monitoring team in the LATTC lab discussing water test results. (Summer 2017)

LA River Report Card - Heal the Bay - Water Quality MonitoringPhoto of Heal the Bay’s L.A. River water quality monitoring team. (Summer 2017)



In a guest blog post, Mark Gold, our former president, reflects on the lasting legacy of the late jurist Harry Pregerson — a man who truly healed the Bay.

When one thinks about the esteemed and distinguished career of U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson, his leadership on environmental protection is not what first comes to mind. However, his Clean Water Act decisions were nothing less than transformative for the City of L.A. and the Santa Monica Bay.

In the mid-1980s, Judge Pregerson was the presiding judge on the groundbreaking Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant case that led the City of L.A. to invest more than $4 billion into modernizing the treatment plant to meet the full secondary treatment requirements under the Clean Water Act. The resulting federal consent decree also required the replacement of significant portions of the city’s sewer system and the initiation of a stormwater pollution abatement program.

The highly contentious case was brought by the state and federal government and the newly formed environmental group Heal the Bay — a friend of the court on the case. Shortly after the settlement, I began volunteering for Heal the Bay and meeting with Judge Pregerson, the city, the state, and the U.S. EPA at semi-annual consent decree meetings. More than any other experience in my career, these meetings taught me how to affect successful environmental change, and Judge Pregerson was the reason why.

Judge Harry Pregerson, who passed away last week at the age of 94, was about the most unassuming person you have ever met. He was folksy and put everyone at ease, even when the animosity between the disputing parties was at its greatest point. By the late 1980s, he still was not an expert on sewage or even the Clean Water Act, but he was masterful in getting disparate parties to find common ground and even to develop mutual respect.

Subsequent to the Hyperion case, he was the key figure in litigation from the then Santa Monica Baykeeper over the city’s chronic sewage spills into L.A. waterways. The result: new investments amounting to more than $1.5 billion in sewage infrastructure and a seven-fold reduction in annual sewage spills.

Despite these extraordinary successes, I most admire Judge Pregerson for standing up to Mayor Richard Riordan’s administration in their attempts to get out of the Hyperion Consent Decree. The state was in a recession and upgrading Hyperion was deemed a waste of money by leaders in the administration. With no fanfare and no media, the sludge-judge shut down the effort. Ethics triumphed over cost cutting and the environment was the beneficiary.

Judge Pregerson was a highly ethical, humorous, and incredible human. As a result, he presided over one of the most successful urban environmental transformations in U.S. history. Foes became lifelong friends and the Santa Monica Bay went from having a dead zone, routine enormous sewage spills, and fish with tumors, to an unparalleled environmental success story. None of this would have happened without the quiet, unassuming leadership of Judge Pregerson.

It is hard to believe that Judge Pregerson is gone. We will still see his name on the 105 freeway, at the Harry Pregerson Child Care Center, and on the lab building at Hyperion. And, I’ll continue to think about all he has meant to Los Angeles’ environment when I look at my office bookshelf to see the commemorative cowboy-hat shaped hardhat so many of us received during the Hyperion Full Secondary celebration in 1998. He bettered the lives of so many and always fought for what was right. L.A. is a better place because of him.

You can read more of Mark’s thoughts about sustainable L.A. by following his blog posts.



Bay lovers, here’s your one big chance to make your voice heard about the planned restoration of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in Playa del Rey.

As we’ve been telling you, this highly degraded ecosystem is one of the few remaining coastal wetlands left in greater L.A. It needs some TLC – a lot of it, actually.

Even if you don’t live near the Reserve, you should care deeply about its future. Wetlands are incredibly important for water quality, flood control and open space in our increasingly urbanized region.

Heal the Bay staff and the other members of our Wetlands Principles Coalition will attend a public meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 8 to discuss various alternatives for bringing this area back to full life. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife “CDFW” will be holding its only scheduled meeting to provide an overview of various restoration alternatives and gather public input.

In September, the CDFW and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft Environmental Impact Report/Study for the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. The public comment period has been extended to Feb. 5.

The Ballona Wetlands are highly degraded from landfill, are too high in elevation and lack the critical interactions between land and water. In addition, more than half the Wetlands Reserve has been taken over by non-native invasive plants, reducing economic, ecological, and social value.

