Trying to Respect Work Toward a Halfway Decent North Spring Street Bridge Project

May 15, 2011 § 11 Comments

Back in 2006, the city of Los Angeles proposed tearing down the 1929 North Spring Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. The city planned to demolish the locally and nationally recognized historic bridge and construct a brand new bridge. The project included widening North Spring Street  from about 43 feet to about 96 feet. More than double. Really. Spring would have gone from a large neighborhood-scale street to a freeway-scale street.

It was particularly irritating to me that city engineering folks would present this project as needed for bike safety and for river revitalization… though no cycling or river groups were pushing for it, and, in fact, many opposed it. Grrrrr. Cyclists sure don’t need fifty-feet’ worth of widening.  Wider bridges and streets just mean faster-moving cars… making conditions less safe for biking and walking. And if you really wanted to spend ~$50million to make the river healthier and/or to make streets safer for bikes, there are a lot better and more effective ways to spend it. To me, it’s clearly about wider roads for more and more and more cars… in a dense central part of the city where high percentages of people walk, bike and take transit… hence it’s about jamming more non-local car traffic into Lincoln Heights and Chinatown.

Enjoy and defend our historic bridges while you still can. Pictured: Detroit Avenue Bridge over the Rocky River - Cleveland, Ohio - demolished

Due to a lot of pressure, mostly from historic preservation folks, that massively wrong-headed version of the project is now off the table. Whew.

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News and Events – 22 August 2010

August 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

RECENT NEWS 

> The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has a new video (above) 0n Stormwater Runoff 101, featuring shots of the Elmer Avenue project profiled here earlier. The shots of the trash boom on Ballona Creek are pretty scary! Overall it’s an excellent video, though I wish they didn’t call storm drains “sewers.” (Thanks to In the Watershed

>Last Wednesday, August 18th, 2010, KCRW 89.9fm radio’s Which Way L.A.? ran an episode entitled Navigating the Los Angeles River. The program features Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes and George Wolfe of river expedition fame. The radio program is available for online listening here. Also in Shipping News: LAist reports about a petition floated for boating access to the river: register your name on the online petition here

Click on image to go to Save Los Angeles River Open Space for larger images.

> See handsome new  renderings of the L.A. River Natural Park  at the Save L.A. River Open Space website. It’s a watershed park proposed for the site currently known as Studio City Golf and Tennis. See creek freak’s backgrounders on this struggle here and here

> The L.A. Times reported yesterday that endangered steelhead remain endangered. This is good news: steelhead, an anadromous fish once abundant in local rivers and creeks, will remain protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Recommended reading: creek freak’s coverage of Fish in the L.A. River.

> Tiny new feature: we’ve added a Tweet button for posting our articles to Twitter. The button now appears at the bottom of each post.  Follow us at Twitter at @LACreekFreak

UPCOMING EVENTS 

> Jenny Price’s Hidden L.A. Los Angeles River Tours are coming up August 29th, September 4th, September 12th, and September 26th. Keep up with them by liking them at their Facebook page. You may get to actually drive in the river!

> Coastal Cleanup Day – takes place Saturday September 25th 2010. The event includeslots of clean-ups on local creeks and rivers . 

CicLAvia route for walking and biking on car-free streets in October

> CicLAvia – pronounced “seek-law-vee-uh” – a car-free 7.5-mile open streets festival taking place on October 10th 2010 (that’s 10-10-10) – will include the historic Gothic-Revival 1931 4th Street Bridge. Read more about CicLAvia here and more about the 4th Street Bridge on their list of 10 historic buildings along the 10-10-10 route. Self-promotion confession – Creek Freak Joe Linton is way-involved in this not-especially river-related effort – and has been writing various top 10 lists at the CicLAvia site.

Kayak News: KABC vid and Reyes Motion

August 11, 2010 § 6 Comments

Click to watch the full video at KABC website!

George Wolfe of L.A. River Expeditions is at it again. KABC TV channel 4 kayaked the Sepulveda Basin with him and posted this video. (Sorry I couldn’t quite get it to embed – so click on image or link to view.)

In other L.A. River kayaking news, Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes has introduced a council motion to get more folks boating on our navigable river. Below is an excerpt from Reyes’ August 10 2010 press release.

