Low Impact Development Passes L.A. City Council

December 18, 2010 § 1 Comment

The new LID ordinance will make permeable pavement sidewalks more common

At its final meeting of the year, yesterday, Friday December 17th 2010, the Los Angeles City Council passed “LID”  Low Impact Development. You can read some earlier background at Creek Freak and elsewhere, but basically it means that, in the city of Los Angeles, new development (and substantial redevelopment) will need will need to be more sustainable in regards to rainwater. Buildings, landscapes, parking lots, etc. will need to slow, detain and store and/or infiltrate water on-site, instead of speeding it into storm drains, creeks, rivers, and the sea.

This took a while. L.A. Creek Freak started reporting on the city of L.A. efforts in September 2009, attended a workshop in October 2009, and reported on the Public Works Board passing LID  in January 2010. Plenty more excellent coverage is available at Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold’s Spouting Off.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Strong Towns Critique of LID

May 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

Click to go to the Strong Towns article I’m talkin’ about

Creek Freak has written about LID – Low Impact Development. It’s basically a sort of “green building” standard that requires new buildings to detain and/or infiltrate rainwater. While I think that LID is a step in the right direction, at least compared to development as usual, it’s nowhere near the end of the work on getting to healthy creeks and streams.

I read a good concise critque of LID (also LEED and green building in general) at Strong Towns today. Strong Towns is a site I’ve been enjoy a lot lately; it’s written by an engineer who has a lot of common sense. He mostly critiques heavily car-centric development patterns.  « Read the rest of this entry »

A message from Heal the Bay

April 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

We received – and are forwarding –  an announcement by our friends at the Heal the Bay.  The following piece is from Kirsten James, HTB’s Water Quality Director.

The federal Clean Water Act turns 40 this year. Water quality has come a long way since 1972 but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to ensure that our waters remain safe and healthy. Our nation’s rivers are no longer catching on fire (e.g. the Cuyahoga River, circa 1969) but the battle for our creaks and rivers in Los Angeles rages on.

One of the pillars of the CWA is the stormwater permitting program. Municipal stormwater permits regulate all urban runoff discharge from separate storm sewer systems, so-called MS4s. Because stormwater is the No. 1 source of coastal pollution in California, these permits are a big deal for ensuring public health for those who recreate in our local waters. It’s also a major part of my job – ensuring that water quality regulations are as protective as they can be. And now ocean lovers have a major fight on their hands in Los Angeles County.

In 2001, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted a municipal stormwater permit for Los Angeles County. The Regional Board is now considering a new permit for the county, after years of delay. As the board begins making critical decisions regarding the new permit, Heal the Bay is concerned about lobbying interests looking to weaken existing protections.

Board hearings over the summer will determine the fate of our local water quality for the next decade or more. We are at a fork in the road in terms of local water quality, with many cities and dischargers fighting hard to relax hard-won regulations that prevent them from dumping pollution into our waterways.

Our Regional Board can do the right thing and place strong protections (including pollution limits or TMDLs and low impact development requirements) in the permit. Or, they can make decisions that could result in dirtier water, and a higher risk of getting sick anytime you swim or surf. Heal the Bay will do everything we can to ensure that they make the right choice. We hope you will join us in the fight!

If you care about protecting the ocean and public health, we need you to make your voice heard. We need beachgoers of all stripes to attend a Regional Board workshop on May 3 designed to gather community input about local water quality regulations.

To fight for clean rivers, beaches and oceans, join our campaign: Taking L.A. by Storm (download flyer).

Attend the May 3 Regional Board workshop, the first of the hearings this summer, and let them know you want to be able safely swim at our beaches or fish in our rivers. Please help protect what you love.

To join us, RSVP with your name, email and ZIP Code.

Another creek faces the pipe – San Fernando Valley edition

March 28, 2011 § 9 Comments

April 4th is the deadline to give comment on a draft EIR that if approved will consign another small creek to permanent pipe-age in the City of LA.

[Updated paragraph] Download  the draft EIR from this City of LA site by clicking Environmental/Draft EIR in the left panel of that page. Then click on the bold-font title of The Village at Westfield Topanga to be taken to a download site.  That bold font fooled me when I first wrote this post, didn’t understand that it was a hyperlink. Thanks to readers for setting me straight! It can also be found at the Central Library, and Woodland Hills, Canoga Park and Platt Branch libraries or purchased on CD-Rom.