Bring Back Ballona Wetlands _MG_8315 Ballona Wetlands Ballona Wetlands _MG_8212 ballona creek bike path NBIMG_9191 NBIMG_8959 IMG_3684 _MG_8259 ballona wetlands ballona sunset
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Given that Los Angeles County has already lost 95% of its coastal wetlands, it’s critical that the state act to protect Ballona. Wetlands are unique habitat that connect land and sea.

Right now, only 3% of Ballona’s roughly 600 acres is functioning habitat. That simply is not enough. To be clear, there are a few vocal opponents who contend that no work should be done to restore the wetlands. But our coalition believes strongly that we must act now, guided by the best science, to prevent further irreversible deterioration.

Our Wetlands Principles Coalition has been busy analyzing the highly technical EIR document. We have been examining the various Alternatives for four key desired outcomes: increased habitat quality to benefit native wildlife, greater protection from flooding, improved water quality and increased public access to trails for education and nature appreciation.

Attend the hearing and tell officials that you want a robust restoration of the Ballona Wetlands that:

  • Maximizes natural wetland habitat and function
  • Protects native wildlife and plant diversity
  • Increases natural buffers against climate change
  • Minimizes negative disturbance
  • Provides open space and access for all
  • And most of all you want to BRING BACK BALLONA!

The public meeting will be held at Burton Chace Park. RSVP for the public hearing and we will provide you with more information about how to prepare and be heard.

If you cannot attend the meeting, you can also send your comments by email to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Daniel.p.swenson@usace.army.mil

California Fish & Wildlife: BWERcomments@wildlife.ca.gov

Read more about our efforts to “Bring Back Ballona” and also register for our Explore Ballona events this month, ranging from bike tours to habitat restoration.



Spending time with some exceptional students at the 28th annual Coastal Cleanup Day serves as a real pick-me-up for Communications Director Matthew King.

After 10 years at Heal the Bay, I’ve become a bit jaded about our cleanups. I see the same mounds of trash every time I head to a site – cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, fast-food wrappers, you name it.

In the time I’ve worked here, our cleanup volunteers have removed more than 2.6 million items of man-made debris from L.A. County shorelines. That astounding figure stirs mixed emotions. It’s saddening to realize that we still treat our natural places as trash dumps, but it’s also reassuring to know so many Angelenos still care enough to donate a Saturday morning to protect what they love.

Coastal Cleanup Day 2017 was no different. Under pleasantly overcast skies, volunteers stretching from Compton to Malibu collected roughly 23,000 pounds of trash in just under three hours. To put that in perspective, that’s about the weight of two enormous T. Rex dinosaurs!

Beyond the usual suspects, we found a few oddball items this year – a drone that must have crash landed underneath the Redondo Pier, a whole set of unopened men’s dress shirts resting forlornly on the sand at Will Rogers State Beach, and a jock-strap and cup in Palos Verdes. (Props to whoever had the nerve to pick it up!)

It’s also revealing to see what we didn’t find. A veteran site captain at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve was astounded how few plastic bags they found at this L.A. River location, which has historically been visibly choked with plastic bags. It’s a good sign that the recently passed state ban is working!

In all, more than 9,600 volunteers joined us at 61 sites across the County today. We always mobilize a cross-section of greater L.A, both the famous and not-so-famous. I’ve met professional surfers, NBA centers, All-Star outfielders and Oscar-winning actors. But it’s usually the everyday folks like you and me who have interesting stories to tell.

Take the inspiring group of six students from Bell Gardens High School who served as site captains for our beach cleanup in Playa del Rey today, under the caring guidance of teacher Patty Jimenez.  The youth brigade — Angel Diaz, Christopher Linares, Heidi Lara, Kimberly Gonzalez, Otzara Villalobos and Vanexi Jaramillo — mobilized 342 volunteers, who collected 235 pounds of ocean-bound debris.

I first met four of these kids last Wednesday morning at a KTLA Channel 5 news shoot to promote today’s cleanup. They had all arisen at 3 a.m., clambered into Patty’s sedan and traveled 23 miles in darkness to do a series of live interviews at the Del Rey Lagoon. With the bright lights of the camera staring them down as dawn broke, they spoke passionately and endearingly on live TV about their desire to curb cigarette-related pollution. Patty beamed at each of her charges, nodding as they offered simple but powerful testimony.

But what really touched me that chilly morning had come a half hour earlier.  I had approached Patty’s car to give the group a heads-up and to share some media tips. A gaggle of kids sat quietly inside, dressed in their teen uniform of denim, hoodies and Vans tennis shoes.