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City Purchases 6-acre Albion Dairy Site for River Park

September 22, 2009 § 6 Comments

I was really excited to hear that the city was voting to purchase the Albion Dairy site earlier today, so I did my first ever blog from my phone – actually from council chambers. Here’s the follow-up story with lots more details and links.

First let me say thanks to all involved! Credit for this excellent purchase goes to City Councilmember Ed Reyes, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and also staff from the Community Redevelopment Agency, the Pubic Works Department Bureaus of Engineering and Sanitation, and the City Attorney’s office. Thanks to the mayoral Director of Capital Projects Christopher Espinosa and to Council Deputy Monica Valencia for providing background information to L.A. Creek Freak.

Albion Dairy Site. Dark green is new acquisition, light green is existing Downey Park.

Albion Dairy Site. Dark green is new acquisition, light green is existing Downey Park. Los Angeles River runs vertically on the left.

The Albion Dairy site is a 6.34-acre site located on the northeast side of the Los Angeles River in Lincoln Heights (google map here.) The triangular parcel extends from North Spring Street to nearly North Main Street. It’s adjacent to Downey Park and Recreation Center, and across the river from Los Angeles State Historic Park.

It’s currently in operation as a dairy, but there’re no cows there – it’s more of a distribution center and warehouse sort of thing, with lots of trucks picking up dairy goods. It’s operated by Dean Foods under the Ross Swiss Dairy label; the existing lease of the site will remain through January 2011.

The city has been in negotiations for a few years. I remember hearing some inklings of a project there in 2007 or so… but it wasn’t until today that I heard that the deal had been finalized. At the meeting of the full Los Angeles City Council this morning, the vote was unanimous to approve $17.4M in Proposition O funding for site aquisition and clean-up. The actual vote today was to shift $12.5M from another pot of money already approved for Taylor Yard to add to $5M that had already been approved for the Albion site. The full council action is detailed in this 7-page report and 1-page addendum from the city’s Administrative Officer (CAO.)  The CAO report includes aquisition major deal points, cost breakdowns, and a brief project description. There’s also a 1-page project description sheet from the city’s Bureau of Sanitation.

One interesting and far-sighted aspect of the deal, told to me by Espinosa, is that the owner was helpful in consolidating a Union Pacific railroad easement that runs diagonally through the site, and forms a panhandle into the area along the Downey Park pool (the panhandle is visible at the top of the image above.) With this easement included in the city’s purchase, the city can expand Downey Park to about 10-acres – both above and below North Spring Street. Downey Park has always been adjacent to the river, but never really pertained to it or connected with it. The expanded park property will include water quality features, likely some sort of natural area that would treat street run-off before it enters the river.

It’s going to be a while before the expanded Downey Park opens to the public (and this is probably a good thing with the city’s current major budget woes.) The site will continue to service its dairy business until early 2011. At that point, the city will clean up lingering toxics at the site, which likely exist from industrial uses that pre-dated the current dairy. Then a new Los Angeles River park will be built!

River Bike Path Groundbreaking in Elysian Valley

June 29, 2009 § 6 Comments

Panorama of Today's Elysian Valley Bikeway Groundbreaking

Panorama of Today's Elysian Valley Bikeway Groundbreaking

This morning was the groundbreaking for the new Los Angeles River Bike Path under construction in Elysian Valley. This is one of the very nicest parts of the Los Angeles River, with plenty of willow trees, birds and fish. The bikeway will be built where plenty of folks already bike and walk unofficially on the existing access road. The road does have uneven surfaces today – dips where rainwater drains, and buckling pavement where the cottonwood tree roots are asserting themselves.

Officially, this is called Los Angeles River Bike Path, Phase 1C. It will extend from Fletcher Drive to Barclay Drive – about 3 miles. L.A. Creek Freak covered the tortured background of the project in an earlier post.

There was a crowd of 40-50 folks at Steelhead Park to celebrate the groundbreaking. Most were city and agency staff, but also present were folks from the neighborhood, the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Commttee, Friends of the L.A. River, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Conservation Corps River Keepers, and even a TV crew from KABC 7.

