Public meeting 8/31 – Maintenance/impact to Sullivan Canyon’s stream

August 30, 2009 § 3 Comments

View of Sullivan Canyon from

View of Sullivan Canyon from

One site, two perspectives.

Sullivan Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains is one of LA’s most popular mountain biking destinations.  It is also a spot that many hikers frequent.

On September 1st, it could be temporarily closed down – and not for state budget reasons.

As you probably know, there’s a gas line in the canyon.  In the floodplain.  So naturally, it is compromised.  The service road in the canyon is also washed out in places.

The Southern California Gas Company has made plans to repair the gas line and the road.  They got their environmental consultant, met with the public agencies and got their permits lined up.  Everything was in order, done in accordance with the law.

Members of the Sullivan Canyon and local environmental community, on the other hand, got a rude shock when they learned they’d be losing access to their canyon – and losing 185 protected trees and 2+ acres of riparian habitat.  How could this happen without public notification, public meetings to review the plans, people wondered.

Parts of the stream will be lined in concrete matting, or covered with rip-rap, a common “fix” that environmentalists are constantly battling.  Concrete – any armoring of a stream that decreases its natural roughness – results in changes to the stream’s channel and its function, and routinely fails after enough time.  Habitat loses. Always.

But under the California Environmental Quality Act(CEQA), maintenance activities are exempt from Environmental Impact Reports, which is what triggers public notices and meetings.  So the decision to lay rip rap and concrete matting was made under this exemption – not that an EIR would have stopped it.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you already also know that CEQA also doesn’t outright prohibit the filling of streams.  It just sets up a process for managing that loss through mitigation, which the Gas Company is faithfully doing, complying and cooperating with state and federal environmental regulators to mitigate through replanting and acquisition/restoration elsewhere.

It’s easy to say today that running a pipeline down a steep canyon with an active floodplain was probably kind of a dumb thing to do.  I find myself saying similar things about floodplain development all the time.  It doesn’t change the fact that it’s done.  So what now?  Can we as a society bear the cost of relocating these things to more sensible places?  We’ve also lost probably over 90% of our waterways to dumb development practices.  Can we really afford to keep chipping away at what’s left?  And while we’re at it, how do we ensure equity, that all the infrastructure isn’t just shoved into the poorest neighborhoods?

Public outcry has made it possible for you to have your say:  Monday August 31 (that will probably be today for many readers), there will be a public meeting about this.  Thank the Brentwood Community Council and others for working with their local elected officials, Bill Rosendahl and Mike Feuer, to make this meeting possible, as well as for seeking a postponement of the work until everyone understands the options.

Meeting info:


West Los Angeles Municipal Building

Second Floor Hearing Room – Room 200

1645 Corinth Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90025


Monday, August 31, 2009


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§ 3 Responses to Public meeting 8/31 – Maintenance/impact to Sullivan Canyon’s stream

  • […] L.A. Creek Freak towards healthy Southern California streams, creeks, rivers and neighborhoods « Public meeting 8/31 – Maintenance/impact to Sullivan Canyon’s stream […]

  • John Tymick says:

    Does anyone know if Ken Rosendahl’s office was able to contact the District Attorney’s office to obtain the injunction to stop the construction? That may have been the only legal way to have a more collaborative discussion and agreement to the work the So. Cal Gas Company is to do in Sullivan Canyon. Unfortunately, the public meeting only led to more outcry over the situation, but the Gas Company denied the request for any postponement.

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