And then I saw something beautiful that made me well up.

In the cramped back seat, two students scanned textbooks, using their mobile phones to illuminate the pages in the dark. They were doing their math homework — in an unfamiliar neighborhood, hours before their school day would start and hours before most of their peers would even be awake.

I told Patty how moving the sight had been and she shared that that these students’ work ethic and optimism keep her motivated when she faces obstacles at school. She shared that this same group of students played a lead role last month in convincing the Bell Gardens City Council to adopt its first ban on smoking in parks and recreation areas.

The simple scene in the car gave me a moment of hope about the public school system, and Patty’s story gave me hope about the next generation of environmental stewards. This is why I work at Heal the Bay, to help my colleagues create leadership opportunities for students like Patty’s, to connect people from all across our region to their watersheds and to each other.

That to me is the real gift of Coastal Cleanup Day.

You can find more images from the day on our Flickr album and at our Facebook Page (check out the new videos, too).

Thank you to all our site captains, volunteers, partners and staff. We couldn’t have done this without you! And a special thank you to this year’s organizers, sponsors and otherwise remarkable organizations: California Coastal Commission, California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways, City of Santa Monica, Golden Road Brewing, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Schuchart/Dow, Union Bank, LAcarGUY, KIND Snacks and REI, as well as our photographers Nicola Buck, Cali Gilbert and Alvin Lam.

If you weren’t able to join us today, we have many volunteer opportunities throughout the year – out in the field, in our offices, or at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Explore the various options and time commitments here.



Join us for the 5th annual Nick Gabaldon Day on Saturday, June 3 to celebrate a local who broke racial barriers with style and grace.

Who was Nick Gabaldon?

A Santa Monica native, Nick Gabaldon was Southern California’s first documented surfer of African-American and Latino heritage. An accomplished board rider, he smashed stereotypes surfing the Bay during the 1940s and 50s. Because he didn’t own a car, Gabaldon would frequently paddle 12 miles from Santa Monica to the fabled break at Malibu. The grueling trip showed true commitment. Tragically, Gabaldon would lose his life during a huge swell at Surfrider in 1951, crashing into the pilings as he tried to pull off a dangerous maneuver called “shooting the pier.”

Why does Heal the Bay honor him?

Gabaldon reminds us of a time when Southland beaches suffered from de facto segregation. With a smile on his face and a board on his back, he overcame overt and tacit racism and became a role model for communities of color. Taking his rightful place in a lineup with such legends as Ricky Grigg and Matt Kivlin, Gabaldon helped integrate what largely was an all-white sport. Today, Gabaldon is an enduring symbol that our beaches are recreational havens for all Angelenos – regardless of race or socio-economic background.

What was “The Ink Well”?

A stretch of beachfront near Bay Street and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica became a safe haven for racial minority beach-lovers during the Jim Crow era. Also known as “Negro Beach” and other derogatory names, this roped-off area became a sanctuary of sorts for Gabaldon. He learned to surf at the gentle beach break about a half mile south of the Santa Monica Pier. (You can read more about the legacy of this spot in historian Alison Rose Jefferson’s excellent essay.)

Who will be celebrating his legacy?

To honor his pioneering spirit, Heal the Bay organizes Nick Gabldon Day each June around the anniversary of his untimely death. Working with our community partners the Black Surfers Collective the Surf Bus Foundation and the Santa Monica Conservancy, we host nearly 150 African-American and Latino youth from Paicoma to Compton for a day of ocean exploration and cultural reflection at Bay Street. Many of these underserved youth have never seen the beach before.

What activities are planned this year on Nick Gabaldon Day?

At 9 a.m., local surfers will hop on boards for a tribute paddle out.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., trained volunteers will be conducting free surf lessons for visiting youth, followed by a brief history tour of “The Ink Well.”

From 12:30-6 p.m., our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium will be providing free admission to all visitors, thanks to our sponsors L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and the Bay Foundation.

UPDATE: Joel is unable to make it! Feel better, Joel! Singer Joel Harper will be doing children’s story time at 2 p.m., followed by screenings of various documentaries about the life and death of Gabaldon.

How can I get involved?

All local surfers are invited to join the Collective at Bay Street Beach for the memorial paddle-out, and volunteers are needed to assist with lessons.

If you don’t surf, we’d still love to see you at the beach to watch the paddle out, meet other ocean lovers, visit the Aquarium for free, and wave the flag for community, inclusiveness and diversity.

