L.A. seeks to protect 'wildlife corridor' in Santa Monica Mountains

Los Angeles lawmakers voted Friday to draft a new law that would enshrine a “wildlife corridor” in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains, aiming to ensure that coyotes, bobcats and other wild animals are not cut off from stretches of their habitat by new homes or other development.

“We want to be certain that P-22” -- the famed Griffith Park mountain lion -- “can get around, meet P-23 and have P-24,” said City Councilman Paul Koretz, who championed the plan.

City staffers are now tasked with writing the new rules, which would bar Los Angeles from issuing building or grading permits in the area until the city is assured that construction plans will permanently ensure that wildlife can cross from one part of their habitat to another.

------------FOR THE RECORD: Wildlife corridor: In the April 23 California section, an article about a proposed wildlife corridor in the Santa Monica Mountains was accompanied by a photo caption that misidentified Seth Riley of the National Parks Service as Sean Riley. The caption also described the location near Malibu Creek State Park as an area preferred in 2014 for a wildlife corridor. That location is being considered for a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway; it is separate from the proposed Santa Monica Mountains corridor. ------------

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The rules would also mandate deed restrictions to permanently protect those connections within wildlife habitat. And every new building project in the zone would have to undergo a “habitat connectivity” review. The proposed ordinance still must come back to the City Council for approval before it can become law.

Environmental and wildlife protection groups such as Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife have pushed Los Angeles to adopt the plan, saying it will help maintain genetic variation in urban species that might otherwise become isolated, and will reduce conflict with humans by preventing animals from being confined in residential neighborhoods.

Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said some Angelenos might ask: “Will this stop development? Will this impose undue burdens on developers?”

But Edmiston said those problems haven’t occurred in other places around the country where wildlife corridors have been created. Instead, “developers have to move over a little bit so that the animals in fact can have their pathways,” Edmiston said.

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For instance, Koretz said the proposed rules might require someone to leave a small stretch on the edge of their property open rather than fencing off the entire property, to allow animals to pass.

“These are relatively modest changes to the planning code that will make a massive difference to the health of our bobcats and mountain lions and raccoons and other animals,” Koretz said.

Neighborhood groups that represent areas such as the Hollywood Hills, Mar Vista and Studio City, have also thrown their support to the idea.

The new zone is slated to cover Los Angeles hillsides between Griffith Park and the 405 Freeway. City officials are also exploring the feasibility of imposing similar requirements in a broader area that includes the mountains encircling the San Fernando Valley.

Follow @latimesemily on Twitter for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall.

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