The creek – located at Owensmouth and Victory in the San Fernando Valley, has been dubbed Owensmouth Creek by locals. Its history is a little tricky to me, as it doesn’t appear on historical USGS maps.  GIS data from the County of Los Angeles, however, does indicate what looks to be a diversion of drainage from Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, labelled as an open channel.  Navigate LA calls it a city stormdrain, D-17768. But more incontrovertible is photography. Jim Anderson, of the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council, shared with me a photo of the threatened waterway.

Destined for a pipe? Photo: Roger Gerrish, provided courtey Jim Anderson.

Channel?  Bed?  Banks?  Sediment? Water (including seasonal)? Direction of Flow?

Looks like we’ve got a stream that meets the City’s definition. So why again is this small edge of the property being piped and paved, not set aside as a public park, or dare we suggest, part of the Low Impact Development/stormwater mitigation plan?

I’m told it’s needed for part of a Costco members’ service station at the planned Village at Westfield Topanga, folks.

I’ll just leave us all to ponder that for now.

Coverage in the Daily News here.

Send comments by 4/4 to:

Elva Nuño-O’Donnell, City Planner
City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning
6262 Van Nuys Boulevard, Room 351
Los Angeles, California 91401
(818) 374-5070 (fax)
Elva.nuno-odonnell@lacity.org

“Abusing discretion” in Bel Air’s Stone Canyon Creek

February 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

In horror movie parlance, they’re baaaaack.

2006 photos of culvert pipes intended for Stone Creek. The Planning Commission mandated protection of the stream, which the property owner now seeks to have stricken.

A Bel Air property owner is crying “abuse” and seeking to remove all references to Stone Canyon stream and, perhaps more importantly, stream protection from his 2006 development requirements. If this sounds familiar, you may have read about it in the Los Angeles Weekly story about my work, the Lost Streams of Los Angeles, which reported on this actual hearing. Or you may have seen this image of the pipe that was going to be laid in the stream at any of a number of talks I had given around town. Indeed Stone Canyon Creek (and nearby Kenter Creek) has been something of the poster-child for the need for an overarching stream protection ordinance in the City of LA.

The hearing takes place next week – Thursday, February 24, 9:50 A.M at City Hall Room 1050 (200 N. Spring Street, 90012).

So to cut to the chase, the owner contends that it is inaccurate to call the stream a stream, and that it is an abuse of discretion to impose requirements to protect the stream when other property owners have not had this requirement imposed upon them. « Read the rest of this entry »

News and Events – 8 January 2011

January 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Act now to save Arcadia's threatened oaks! Photo by ecotonestudios

RECENT NEWS:

> If you haven’t read Josh’s article yesterday about the urgency of action to prevent the county’s astonishingly wrong-headed plans for burying Arcadia’s oak woodlands – read it and take action! Demolition is scheduled to begin next week. Here’s a set of links of  yesterday’s blogger solidarity day post to save this irreplaceable site: Altadena Hiker, ArcadiaPatchBallona BlogBipedality, Breathing TreatmentChance of Rain, Echoes, Greensward CivitasL.A. Creek Freak, L.A. Eco-Village, L.A. ObservedPasadena AdjacentPasadena Daily Photo, Pasadena Real Estate with Brigham Yen, Slow Water!, The Sky is Big in Pasadena, Temple City Daily Photo and Weeding Wild Suburbia. Thanks also to Sierra Madre Tattler!

> Oiled Wildlife Care Network reports an oil spill in the Dominguez Channel on December 22nd 2010. Their team “recovered three oiled birds:  one Pied-billed grebe, which died, and two American Coots.”  As of January 4th, OWCN reports that  “no responsible party has been identified, and the source of the spill remains unknown.” Full story at link.

> ArroyoLover reports on the drawbacks (pun intended) of new archery range fencing proposed for Pasadena’s Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park.

> L.A.’s Daily News reports a Shadow Hills incident where a “car raced downhill, bouncing over speed bumps before brushing by horse and rider, spooking them to the curb. [The horse was] injured [and ultimately perished] when she became trapped in a storm drain debris screen[...]. The driver did not stop.” Interestingly the article calls for changes to the storm drain trash grates, but seems to let the criminal speeding driver off the hook. Full story at link.

