Woodland Demolition to Begin on 1/12/11

January 7, 2011 § 3 Comments


The decision is yours...

In a valiant and rapid display of literary unity, Creek Freak co-founder Jessica Hall organized Blogger Solidarity Day today in response to the pending destruction of the Arcadia Woodlands next Wednesday, January 12th. In an effort to spread the word about the cause far and wide, the online community here in L.A. took action (see list of participants at bottom). Following are a few of our thoughts (a big thanks to Jessica for her contributions here!) on a cause worthy of a fight right in our own backyard…

By the numbers, the 11.3-acre Middle Sediment Placement Site (a.k.a. the Arcadia Woodlands), located at N 34° 9’ 49.1029”, W 118° 1’ 23.4987”, contains a collection of 179 Quercus agrifolia and 70 Platanus racemosa. According to a report released yesterday, January 6th, by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (aptly titled “58188”, yet another number), the site will be razed on January 12, 2010 to make way for 250,000 cubic yards of debris culled from the Santa Anita Reservoir approximately 1 mile to the north (and a number of other debris basins in the area in the future no doubt). Though these numbers provide information that can be readily processed by computers and engineers, they speak little of value. Numbers are a way for us to understand and interpret the world around us, but they fail miserably when describing a living, breathing system. They fail to capture the scent of sage after an afternoon of rain. Numbers fail to grasp the excitement in your heart when you are startled by the sound of wings beating after a hawk leaves its perch, breaking the silence of an otherwise uneventful stroll in the woods. They fail to capture the feeling I had when I saw fresh bear tracks in the mud one December afternoon.

The discrepancy between the calculable and incalculable worlds we live in sometimes manifests itself into a battle between two seemingly conflicting interests. On one hand, the County has a job to do: to ensure public safety, to keep facilities operational, to make sure the system remains uncompromised. The public has a plethora of different agendas: to preserve dwindling open spaces, to keep loud emission-spewing trucks from passing endlessly in front of their homes, to simply become a part of something bigger than themselves. Right and wrong are subjective in most cases and always up for debate.

There are few precious moments when you have a feeling in your gut about something, a feeling that speaks truth. Thinking of all the measurable and immeasurable ecological services the Arcadia Woodlands provide to the community, it is nearly impossible to justify replacing it with a single-purpose pile of sediment and debris. The Woodlands currently provide stormwater storage, filtration of air and stormwater, carbon sequestration, habitat… but does quantifying ecosystem services hold enough merit to convince managers motivated by convenience?

Lost in most quantitative analyses is the character of 100-year old soil. That probably sounds strange, but consider, most places in the L.A. basin today were stripped of their humus layer and compacted by urban development. The Woodlands have a deep mulch layer, rich with microbes that feed new life and filter contaminants, maintain higher levels of soil permeability and infiltration, and, to be simplistic and aesthetic, smell richer than “dead” soil. But this soil and its ecosystem are built over time. And that’s just the soil. An oak tree is estimated to support up to 300 other species of life under its canopy. Want numbers? Multiply 179 by 300 to appreciate the potential impact to biodiversity at the scale of this humble patch.

At the end of it all, the value of life is not up for debate. I believe that is something we can all find a common ground on, whether or not our degrees of value differ. Sometimes, the challenge lies in convincing the powers that be to set aside an ultimately arbitrary construction schedule so that the value of life might be respected and upheld.

Have a look at the report prepared by the L.A. County Department of Public Works for the Board of Supervisors. Of particular interest, the following statement may be found on page 58 of the document: “…we acknowledge that much of the sediment from behind Santa Anita Dam could fit on the combined disturbed areas of the Upper and Lower SPS. This approach, however, was never considered as an option because it does not address the flood control needs… to provide additional sediment storage capacity for future routine and emergency cleanout activities for facilities served by the Santa Anita SPS.” The “facilities served by the Santa Anita SPS” include debris basins in Sierra Madre and beyond, not just the Santa Anita Reservoir, meaning that the County intends to truck in more sediment for years to come until the Arcadia Woodlands site is full. This was clearly misunderstood by local residents during the EIR process as evidenced by the scoping meeting results where residents (all ten of them) opposed trucking sediment resulting from the Santa Anita Reservoir Sediment Removal Project to an offsite location through the neighborhood. Make no mistake, the County’s “preferred alternative” will lead to more trucks coming into the neighborhood and when the “Middle Sediment Placement” site is full, residents will have to deal with truckloads out anyway, on a perpetual basis. So what is the point of destroying the Arcadia Woodlands?

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will hold a meeting this upcoming Tuesday, January 11, 2011. Despite numerous phone calls, neither the original or supplemental agendas include the Arcadia Woodlands. This means that it will benefit our cause greatly if there is a large contingent of Woodland supporters at the meeting ready to speak! Meeting information can be found HERE.

Click HERE for what might be the last film footage of the Arcadia Woodlands.

A big thank you to all those who have expended precious time and energy for the sake of the Arcadia Woodlands, including these fine folks:


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