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti opened the event, telling his stories of coming to the river as a kid. He said that he hoped that the bikeway would be a step toward putting bicycling on an “even footing” with other modes of transportation. He also looked forward to a future bike/ped bridge which will eventually connect Frogtown with Taylor Yard, and said that he hoped to celebrate the opening of the new bikeway “later this year.” More on the project timeline below.

City Engineer Gary Moore marshals future bike path riders

City Engineer Gary Moore marshals future bike path riders

City Engineer Gary Moore took the podium next, commenting on what a “gorgeous stretch” of river the Glendale Narrows is. Moore credited the Bureau of Engineering’s (BOE) Senior Real Estate Officer Sam Y. Wong for the project’s heavy lifting of securing the 66 individual property easements. Wong took over after the BOE’s venerable Rick Brown retired as the project got underway. The long process of securing complicated right-of-way (including going to court for condemnation of the final hold-out) held this project up nearly 10 years.

The Bureau of Street Service’s Hugh Lee, Department of Transportation’s Mike Uyeno, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority’s Barbara Romero rounded out the speakers. Romero commented that the MRCA had partnered with the city to incorporate some additional greening and stormwater best management practices.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes

Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes

Action shifted to a pile of dirt placed on the path. Gold-painted shovels and children were rounded up for the photo opportunity. Councilmember Ed Reyes, who had been detained in committee meeting, arrived just in time and enthusiastically addressed the crowd. Reyes has been a longtime champion of both river revitalization and alternative transportation. (Interested party note: I used to work as his deputy from 2002-2004, during which time, I tried to get this project moving.)

Construction should be underway this week, with the most significant part of the project being the construction of an underpass below Fletcher Drive. The project is supposed to take six months to complete, though it was suggested that that is slightly optimistic, and could easily take up to eight months. Pardon the dust, and look for a brand new bikeway opening in January or February 2010!

I hung out a bit with LA BAC past chair Alex Baum and present chair Glenn Bailey, spoke with city bikeways staff, then biked over to Atacor for yummy potato tacos with LACBC, FoLAR and Metro folks!

Breaking Ground on the Latest L.A. River Bike Path

Breaking Ground on the Latest L.A. River Bike Path

(See additional coverage of the event at Councilmember Reyes’ Blog)

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Turtles, Ballona Bikes, Dorothy Green and more!

October 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

Here are some on-line videos that all us creek freaks might enjoy:

>Los Angeles Times account of Aquarium of the Pacific’s healing and release of an injured San Gabriel River sea turtle (Great video – with fascinating x-rays of broken turtle flipper bones. Kudos to the great work of the Aquarium of the Pacific staff and the Times’ Louis Sahagun. There are also sea lions in the San Gabriel River.)

>KTLA news coverage of Ballona Creek Bike Path issues (via LA Streetsblog, includes Ballona Creek Renaissance’s Jim Lamm)

>Dorothy Green with Creek Freak bloggers (Jessica and Joe) talking with Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes on the city’s L.A. River Report public information channel

>Hook TV on How to fish for carp in the Los Angeles River

>Jeffrey Tipton’s Montage on the July 2008 Los Angeles River Boating Expedition organized by George Wolfe (Coming soon: an actual high production value trailer about this expedition. Also, check out George’s kayak commute video.)

>A group I don’t know about called LA River Story has done a somewhat accurate trio of documentaries beginning with San Fernando Valley tributaries: The Great Wall of Los Angeles Mural on the Tujunga Wash, the adjacent Tujunga Wash Greenway, and what they’re calling the beginning of the river in Chatsworth.

>Turn Here’s Down by the (L.A.) River (How many errors can you spot in Creek Freak Joe Linton’s brief appearance? Be grateful that I don’t plan to blog on restaurant recommendations any time soon.)

>Meeting of Styles Graffiti Murals Event (These murals were later painted out)

>Insidious Bliss (A bleak and beautiful documentary on crystal meth addiction and homelessness in the Glendale Narrows stretch of the L. A. River)

and lastly a couple of not entirely successful attempts at Los Angeles River Humor:

>Stewart Paap in search of the LA River (“Easy access, huh?”)

>Deep Sea Fishing in Studio City (My favorite part of this are the outtakes and the brief scene where the actor steps around the construction fence – I plan to blog soon about my frustration that the city of Los Angeles’ Studio City Riverwalk has been fenced off for more than a year.)

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