Oral Histories

Interview of Marcia Hanscom

Founder of Wetlands Action Network, an organization that opposed Playa Vista land development at the Ballona Wetlands. Co-founder of the Ballona Institute and manager of the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network (CLEAN).
Environmental Activism in Los Angeles
Social Movements
Environmental Movement
Biographical Note:
Founder of Wetlands Action Network, an organization that opposed Playa Vista land development at the Ballona Wetlands. Co-founder of the Ballona Institute and manager of the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network (CLEAN).
Collings, Jane
Hanscom, Marcia
Persons Present:
Hanscom and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Session one: Hanscom's home in California; Sessions two through four: Ballona Institute in Playa Del Rey, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, interviewer and senior editor, Center for Oral History Research. B.A., Communications, Antioch College; M.A., Communications, University of Iowa; Ph.D., Critical Studies, UCLA.Collings prepared for the interview by reviewing newspaper sources and other published material and talking to informed persons about the Ballona wetlands and the Playa Vista development in the Playa del Rey area.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Hanscom was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
4.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The series documents environmental activism in the Los Angeles area from the 1970s through to the present day. The majority of interviews are with either founders or knowledgeable participants in major regional environmental organizations. Represented groups embody a wide range of issues, including conservation, restoration, environmental justice and toxic waste disposal.Additional partially processed interviews are available through Library Special Collections.
Early life—An early love of the seashore—Family background—Family's political—leanings—Father’s example of addressing wrongs—Sisters—Goals while growing up—Attends college—Involvement in church as a youth—Majors in communications—Trouble paying tuition at college—Disillusionment with her church—More on family background—Attends Pasadena City College—Gets married—Attends Long Beach City College (LBCC) —More on getting married—Early career goals include being a missionary or a minister’s wife—A shift in Hanscom’s thinking away from the church—An influential encounter with a Vietnam veteran—Father’s post-traumatic stress disorder due to World War II experience—Meets ex-husband and gets married—Hanscom’s public relations career—A mentor at LBCC, Roger Benhook—Participates as a union shop steward wile working at the Queen Mary—A first activist role advocating for nutritious lunches in public schools—A bad faith agreement with the management of the Queen Mary—More on early public relations career—Finds inspiration to act on behalf of the environment in Al Gore’s book Earth in the Balance—Volunteers for the Sierra Club to work on the Bolsa Chica wetlands—Works for the Campaign to Save California Wetlands—Decides that having a lot of money is not important—Works part-time for Surfrider Foundation—Hanscom’s growing commitment to wetlands—Begins Wetlands Action Network—Introduced to the impending Playa vista development by Bruce Robertson—The growth of what would become Citizens United to Save All of Ballona—The media coverage engendered by the struggle against DreamWorks at Playa Vista—Hanscom’s efforts to improve the low level of media literacy in the environmental movement—Regret that Playa Vista has been built on a portion of the Ballona Wetlands—Successes in the Play Vista struggle—The false promise of Playa Vista’s claims to be environmentally friendly—Environmental hazards at the Playa Vista site—Founds Ballona Institute—Spreads the word about the Ballona Wetlands to Playa Vista residents—Hanscom’s interest in using the media rich environment in Los Angeles to disseminate the message about saving the wetlands—More on founding the Ballona Institute—The importance of the wetlands as green space for Los Angeles residents—A forthcoming party to announce the designation of the Ballona Wetlands as a park.