Find more details about Nick Gabaldon Day June 3, 2017.


See photos from past #NickGabaldonDay events

Congrats! The proud winner of the Nick Gabaldon day commemorative mini board from today's raffle

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Follow my day on #snapchat Ashleysjohnson6 #surfer #beach #santamonica #blacksurfercollective #nickgabaldonday

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Life lessons. #nickgabaldon

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More than 700 walked the planks at our annual awards gala … and lived to tell the tale, reports Communications Director Matthew King.

“And remember: Mermaids smoke seaweed!”

With that offbeat reminder, actress and honoree Sharon Lawrence brought Heal the Bay’s 26th annual “Bring Back the Beach” gala last night to a funny, fitting close.

Single-use plastic items were incorporated throughout the gala decor (Photo by Nicola Buck)

Over 700 guests joined us on the wonderfully funky deck of the historic Santa Monica Pier for a night of celebration and renewed commitment to the ongoing fight for clean oceans and inland watersheds.

Entertainers and artists featured plastic pollution that ends up in our ocean (Photo by Nicola Buck)

While a carnival atmosphere prevailed (stilt walkers, jugglers, popcorn, spinning Ferris wheel), the true spirit of the evening was one of resolve. Dr. Shelley Luce, our new president and CEO, earned rousing applause for vowing to thwart the new federal administration’s plan to downsize the EPA and weaken the Clean Water Act.

Shelley Luce (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

Sharon Lawrence, a longtime board member and public ambassador for our work, received the Dorothy Green Award, named after Heal the Bay’s late, founding president. Gracious as ever, Lawrence recognized by name the long lineage of female water warriors – including mermaids! – involved in our work. Her mother and father, who had driven across the country to see Lawrence receive the award, beamed with pride. A very sweet scene.

Sharon Lawrence and Ed Begley Jr. (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

Local broadcast station KTLA 5 earned the night’s “Walk the Talk” award for its decades-long connection to Heal the Bay. Led by surfer and media honcho Don Corsini, KTLA has made space on its airwaves to promote our events and highlight ocean-related environmental issues. Anchor Courtney Friel accepted the award on the station’s behalf.

Courtney Friel and Stephanie Medina (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

In between speeches and presentations, a lively mix of surfers, politicos, water policy wonks, engineers, business owners and everyday ocean lovers mingled and schmoozed as the sun set over a calm sea. Event planners earned well-deserved praise for an innovative menu (roasted beet salad and Aussie handpies) and ocean-themed cocktails (blue margaritas and Golden Road’s kelp forest canned Heal the Bay IPA!).

Good times for a good cause at @healthebay Bring Back the Beach gala last night #lacarguy #healthebay

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Mike Sullivan, LAcarGUY owner and longtime boardmember, won the best-dressed award in a vibrant Wonka-like suit-jacket and matching Technicolor shorts. But even he was upstaged by a bevy of guest models sashaying down the catwalk in astonishing and truly beautiful dresses fashioned out of plastic trash commonly found on our shorelines. Kudos to designer Marina DeBris for raising awareness in such a creative way! View our Facebook Live video of the “Beach Couture: Haute Mess” fashion show.

NB-24 Marina DeBris Fashion Show 2017 - Heal the Bay NB-25 Marina DeBris Fashion Show 2017 - Heal the Bay Marina DeBris Fashion Show 2017 - Heal the Bay Marina DeBris Fashion Show 2017 - Heal the Bay Marina DeBris Fashion Show 2017 - Heal the Bay Marina DeBris Fashion Show 2017 - Heal the Bay Marina DeBris Fashion Show 2017 - Heal the Bay Marina DeBris Fashion Show 2017 - Heal the Bay
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This guest model is wearing "Washed Up Saleman." Men's briefs, board shorts, hats and clothing tags are a frequent find on any beach. Not to mention the single-use plastic bottles on the inside of the jacket. (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

The gala is designed as a gathering of the tribe, but it also serves as a critical fundraiser for us. Attendees dug deep this year, breaking our all-time records for our live and silent auctions.

Sarah Sikich, Meredith McCarthy and Matthew King (Photo by Nicola Buck)

Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer won a stand-up paddleboard and then realized he had no way to get it home. (He didn’t take our suggestion to paddle by sea back to his Ocean Park home.)

Funds raised from the evening directly support a number of our education and advocacy programs, from sponsored field trips to our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium to cleanups and water quality monitoring at local beaches and streams.

