Joe’s Returning to L.A. to Write Full-time for Streetsblog

January 29, 2014 § 7 Comments

The Hackensack River in Jersey City, NJ - near its confluence with the Passaic River

The Hackensack River in Jersey City, NJ – near its confluence with the Passaic River

Apologies to all our readers for putting up with very very little in the way of near material here at L.A. Creek Freak. Life circumstances took both Jessica and I out of L.A. a couple years ago. We love L.A. and her creeks and streams, but it’s difficult to keep in touch with them from afar.

I am happy to announce that I am on my way back. I’ll be returning to L.A., with my sweet wife and my 6-month old daughter, and, as of mid-February, writing full-time for L.A. Streetsblog. Streetsblog focuses on walking, bicycling, and transit issues in Southern California. When Jessica Hall and I were first starting L.A. Creek Freak, back in 2008, we discussed wanting LACF to do for water issues what LASB does for transportation issues.

I am looking forward to including a fair amount of L.A. River coverage in my Streetsblog writing. Creekfreaks may want to check out my Streetsblog article yesterday musing on how city park and transportation departments might work together better to extend L.A.’s greenway facilities including the L.A. River bike path« Read the rest of this entry »

“Grondwater word hier gebruik”

January 18, 2014 § 3 Comments

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit the Cape region of South Africa, a mecca for plant nerds, and during my last couple hours in Capetown, I had the pleasure of visiting the studio of artist/designer, Porky Hefer, maker of suspended tree pods inspired by the nests of local weaver birds.

His studio is in part of a former farm compound in Oranjezicht, a neighborhood on the side of Table Mountain, within walking distance of downtown Capetown. Table Mountain is to Capetown what the Empire State Building is to New York City. It towers above the city with its top often bathed in a cloud. The changing appearance of mountain, light and rolling clouds provides a show I found endlessly inspiring. The mountain itself is even more awe-inspiring in that it is a world renowned center of biodiversity right in the middle of a very cosmopolitan city.

Table Mountain, seen from Oranjezicht

I was charmed by  a modest water feature next to the discrete entrance gate to Porky Hefer’s studio. The fountain was labeled with a sign that said ‘Grondwater word hier gebruik.’ Though not running, the fountain was built to feed into a brick-lined rill, and as I walked through the studio compound, I noticed the rill appearing mysteriously in other areas of the compound.

When Porky returned from his appointment, he filled me in on the whole narrative of this water. From the first water fountain, water flows into the rill that I first saw. Then it rounds a corner, runs under a door, through a corridor, and into a brick-lined watering hole from which horses once drank. After offering the animals a drink, it runs down a couple stairs, and fills a small courtyard pool, whose reflective surface picks up the movement of the wind. After this thoughtful pause, it flows through another corridor and under a wall to connected properties, where I supposed there were gardens or orchards to be watered.

I loved the sequential integration of direct streamflow into the daily activity of a farm-turned-studio.

Grondwater word hier gebruik

water flows into the rill, where it rounds a corner…

runs under a door, through a corridor….

and into a brick-lined watering hole from which horses once drank…

after offering the animals a drink, it runs into a small courtyard pool, whose reflective surface picks up the movement of the wind…

it flows through another corridor and under a wall to connected properties…

It ends up that springs that flowed from Table Mountain inspired Khoi people to call this area ‘Camissa,’ the ‘place of sweet waters’ (where sweet means drinkable). These springs are the reason Capetown developed here. Oranjezicht springs were among the first sources of water for Capetown. Though most of the springs were eventually routed underground, Table Mountain still supplies 5% of the city’s water. The water of Table Mountain is the source of drinking water at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, where it is treated with nothing more than ozone.

Reclaim Camissa is an initiative founded by Caron Von Zeil to bring to light and celebrate the Camissa water system. Its poetically named pilot project, Field of Springs, embodies the potential of urban waters to seamlessly bridge utilitarian, ecological, and cultural life. This project was included in Capetown’s successful bid to become  World Design Capital for 2014. With Capetown in the design community’s eye, it will be wonderful if this initiative can be brought closer to implementation and inspire visionaries in other cities.

Searching for San Pascual…

January 2, 2014 § 14 Comments

Image

Click me!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been dialoguing via email with a fellow creekfreak about the location of Arroyo San Pascual, which was/is in the Pasadena/San Marino/Alhambra area.  I thought I’d post the maps that explain this location so that everyone can enjoy the info.  For those wishing to cut to the chase – Arroyo San Pascual is the westernmost of the creeks, joining with Mill Creek to create Mission Creek  (aka, I believe, Alhambra Wash) further downstream.  To the east are smaller creeks, including one that once fed the pond (Kewen Lake) that has since been filled for, um, lawn, at Lacy Park in San Marino.  Jane Tsong covered the topic of the arroyos and fascinating geology of this area in depth (here 1, 2) – so I’m going to stick to the maps.

