Santiago Avenue Bridge Mini-Park in Santa Ana

August 2, 2011 § 3 Comments

One of two identical commemorative metal plaques on the 1947 Santiago Avenue Bridge, located in the city of Santa Ana

I’ve been spending some time with family down in Orange County… and I got a chance to explore Santiago Creek. I did this exploring mostly by bike. It was actually really great to get my mind off of things and just follow an urban creek upstream and down. I love to bike around on streets and anticipate where I might be able to access a creek next, looking for what sort of condition it’s in, how access, bicycling, reinforcement, humans, critters, vegetation, etc. all are working or not for the waterway.

I did a great deal of this sort of exploration a lot in the late 1990s when I was first setting up the monthly Down By The River walks series for Friends of the L.A. River, and then quite a bit in 2005 when I was working on my book Down by the Los Angeles River. I recommend it highly – exploring creeks, I meant, not my book – though I recommend that too.

Whether you’ve got a concrete channel or a natural creek in your neighborhood, explore it – see where it flows to (often a journey from urban to even more highly degraded and concreted… until you get to the ocean) and where it flows from (of ten a journey from concrete to natural foothills streams.) It can give one a sense of place… often it takes one to the older parts of a place – great historic neighborhoods and bridges, other depression-era public works… sometimes just a slice, a sort of transect, through neighborhoods, including great places and neglected ones.

Santiago Creek is a tributary of the Santa Ana River. Santiago runs mostly through the cities of Santa Ana and Orange. I wrote about Santiago Creek briefly here, and ran Joel Robinson’s Santiago alert here. There’s also the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance that’s working to protect the creek. I am going to write more extensively about my recent Santiago Creek explorations soon, but I thought I’d get something posted quickly about one feature I encountered.

Here’s a video I shot on the 1947 Santiago Avenue Bridge:

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L.A. Zoo’s New Watershed-friendly Parking Lot

May 21, 2011 § 5 Comments

L.A. Zoo's new bioswale median set to capture parking lot runoff - all photos Ciara Gonzalez

(Please give a warm welcome to our newest L.A. Creek Freak blogger: Ciara Gonzalez! I met Ciara when she was an intern at the Coalition for Clean Air. This is her first LACF article – hopefully the first of many! – Joe)

The new environmentally friendly Los Angeles Zoo parking lot was officially introduced on April 7th 2011 during an Earth Day weekend event. The project is a $13.9 million dollar stormwater enhancement with multiple types of best management practices constructed to help reduce runoff of polluted water during storm events.

I visited the new green project earlier this week, while the city was in the middle of a series of rainstorms. What better time than now to walk the premises and see the permeable pavement and bioswales in action?  « Read the rest of this entry »

Sedimental nostalgia on Ballona Creek

May 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

A few posts ago I mentioned the Rain Gardens being built on Ballona Creek. I am working with the contractor on the project, and so have been fortunate to observe the stages of implementation.  We are still weeks away from completion.

Cobble and sand deposits, Ballona Creek flood control right-of-way.

Several weeks ago I took a walk along an excavated area of the right of way. These excavations will be filled with a soil-compost mix in terraced bioswales. But the walk along this opened-up bank was oddly poignant, revealing layers of Ballona Creek that had itself been excavated and then piled up here. The sense of Ballona as a once-natural watercourse became more tangible seeing pockets of cobble and sand that must have been in the creek’s bed at one time, carried from the Hollywood Hills, tossed and gently moved over decades until deposited out of the channel to build up the flood control channel.  It was as moving to me, imagining the life that once flourished here, and as haunting as visiting the ruins of Chaco Canyon or any archeological site.

This bit of geology will be closed back up soon as walls are built up, filled and planted.  But perhaps someday those cobbles will be free to roll down a restored river – when we’ve finally embraced our waterways as part of the urban fabric.

Maybe someday.