Amy Smart, Carter Oosterhouse, Sharon Lawrence, Sasha Alexander (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

Among the other guests bidding and bubbling: actress, board member and new mom Amy Smart, getting a rare, free night-out with husband Carter Oosterhouse; Smart’s BFF and Heal the Bay ambassador Ali Larter; Oscar-nominated actress and new-to-us Marianne Jean-Baptiste; “Roxy Girl” and Heal the Bay activist Bruna Schmitz with husband and pro surfer Dane Zaun; KROQ brass dancing away to SoulCirque (Heal the Bay is longtime beneficiary of the station’s annual “Weenie Roast” benefit concerts); legislative environmental leaders Assemblymember Richard Bloom and former Senator Fran Pavley; skateboard legend Natas Kaupis; and kid celeb Heal the Bay ambassadors Chloe Noelle and Jax Malcolm, along with actors Carolyn Hennesy, Sasha Alexander, Gregory Harrison and Ed Begley Jr.

(Photo by Alvin Lam)


View photos from the 2017 Gala at Santa Monica Pier and the Blue Carpet.

Also, thanks to our sponsors The Energy Coalition, The John and Nancy Edwards Family Foundation, LAcarGUY, KROQ, and KTLA 5 as well as our brilliant volunteer photographers Nicola Buck and David Young-Wolff for making it a very memorable evening.


#BringBackTheBeach Instagram & Twitter

Just a couple of chicks trying to #healthebay @smarthouse26 #bringbackthebeach xx

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We're healing the bay tonight ✌🏼🌎🌞 @healthebay #healthebay #bringbackthebeach #gala #sm #smpier #wavemaker

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Beautiful day supporting @healthebay #BringBackTheBeach fundraiser gala. ☀️

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Heal The Bay…rock on! #healthebay #conservation

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On the Santa Monica Pier #healthebay #bringbackthebeach

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Our 2017 #BringBackTheBeach Annual Awards Gala is groovin' and shakin' at #SantaMonicaPier! (@lacarguy)

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Heal the Bay welcomed Dr. Shelley Luce as its new president and CEO this week. Shelley joins us from the influential Environment Now Foundation, where she led several statewide campaigns to improve water quality and protect forest lands. But she began her advocacy career at Heal the Bay, and was promoted to science and policy director in 2004. (You can read more about her background here.)

With a Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Shelley can talk the acronym talk as well as walk the walk. But she’s as humble, funny and down-to-earth as they come. She’s also a working mom, raising two daughters with her husband in Baldwin Hills.

In a recent conversation with Communications Director Matthew King, Shelley shared her vision for Heal the Bay – and what’s on heavy rotation on her iPod.

What is your favorite memory of the sea or the beach?

Sitting on my surfboard and being startled, and then thrilled, and then mesmerized by a whale surfacing just a few feet away from me in Santa Monica Bay.

What’s a common misconception about scientists?

That we are not emotional. I think most people don’t know that scientists are full of wonder, and overcome by our admiration for this huge planet in all its beauty. Just because I like to learn the scientific names of those sea creatures doesn’t mean I don’t also marvel at them.

You were born in Canada. What’s unique about the Canadian sensibility?

I am proud of the values I learned growing up in Canada. Canadians seem to appreciate the global community, and that we need to take care of the water and air that we all share. There is a sense that it’s okay to give a bit more than you get sometimes, if it means that everyone can be better off. I like that.

What do you think the biggest threat to the Bay is right now?

I am concerned about the federal administration undermining the work of Heal the Bay and others by rolling back the laws that protect our clean water. We need a strong EPA to ensure the health of our kids and future generations. Heal the Bay will never stop fighting for that, but it will get harder if this administration stays on the track it has started on.

What is the most important thing that the average person can do to combat it?

We all need to get informed, at least a little bit. Join a group like Heal the Bay and learn where our water comes from and where it goes. Explore our beaches and rivers and remember why we fight to protect them. Then call our elected officials and demand they vote the right way and stand up to anyone who threatens the things we love. And support environmental groups who are fighting this fight for all of us, every day.

What does Heal the Bay mean to greater L.A.? What’s our role?

Heal the Bay is a symbol, an inspiration, a source of hope and a leader of movements. People trust us to fight for them, because we stand up for what’s right and we won’t back down.


Shelley Luce relaxing with the Stream Team in the Santa Monica Mountains, circa 2004

Heal the Bay is more than 30 years old. Do we need to change? If so, how?