To the left, a federal survey from 1870 which actually gave us some creek names.  (when I have a moment I’ll scan and post the entire survey so you can see the rest)  To the right, a screen shot of the creek layer I created several years back in GIS, which when imported as kmz files in GoogleEarth has a standing flaw of being offset slightly.  The discerning eye can see echoes of the historical streams in the treelines, shadows of terrain, (in)convenient siting of ball fields… correlation of course not being causation.  The arrows are meant to call that out for you, imagine those blue lines shifted slightly to the left.  Happy creekfreaking, if you get inspired to tour to the topography, let us know what you find out!

L.A. Aqueduct Centennial: Events of the Day

November 5, 2013 § 3 Comments

A crowd of 30,000 arrived by car, wagon, and buggy for dedication ceremonies at the Sylmar Cascades on November 5, 1913. The San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce distributed bottles of Owens River water to the celebrants. The Southern Pacific charged $1 for a round trip ticket from Los Angeles to the site of the San Fernando Reservoir near Newhall. (Los Angeles Public Library Image Archive)

A crowd of 30,000 arrived by car, wagon, and buggy for dedication ceremonies at the Sylmar Cascades on November 5, 1913. The San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce distributed bottles of Owens River water to the celebrants. The Southern Pacific charged $1 for a round trip ticket from Los Angeles to the site of the San Fernando Reservoir near Newhall. (Los Angeles Public Library Image Archive)

As many local creek freaks know, today marks 100 years since William Mulholland presided over the dedication ceremony for the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct at the Sylmar Cascades where he famously proclaimed “There it is Mr. Mayor. Take it.” The City of Los Angeles and local organizations have planned a number of events to mark the occasion. A handful of them are listed below. Also below is a list of informative and/or beautiful sites dedicated to the history and significance of our relationship with the Owens Valley. As always, feel free to add anything in the comments. Thanks and enjoy!

LINKS:

There It Is – Take It! (a fantastic audio tour of the Owens Valley)

There It Is. Take It. (BOOM)

The Owens Valley Timeline (BOOM)

L.A. Aqueduct Centennial Page (LADWP)

The L.A. Aqueduct at 100 (KPCC)

A Self-Guided Tour of the L.A. Aqueduct (KCET)

The Construction of the L.A. Aqueduct (some great old photos)

The Lake Project (David Maisel)

CENTENNIAL EVENTS:

Today, 12:00pm: Commemorative Reenactment at the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades

The reenactment event at the Cascades is open to the media and invited guests only due to space limitations. A public celebration will be held at LADWP headquarters downtown, where a live simulcast of the Cascades event will be shown on monitors located around the perimeter of the building.  Attendees can view the lobby exhibit dedicated to Water and Power history, centered on the L.A. Aqueduct, and enjoy refreshments and celebratory Centennial cake. The reenactment can also be seen live on Channel 35 or online at LAaqueduct100.com.

Today, 5:30pm: Opening of Just Add Water

The Natural History Museum presents large-scale watercolor works by Los Angeles artist Rob Reynolds, inspired by the L.A. Aqueduct that brought water to a thirsty region.

Today & Tomorrow, 9:30am – 5:00pm: Free Days at the Natural History Museum

Free admission on both days. Every visitor will receive a bottle of water commemorating the opening of the L.A. Aqueduct and have the chance to be a part of the next 100 years by signing a register destined for a new time museum time capsule.

Tomorrow through December 6th, Aqueduct Futures Project

Created in collaboration with 130 Cal Poly Pomona students who designed landscape strategies to enhance the resilience and adaptability of Los Angeles’ aging water infrastructure. Aqueduct Futures Project establishes a road map to resolve the conflict between the City and the Owens Valley. On display at the Bridge Gallery located at Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Downtown L.A. Closing reception to be held on December 3rd from 9:00am to 11:00am.

Tomorrow, 5:30pm: Time Capsule Creation at the Natural History Museum

To be held on the steps of the NHM 1913 Building. Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the L.A. Aqueduct and NHM, with remarks by civic leaders, a ceremonial lighting of the Expositon Park Fountain, and a display of materials that will be placed in a time capsule that will be opened in 2113.

