The environmental group Heal the Bay issued its annual Beach Report Card at a May 21 press conference on the Santa Monica Pier, and its report showed that site as having the worst water on the California mainland coast, indicating there is much work to be done.
Eight days later, Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay welcomed more than 1,200 guests to celebrate its biggest fundraising dinner to date, raising over $650,000, indicating that the work is well underway.
The 23-year-old nonprofit is dedicated to making Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters safe and healthy again for people and marine life. It is one of the largest nonprofit environmental organizations in Los Angeles County, with more than 12,000 members. On May 29 at Barker Hangar, this year’s event, themed “Making Waves,” celebrated environmental stewards whose thoughts, words, and actions show that every individual is capable of effecting positive change.
Many Southland celebrities and civic leaders were on hand to pay tribute to special honorees H. David Nahai, CEO and general manager of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power; Don Corsini, general manager of local broadcast stations KCBS and KCAL; and Tom Unterman, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Rustic Canyon Partners.
“We are proud to recognize these longtime friends of Heal the Bay for their years of public service,” said Heal the Bay president Mark Gold. “They lead by example, encouraging all of us to remain steadfast and make Earth-friendly choices in our daily lives.”
All three leaders have made waves in their respective fields, encouraging the adoption of more ocean-friendly practices in their business and community activities. Nahai was Chairman of the Regional Water Quality Control Board before assuming his position at DWP; Corsini each year produces hour-long specials at KCBS and KCAL on the work of Heal the Bay and its annual Coastal Cleanup Day; and Unterman is a member and former Chairman of the Heal the Bay board.
In order to make the gala event as sustainable as the organization’s goals, Heal the Bay selected vendors committed to green business practices. Patina Restaurant Group, known for supporting local farms, created a menu consisting of all organic and sustainable food items. The team ensured that 100% of the evening’s waste was recycled. Styrofoam was not allowed on the event site. Kunde Estate Winery, noted for its strict commitment to sustainable winegrowing practices, provided wines to accompany dinner.
In addition to musical performances by The Plain White T’s and Leon Mobley & Da Lion, guests enjoyed a brisk silent auction. A fully accessorized 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid led the spirited bidding at the live auction, netting $33,000 for the organization.
Among the notables mingling at the dinner: Heal the Bay board members Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Smart; fellow actors Ingo Rademacher and J.D. Roth; Los Angeles Kings captain Rob Blake; political leaders Fran Pavley and Bobby Shriver; and visual artist Chris Jordan.
The group has successfully led many initiatives, including the regional fight to reduce the proliferation of marine debris, especially plastic bags, and to impose stricter controls on cities’ discharge of harmful urban runoff. It also operates the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Most recently – in fact, the day before the dinner event – the California Assembly passed AB 2058, which Heal the Bay helped draft; if passed by the Senate and signed into law, this bill would require large grocery chains and pharmacies statewide to charge a 25-cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags if a 70 percent reduction in bag usage is not achieved by the end of 2010.