Formation of Wetlands Action Network (WAN) —Formation of the Citizens United to Save All of Ballona—The Friends of the Ballona Wetlands deal with Playa Vista—WAN’s conflict with the Friends over the terms of the settlement—More on the formation of Citizens United—The challenge posed by the involvement of DreamWorks in the Playa Vista project—The media attracted by the Spielberg name—Possible reasons that DreamWorks pulled out of Playa Vista—A protest at a DreamWorks event at the site—Citizens United offers a compromise to DreamWorks—Jeffrey Katzenberg’s disinterest in striking a compromise with the coalition—A possible Spielberg sighting at a screening of The Last Stand—Possibility that DreamWorks had pulled out due to toxins at the site—Citizens United protests at Spielberg premieres and openings—Utilization of performance art in the struggle—More on the challenge posed by the involvement of DreamWorks—More on the media attracted by the Spielberg name—Risks for actors once they became involved in the struggle against DreamWorks—Environmental hazards posed by the Playa Vista project—The challenge of realizing sustainable development in metropolitan areas—The difficulties that Playa Vista has face in launching their mixed use development—The need for cities to foster new development to improve their tax base—Creative protest activity in support of the Ballona Wetlands—Jerry Rubin’s hunger strike in support of the Ballona Wetlands—Coalition meetings—More on creative performances in support of the Ballona Wetlands—More on the challenges posed by the involvement of DreamWorks in the Playa Vista project—The opportunity to more forward on the Ballona Wetlands land purchase once DreamWorks pulled out—Tension within Citizens United over the terms of a meeting with DreamWorks—Relations between Citizens United and Friends of the Ballona Wetlands—A Playa Vista takeover of the Friends board—Ongoing work by Citizens United to preserve and restore additional land at Ballona—Mission of the Ballona Institute—Support of local residents in the wetlands struggle.
The dynamics of community organizing—A focus on the local wetlands issue in concert with the larger issue of wetlands survival—Humanity’s need for natural places—Getting the word out to Los Angeles communities about the Ballona Wetlands—Building a coalition—Pressure from DreamWorks on the coalition—Heal the Bay’s disinclination to work on the wetlands issue—Heal the Bay’s work on stopping the Ahmanson Ranch development—More on Heal the Bay’s disinclination to get involved in the wetlands issue—Legal imperatives for Friends of the Ballona Wetlands to support the settlement agreement—Friction between Friends of the Ballona Wetlands and Wetlands Action Network—The presence of DreamWorks discourages entertainment community participation in the wetlands struggle—Martin Sheen’s involvement—The Wetlands Action Network's efforts to change the narrative about Playa Vista put forth by DreamWorks—The role of wetlands within the biosphere and local economies—The removal of Native America graves at the Playa Vista site—A transfer of privately held parcels in the Ballona Wetlands to public land—Kathleen Connell’s interest in the wetlands—More on support of local residents in the wetlands struggle—A Playa Vista effort to infiltrate the local neighborhood council—The political education of Wetlands Action Network—Modes of community activism employed by Wetlands Action Network—Activist publicity campaigns to stop the bulldozing—A meeting between Citizens United and DreamWorks—Pressure on DreamWorks to withdraw—Contamination at the site.
Playa Vista’s efforts to paint the Citizens United to Save All Ballona coalition as a fringe group—Citizens United’s dissatisfaction with the Friends' settlement with Playa Vista—The success of the Bolsa Chica struggle and the example it provides—Tension between the Friends and Citizens United over day-to-day stewardship of the wetlands—A charge that Roy van de Hoeck had removed native plants from the ecological reserve—The benefit of Hanscom’s public relations experience—An article in Mother Jones on the Ballona wetlands struggle—A diversity of protest activity—The challenge that faces grassroots groups when encountering a media and political giant—Ted Danson’s disinclination to support the Citizens United group—A fanciful article about a possible cast for a film on the struggle—Citizens United launches a divestment campaign against Morgan Stanley—The challenge of working with volunteers—The challenge of keeping a diverse coalition focused on a single goal—The particular contribution of individuals: Bruce Robertson, Roy van de Hoeck, Susan Suntree, and Jan Williamson—The difficulties in finding legal expertise—Future plans include a number of commemorative celebrations—Publishing a book on Ballona—Moving forward with the struggle around Phase 2—More on the Ballona Institute—More on moving forward with the struggle around Phase 2—The question of the methods by which the restoration work at the wetlands will be conducted—Ongoing environmental work of coalition members—Produces a coffee table book on the wetlands as a fundraising tool.