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.

From the Society pages: Botox on the Beach?

July 13, 2013 § 10 Comments

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Broad Beach in 2012 with stone revetment wall, Google Earth

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Broad Beach in 1994 with wider beach, Google Earth

A recent article in the society pages of Vanity Fair details the woes of property owners along Broad Beach in Malibu, where the narrowing of a beach by 60 feet over the last decade has alarmed wealthy residents. Property owners built a 13-foot high stone revetment wall to protect their houses. Now, they are planning to spend $20 million out of their own pockets to import 600,000 cubic yards of sand, hoping to widen the beach by 100 feet.

Apparently even the residents understand the addition of sand (“beach nourishment”) is at best a temporary solution. To maintain the width of the artificial beach, nourishment would have to be supplemented every 5-10 years—a cosmetic solution that JPL climatologist Bill Patzert called “botoxing the beach.” (Cohan and Grigoriadis 2013)

Nor are revetment walls a real solution. Though they appear to protect property immediately behind them, they actually reflect wave energy to other parts of the coast, where erosion is then accelerated.

Some attribute the erosion of Broad Beach to winter storms. Impending  sea level rise certainly will not help.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Colorado River interactive map

May 21, 2013 § 3 Comments

Look a new post!

resourcesThe good folks at Western Resource Associates, a regional nonprofit focusing on the Colorado River, have created a really cool interactive map that neatly summarizes many issues facing the once-mighty Colorado River.  Check it out!  Click the hyperlink (cool interactive map) or just paste this into your browser:  http://coriverbasin.org/maps/

 

Joe’s New Job at the Bronx River Alliance

February 3, 2013 § 3 Comments

Vintage Bronx River Restoration poster - currently on display at Bronx River Art Center exhibit

Vintage Bronx River Restoration poster – currently on display at Bronx River Art Center exhibit

Last week, I wrote about the Bronx River. This week, I began my full-time work as Greenway Director for the Bronx River Alliance.

The Bronx River Alliance (BxRA) is a non-profit working to foster a healthier Bronx River. Somewhat similar to Friends of the L.A. River, they do events, education, advocacy, and work closely with communities and governmental agencies to get stuff done on the river.

I’ve worked there two days, and they’ve been great days!  « Read the rest of this entry »

Never Built: The Santa Monica Causeway

January 30, 2013 § 7 Comments

Hearing the plug on NPR last week for the upcoming exhibition Never Built at the A+D museum, I was reminded of a very bizarre project that I came across in a 1968 issue of California Tomorrow’s excellent journal Cry California, for building a causeway across Santa Monica Bay. The caption to the picture reads: “Santa Monica Bay is the preposed site of a massive earth-filled causeway that would take 120 million cubic yards of fill from the Santa Monica Mountains. The plan would serve developers and oil interests primarily. The plan is actively supported by the City of Santa Monica, the County of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Mayor Samuel Yorty. While the program was blocked by the Los Angeles Council, the proposal is by no means dead.”

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Sure enough, this project turns out to be included in the Never Built exhibition, though we can be relieved that this particular “visionary work” never left the drawing board. In that sense, this project would seem to run counter to the apparently positive tenor of the exhibition; the curators write wistfully  of “a reluctant city whose institutions and infrastructure have often undermined inventive, challenging urban schemes.” While this certainly applies to projects like the celebrated Olmstead plan for preserving the flood plains of LA’s rivers as parkland, I assume that the curators have not uncritically equated “visionary” with “good.” Obviously, the visionary can cut both ways: the critical point is how to sort out the good visions from the bad ones. Unfortunately, plenty of bad visions have been realized in Los Angeles, but some of the worst, like the Santa Monica Bay Causeway, were stopped. The role of historical groups such as California Tomorrow in generating a discussion about how to develop California responsibly should not be forgotten.

More about the history of the Santa Monica Causeway can be found online here.

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Update: I just found a more modest version of this proposal (parkways instead of freeways on the causeway!) in the admirable 1930 Olmstead plan for Los Angeles. The idea was most likely a vestige of the original plan to put the Los Angeles harbor at Santa Monica.

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