> If you think L.A.’s La Niña rains were bad, read Circle of Blue‘s reports on disastrous El Niño rains in Colombia and Venezuela.

> The Los Angeles Times has an impressive photo of water churning through the San Gabriel Dam during recent tests. Also at L.A. Times: environmentalists file suit to block Newhall Ranch development imperiling the Santa Clara River. And, further afield, plans for the future health of the Klamath River.

> The Project For Public Spaces has an extensive conference proceedings document that serves as a sort of handbook for waterfront design/place-making. Their top recommendations (as distilled by me) are: multiple destinations, connected by trails for walking and bicycling.

Drastic Declines in World Fisheries - New York Times via Cyborg Vegan Cannibals

>Cyborg Vegan Cannibals has two scary graphs on the precipitous decline of world fisheries. One above and the other at the link. Maybe it’s time to watch Dan Barber’s Ted.com video again. (Thanks to TrueLoveHealth for sharing the CVC link!)

UPCOMING EVENTS

> The city of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation hosts a Low Impact Development update on Thursday January 20th 2011 at 1pm at their Media Center Offices. Details at L.A. Stormwater Blog.

Looking Back at 2010 and Forward to 2011

January 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

New year’s greetings from the Los Angeles River – Thanks to Netty Carr for this vintage postcard view!

On behalf of all of us Los Angeles Creek Freaks here – Jessica Hall, Joe Linton, Jane Tsong and Joshua Link – Happy New Year!

2010 began and ended with wonderful powerful rain storms. It was full of big creek stories – from the threatened oak woodlands in Arcadia, to the unveiling of the beautiful new Elmer Avenue green street project, and the long awaited river path opened in Elysian Valley.

The Los Angeles River was declared traditionally navigable!

Restoration projects moved forward at Malibu Lagoon, North Atwater Park, Long Beach, Glendale and, ojalá, the Piggyback Yard. The peskiest plastic bags were banned; low impact development was mandated. Creeks saw setbacks in Hahamongna, West Athens and Arcadia, and great historic bridges remain slated for demolition. « Read the rest of this entry »

Recent News – 15 December 2010

December 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Los Angeles River at Bette Davis Picnic Area - painting by Akiko Crawford - click for larger image at her portfolio blog

Recent news that might be of interest to L.A.’s Creek Freaks: « Read the rest of this entry »

Slow the Flow Video

September 12, 2010 § 7 Comments

“None of it’s [river-friendly landscaping] going to happen just because the city council made a decision that you’re going to do this. It’s going to be really something that people are going to learn to accept because they see that it works.”
-Dave Tamayo, Sacramento County Stormwater Program in Slow the Flow

Slow the Flow: Make Your Landscape Act More Like a Sponge is a very informative well-produced 26-minute video about practices and projects that communities can do to steward our watersheds. Stop reading and hit play!

It’s all about the sort of green multi-benefit watershed landscape practices that L.A. Creek Freak loves to cover: low impact development, rain gardens, swales, native landscaping, permeable paving, cisterns, and more. The video showcases quite a few excellent projects that are easily applicable to Southern California homes, schools, parking lots, etc. The approaches highlighted are very low-tech, green, gravity-fed, habitat-enhancing… and wonderful. And, they give you good reasons to kick back and not rake the leaves or water the lawn.

Thanks to the folks at the State Water Resources Control Board who produced the video, which is available on DVD from their website« Read the rest of this entry »

Not Necessarily Narrowly Navigability

August 9, 2010 § 8 Comments

Navigable, yes, not quite the navigable river that we have in mind. Tom Andrews photo of 2008 Los Angeles River expedition - from LAist

Here at L.A. Creek Freak, we’re very excited about the EPA’s determination that the Los Angeles River is navigable and is protected fully under the Clean Water Act. It’s a welcome decision, strongly supported by the river’s pastpresent, and planned future. The determination got the L.A. Times out kayaking the river (watch their excellent video!) and sparked off mayoral, journalistic, and advocate discussions of the river’s bright future.

But… the whole navigability test is… unfortunately… a bit limited.

Is navigability the right test for what streams deserve federal Clean Water Act (CWA) protection? Is the Clean Water Act all we need to restore rivers, creeks, and watersheds? Does a narrow focus on improving water quality get us to a goal of healthy creek and stream ecosystems? 

« Read the rest of this entry »

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