Upcoming Events: Fall 2013

September 16, 2013 § 2 Comments

A digital rendering of proposed ecological measures at the L.A. River and Los Angeles State Historic Park (from the L.A. River Ecostystem Restoration Feasibility Study)

A digital rendering of proposed ecological enhancement measures at the L.A. River and Los Angeles State Historic Park (from the L.A. River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study)

There are a number of upcoming river-related events, a few of which are listed below:

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18: Groundbreaking of the L.A. Riverfront Park Project, Phase II (Sepulveda Blvd. to Kester Ave.)

Councilmember Tom LaBonge, the L.A. Bureau of Engineering and the L.A. Dept. of Recreation & Parks kick off construction of a new greenway on the south side of the L.A. River. The ceremony will be held at 9:00am this Wednesday morning (9/18) on the site of the future community park at the intersection of Morrison Street and Noble Avenue. Questions may be directed to Tommy Newman at tommy.newman@lacity.org or (213) 485-3337

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: Made in L.A. Ride

Enjoy a ride from 10:30am to 2:30pm, sponsored by Metro, along the L.A. River and learn about places that manufacture and create goodies in L.A.! C.I.C.L.E., with the LA River Regatta Club, will lead a community bicycle ride, “Made in LA” along the LA River. This expedition, open to all cyclists, will pedal through and around Cypress Park & Elysian Valley and expose riders to places that make products right in Los Angeles. Event details HERE.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22: A Car-Free Sunday on the L.A. River

The residents of Studio City and Sherman Oaks have banded together to take back the streets for World Car Free Day on September 22nd! Join in for a day of fun (car-free activities) along the LA River. More info HERE.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28: Arroyo Seco Via

Hosted by the Arroyo Seco Foundation, Arroyo Seco Via will span the Arroyo Seco from Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena to Los Angeles State Historic Park (The Cornfield) near downtown Los Angeles. It will consist of a bike ride between these two parks, where there will be fun and educational presentations and activities. Among the events planned for the day will be a 20th Anniversary Celebration of Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena, a rally to support Alternative 20 (the most expansive plan for River restoration in the Army Corps’ recent study) and the L.A. River Rally to be held at 12:00pm at Los Angeles State Historic Park. For more information, visit the Arroyo Seco Via web page.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28: Frogtown/Elysian Valley Art Walk

The 8th annual installment of this River-adjacent event will showcase the artists, artisans, and architects of Elysian Valley, otherwise known as Frogtown. From 4:00pm to 10:00pm. More info HERE.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10: State of the L.A. River Conference

In addition to a discussion of the current and future condition of the Los Angeles River, the symposium will provide an opportunity for student researchers to present the results of their research at an interactive poster session. Artistic and historical representations of the river will also be exhibited. 8:00am to 5:00pm at Deaton Auditorium, 100 W 1st St. Los Angeles, California 90012. More info HERE.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17: Informative Public Meeting on the L.A. River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study

Join the Army Corps of Engineers for a public meeting to learn more about the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study. This is an opportunity for you to make comments on the public record. The event will be held from 5:30pm to 7:30pm in the atrium of the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, 570 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles, CA 90065. For questions, please call USACE Public Affairs, 213-452-3925.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20: Let’s Talk River

The L.A. River Revitalization Corporation’s annual garden party will be held from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at the L.A. River Center, 570 W Ave 26, Los Angeles, CA 90065. For more information, visit the event site HERE or contact Miranda Rodriguez at 323-221-7800.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20: Found L.A. Festival of Neighborhoods

LA Commons will host the third annual Found L.A.: Festival of Neighborhoods. This year’s theme, “The River of Your Imagination” invites Angelinos to explore the range of ways they interact with the L.A. River. Participants will be able to visit a traditional Japanese garden, witness the L.A. River as it was 100 years ago, hear stories of the Great Wall of Los Angeles, explore the amazing natural life of the Ballona Wetlands and discover Southern California’s largest equestrian center. For more information, contact Jamie Poster at jamie@lacommons.org or go to the LA Commons website.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2: Run the L.A. River

This 10K race is the inaugural edition of an annual run/walk event planned through 2020, where each year the course will be lengthened (while still hosting a 10K) to a 20-mile run that will coincide with the completion of the Greenway 2020 vision created by the L.A. River Revitalization Corporation. For more information and to register, see the event website HERE.

Feel free to add any other upcoming local watershed events in the comment section!

Army Corps Releases L.A. River Ecosystem Restoration Report

September 13, 2013 § 6 Comments

Image from the cover of the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Report.

Cover image from the L.A. River Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Report.

This landmark report can be downloaded HERE

From the USACE website:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles, announces the availability of a Draft Integrated Feasibility Report, which includes a Draft Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Study, Los Angeles County, Calif., for review and comment.  The Draft IFR is available for a 45-day review period from Sept. 20 through Nov. 5, 2013.