Zine Breaks Ground on West Valley River Greenway

March 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

Los Angeles City Counclmember Dennis Zine announcing the West Valley L.A. River Greenway project

This afternoon, before an assembled crowd of about fifty, Los Angeles City Councilmember Dennis Zine presided over a groundbreaking ceremony for a new stretch of Los Angeles River greenway and bikeway. Construction has begun on the 2.2-mile segment of landscaped bike path, extending from the Vanalden Avenue footbridge to the end of Hartland Street, just upstream of the Mason Avenue Bridge.

L.A. Creek Freak reported on this project earlier; for details check here for project background, here for art and design, and here for funding and phasing.

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“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 »

Visiting Watershed Parks in the Rain

December 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

Our concrete rivers and creeks are dangerous during heavy rains; don’t take our word for it, watch No Way Out! What’s fun to visit in the rain are the adjacent rainwater harvesting sites: watershed management parks and green steets. L.A. Creek Freak didn’t quite get to Elmer Avenue in Sun ValleyBicknell Avenue in Santa Monica, or those city of Downey swales… if anyone has reports on any of those sites, please post comments!

Over the past couple rainy days Creek Freak did pay visits to Marsh Park, Riverdale Avenue and the Bimini Slough Ecology Park. Reports below!

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News and Events – 12 November 2010

November 12, 2010 § 2 Comments

Spotted yesterday: pre-striping markings on the Elysian Valley segment of the L.A. River bike path. They're three short white lines in the foreground of this photo. Bike path officially under construction since mid-2009 officially opens on December 4th - announcement below, more details soon.

RECENT NEWS

> The Daily Breeze reports that West Basin Municipal Water District’s desalination plant in Redondo Beach opens today, Friday November 12th 2010. Creek Freak Conner Everts “would like to see them do more conservation, reclamation, and then decide if they need a desal plant.”

> At Spouting Off, Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold reports on promising regional water board votes and efforts to reduce trash in local waters. See also HtB’s Ban the Bag rally below.

> Guess the animals and win a poster from L.A. Stormwater. Deadline is next Wednesday November 17th 2010.

> Will Campell bikes the Arroyo Seco and shoots another great riders-eye-view video.

> L.A. Times Greenspace looks into scary drinking water issues in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

> Congratulations to The City Project’s Robert García on being awarded the American Public Health Association’s Presidential Citation!

UPCOMING EVENTS

> Bike the Los Angeles River from Griffith Park to Long Beach this Sunday November 14th 2010, departing at 7:30am from the Autry Museum. Details at Biking in L.A.

> Heal the Bay invites you to a rally to Ban the Bag – at 8:30am on Tuesday November 16th 2010 supporting the L.A. County Board of Supervisors as they vote to ban plastic bags in county unincorporated areas. Check here for details.

> On Thursday, November 18th 2010 at 7pm, the Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University presents Morna Livingston speaking on Steps To Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India. It’s part of the lecture series: Excavating Innovation: The History and Future of Drylands Design. The free public talk takes place at Fletcher Jones Auditorium, Woodbury University, 7500 Glenoaks Boulevard, Burbank 91510.

> On Saturday November 20th 2010 from 9am-1pm, the Elysian Valley Neighborhood Council, Council President Garcetti, and L.A. County Public Health host a free Health Fair. The event takes place at the Elysian Valley Recreation Center (1811 Ripple Street, L.A. 90039) and includes a free raffle for a new bicycle, courtesy of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

> The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation is holding its monthly Ballona Wetlands Community Open House with tours Sunday November 21st from 9:30-1:00. Guided tours leave at 10am, 11am, and 12 noon. Meet at the Fiji Gateway, 1320 FIji Way in Marina del Rey 90292, across from Fisherman’s Village.

> On Sundays November 28th and December 5th 2010, Jenny Price leads the All-Valley L.A. River Thai Noodles & Cuban Sweets Tour. It goes from the start of the L.A. River in Canoga Park to Griffith Park, and includes the Great Wall of Los Angeles mural on the walls of the Tujunga Wash. Tours go 8:30am-4pm, click here for info and to sign up.