Yes, we all need to adapt and face new challenges. Heal the Bay is always evolving. We started with a laser focus on wastewater discharge to the Bay. We didn’t have an aquarium and we didn’t work all the way up in the watersheds. When I served as a staff scientist at Heal the Bay in the early 2000s, we enacted the first trash policy for the LA. River. So we have taken on new challenges many times. Now, we face climate change, rising sea levels, an urgent need to change how we capture and use water, and a federal government that is hostile to environmental protection. We have to rise to meet these new challenges.

What would you tell a 20-year-old who is pessimistic about society’s ability to make meaningful change?

Hey, meaningful change is happening every single day, all around you. We stopped discharging dirty wastewater, we restored coastal wetlands that were former dumping sites, we banned plastic bags, TWICE. People are protesting the federal government’s appointments, their cuts to the EPA, and their threats to roll back environmental laws. People are coming together to ban Styrofoam, save endangered species, restore the L.A. River. You have to join the movement. That’s the only way it happens.

After your first year on the job, what would success look like to you? What’s top of your agenda?

One year in, I’d like to see Heal the Bay partnering with more communities to create greener, safer neighborhoods, and partnering with other organizations to support funding for green infrastructure, and ensuring everyone benefits from clean water in LA. I’d also like to be charting a path for Heal the Bay’s outstanding Santa Monica Pier Aquarium that takes it to the next level of engaging people’s hearts and minds with the ocean.

Why did taking this job appeal to you?

I’ve always worked for clean water, for our natural environment, and for people who rely on it. When I see something that’s not right I want to change it. I know Heal the Bay fights for what’s right and I want to be part of that fight.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about nonprofits?

Sometimes nonprofits succumb to competing rather than collaborating. It’s natural because of the funding world we live in, but it’s so unfortunate. All these smart, hardworking people should be free to put their heads together and combine their power and multiply their impact. I know we can do better at that.

What book is on your nightstand table? What’s your #1 most played song on your iPod?

Bossypants” by Tina Fey is on my nightstand, along with something about how to be a better parent I’m sure. The #1 song on my player right now is something from Beyonce’s latest album, I can’t stop playing it. And coming in a close second is “Snacktime” by the Barenaked Ladies, because my kids and I love to sing along to that one.

Are you a lover or a fighter?

I am a very loving fighter.

 



In honor of Earth Day, we break down the three biggest challenges our seas are facing and outline practical steps you can take to help turn the tide.

Sip smarter

Here’s a troubling thought: It’s estimated that there will be more plastic by mass than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. In the last 30 years, our volunteers have removed more than 2 million pounds of trash from our shores – that’s the weight of two fully loaded 747 passenger jets! Drink related trash forms the bulk of man-made debris found at Heal the Bay cleanups, accounting for 36% of all items found on L.A. County beaches.

This summer, Heal the Bay is launching its “Rethink the Drink” campaign, but you can get started today by saying “No thanks” to single-use straws, plastic water bottles, coffee lids and beverage cups. And do your part by signing up for one of our monthly beach cleanups.

Change the climate

Here’s another disturbing thought: L.A. County could lose more than half of its beaches by 2100 due to coastal erosion related to warming seas, according to a just-released study from the U.S. Geological Survey. Reducing our carbon footprint is a complicated endeavor involving multi-national agreements, but there are easy steps you can take in your daily life to reduce your impact on the sea. Transportation and food choices are an obvious place to start as a consumer. If you own a car, try taking public transit once a week. If you aren’t a vegetarian, think about skipping meat one day a week.

Heal the Bay also encourages you to speak out against proposed federal budget cuts that would drastically slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate research. Read more about how essential the EPA is to our work and sign our petition.


Exposed bedrock on the beach, below the University of California, Santa Barbara. (Credit: Daniel Hoover, U.S. Geological Survey.)

Fishing for answers

Approximately 90% of fish stocks of large predatory fish like tuna have disappeared globally, and more than half of all fish stocks have been maximized. That means we should all opt for sustainable seafood and eat lower down on the ocean food chain. There is much more to fine sea-dining than tuna, salmon and halibut! Widen your palate and the ocean will thank you. Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood guide so you can make ocean-friendly choices when eating from the sea. And visit the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium to learn more about our local marine animals and habitats.

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If you really want to get your activist on this Earth Day, please join staff and supporters Saturday morning in downtown L.A. for the national March for Science.