See below for information on the upcoming public meeting on October 17:

LARERS to send.indd

Through a chainlink fence: the Arroyo Seco back and forth in time

August 12, 2013 § 5 Comments

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Fig. 1a. Looking North from Avenue 43. 2013. Hieu Nguyen. Note Southwest Museum on left and a narrowed stream channel.

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Fig. 1b. Looking North from Avenue 43. 1901-1916. Minerva Classics. Note Southwest Museum on left, and tracks in streambed used for quarrying during harbor construction.

As part of coursework for Dr. Susan Mulley’s  Research Methods seminar in the graduate program in Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona, Hieu Nguyen chose to examine landscape changes to the Arroyo Seco through the technique of repeat photography. By comparing historical photographs to contemporary views taken from the same location, Nguyen hoped to detect changes in the parkway landscape throughout the years. “I was mainly looking for vegetation changes, urban development, physical deterioration, and obstructed viewsheds.”

Nguyen had treated the Arroyo Seco in a previous Urban Planning project, and was drawn to the topic again because of “the history, design, and uniqueness of the parkway’s scenery.”

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Fig. 2a. Looking Northeast from Marmion Way. 2013. Hieu Nguyen.

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Fig. 2b. Looking Northeast from Marmion Way. 1935. Los Angeles Times.

Narrowing down available historical photographs to 10-15 that could be feasibly be physically located, Nguyen headed into the field. But things did not go quite as expected. Nguyen’s narrative offers a poignant view at how physical access to the arroyo has changed:

During the trip, I found out that I could not locate all of the camera angles that I intended to shoot due to the urban development, fencing, private properties, etc.  For one photo, the walkway was so narrow, I had to grab onto the handrail on the bridge to keep myself balanced while I was taking the photo as the cars were passing by me at 40-50 mph.

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Fig. 3a. Looking Northeast from Pasadena Avenue. 2013. Hieu Nguyen. Note deepening and narrowing of the streambed.

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Fig. 3b. Looking Northeast from Pasadena Avenue. 1955. Los Angeles Public Library. Note California sycamores lining the floodplain in the distance.

For another photo, I had to climb down the Arroyo Seco Channel to get the camera angle that I wanted.  However, I was not satisfied with the angle and wanted to take it from the other side of the shallow running water way.  So I tried to jump across, almost slipped and got myself all wet from knee down.  But when I went home and overlaid the historical photo and the current photo, I realized that the current angle was incorrect because the channel bed today was much lower than the historical one due to the flood management and channelization of the Arroyo Seco (Fig 4a).

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Fig. 4a. Looking Northeast from Avenue 26. 2013. Hieu Nguyen.

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Fig. 4b. Looking Northeast from Avenue 26. n.d. Los Angeles Public Library Herald Examiner Collection.

One of my biggest disappointments was finding a lot of chain link fences on the bridges along the parkway. Because most of my camera shots were taken from the bridges, most of the photos were obstructed by the fences (Fig. 1a). Nonetheless, my professor, Dr. Susan Mulley, and classmates all agreed that the fences were significant landscape changes to the grand viewshed of the originally designed parkway and an important part of my research analysis.

Just as starkly, the historical photographs themselves show a channel that was anything but pristine. Creek Freak co-founder Jessica Hall notes that the Arroyo Seco was once characterized as a shallow and broad river. But even the earliest of the historical photos above already show levees and other substantial encroachments onto the Arroyo’s broad floodplain, which confine flow to a narrowed and deepened channel.

Such encroachments suggest that channelization did not happen in one fell swoop– attempts to control the flow of winter stormwater dated from the beginning of development in the Los Angeles basin and intensified with the changes in stormwater flow regime wrought by devegetation and proliferation of impermeable surfaces. The Army Corp’s famous post-1938 feats of flood control are merely the culmination of this history of efforts at confinement. The final result–  a smooth and clean channel so conveniently free of vegetation or anything that might obstruct the swiftest flow of precipitation toward the sea. Gone is the disorderly seasonal dynamism of the original floodplain connecting the foothills to the coast. Channelization creates a streambed as neat as a conveniently placed pipe. One might imagine that streamflow originates from a magical tap in the foothills, rather than from the seeping of precipitation into the soil, and its slow under- and aboveground migration to the sea, which happens to leave in its wake a messy mosaic of vegetation and wildlife habitat.

Nguyen’s photographs also illustrate how armoring of banks with concrete did more than just alter hydrology and habitat. Channelization thoroughly severs any natural functional relationship between various parts of the larger watershed — literally paving the way to the radically featureless flat urban landscape we know today.

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