> At 12noon on Saturday December 4th 2010 the Elysian Valley portion of the L.A. River Bike Path will officially open. To emphasize the shared nature of the facility, it’s being called the L.A. River Pedestrian/Bike Path.  Creek Freak will post more event information here soon!!

> Duarte dedicates its Encanto Park Bioswale and Outdoor Nature Classroom on Tuesday December 7th 2010 at 9am. Encanto Park is located at 751 Encanto Parkway, Duarte 91010.

Ballona Wetlands Symposium - December 8th

> On Wednesday December 8th 2010 the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission will host a free public Ballona Wetlands Science and Research Symposium. It takes place from 8:30am-5:30pm at University Hall 1000, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, LA 90045. For info and to rsvp email Karina Johnston kjohnston [at] santamonicabay.org

Recent News – 8 November 2010

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

> Watch the above vid for more green streets meets complete streets – from Portland and Streetfilms. The beautiful rain garden drainage stuff is shown at minute 4:06… but I know many creek freaks will like all the sexy bike boulevard stuff, too. Landscape+Urbanism has some photos – note that Portland is able to retain existing trees on these projects. Here’s a design for a similar bike boulevard project in Los Angeles that would divert cars off to side streets, allow bikes to pass directly through, and would cleanse rainwater, too: (read more about 4SBB here and get involved!) [more cool green street stuff later this week, too!]

4th Street Bicycle Boulevard Catalina Islands - proposal for diverter at 4th and Catalina - image by Aaron Kuehn

> More fun creek freak videos: watch Ballona Creek Renaissance leader Jim Lamm (Culver City Real Estate Voice) and watch the recent US Green Building Council panel (blip.tv) which we announced here and was reviewed as follows:

I thought it was one of the best USGBC events I have ever been to in this city.  It was really informative …I wasn’t planning on staying as long as I did, but I found myself so engaged with the discussions and didn’t want to leave.

(It was a a great panel, if I do say so myself, though vid may be “tl;dw” for some.)

> UCLA Lab School plans a Stone Canyon Creek restoration planting day later this month.

> The Jewish Journal reports that Heschel School has received a grant for a new L.A. River mural.

> Downtown News reports on the groundbreaking for the downtown’s 7th Street Low Flow Diversion Project. (Announcemed at LACF here.)

The Los Angeles River: The Future is Now - official poster by Oscar Amaro

> Contest! About a week to go to name all the animals in the L.A. city’s L.A. River poster and win framed artwork. Enter your best guess in the comments at LA Stormwater Blog.

>On December 7th, The city of Duarte is opening its new bioswale and outdoor classroom park at El Encanto oops! corrected 11-12-2010: Encanto Park, located on the San Gabriel River.

> KCRW questions the 6th Street Bridge replacement project calling it an uninspired “bridge to nowhere.”

Riverdale Green Street Opened, City Standard Plans Shared

September 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

Council President Garcetti opening the Riverdale Green Street Project. Seated, left to right, are Zaldivar, Daniels, Cardellino, and Moore.

Under yesterday’s midday heat, on a quiet block in Elysian Valley, a small crowd gathered to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of the city of Los Angeles’ newest green street: Riverdale Avenue. The ceremonial opening was presided over by Council President Eric Garcetti, Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels, Bureau of Sanitation General Manager Enrique Zaldivar, City Engineer Gary Moore, and Project Manager Joan Cardellino of the California Coastal Conservancy, which funded Riverdale’s retrofit.

Luminaries’ speeches took place under a tent at the intersection of Riverdale Avenue and Crystal Street, in front of the gates of Jardín del Río community garden and alongside the city’s very first official “V.S.C.E.” which, of course, stands for “Vegetated Stormwater Curb Extension.”

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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 »

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