L.A. Zoo’s New Watershed-friendly Parking Lot

May 21, 2011 § 7 Comments

L.A. Zoo's new bioswale median set to capture parking lot runoff - all photos Ciara Gonzalez

(Please give a warm welcome to our newest L.A. Creek Freak blogger: Ciara Gonzalez! I met Ciara when she was an intern at the Coalition for Clean Air. This is her first LACF article – hopefully the first of many! – Joe)

The new environmentally friendly Los Angeles Zoo parking lot was officially introduced on April 7th 2011 during an Earth Day weekend event. The project is a $13.9 million dollar stormwater enhancement with multiple types of best management practices constructed to help reduce runoff of polluted water during storm events.

I visited the new green project earlier this week, while the city was in the middle of a series of rainstorms. What better time than now to walk the premises and see the permeable pavement and bioswales in action? 

Center entry walkway to Los Angeles Zoo with planted swales to the right

The parking lot, conceptualized and designed by the city of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation, has large planted swale medians between parking sections set to capture and soak up any surface runoff of water within the zoo parking lot.  This natural filtration system also surrounds the perimeter of the parking lot as well with many low-level shrubs, grasses, and shade trees still very young in their growth stage.

The day I visited, the drought resistant plants seemed to be providing adequate flood protection against the rainfall with no overly saturated areas that I could see.

Educational signage explains Zoo parking lot project

Visitors who walk through the center walkway opening to the entrance of the Zoo will notice signage that explains further what has been installed in the parking lot. These educational yet simple circular signs show through icons how stormwater runoff seeps into the porous parking surface actually producing cleaner water for our local streams and waterways. As a member of the L.A. Zoo, I rarely walk through the center to the entrance, missing all the signs about the renovations to the parking lot. I would suggest posting more signage in the median areas where cars park – in order to increase awareness of this great project.

The Proposition O Clean Water Bond funded this project. Prop O is a $500 million bond passed in the 2004 election by L.A. city voters to support watershed projects.

For further information on the project, see also the Prop O website Zoo project page (includes an aerial design map of the parking lot), the Zoo’s press release, and the Zoo project article at L.A. Stormwater Blog. Also check out earlier Creek Freak articles exploring other watershed-friendly parking lots in Downey and Pasadena.

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§ 7 Responses to L.A. Zoo’s New Watershed-friendly Parking Lot

  • Charlie says:

    But… Isnt that invasive pennisetum (fountain grass) I see in there? That stuff is really bad in the Santa Monica Mountains and the last thing we need is more of it.

    Must we take a step back with every step forward? Or did I just mis ID it?

  • marta says:

    Great news! Thanks for these wonderful tid bits, that add up to a whole lot!

  • Rick Rabins says:

    Loved this informative article and great photos too! Very well done. Many thanks Ciara!

  • Joshua Link says:

    It’s a bit ironic but I actually designed the sign pictured above (although it looks like they have been modified slightly) while I was working with Mia Lehrer + Associates (part of the design team led by Tetra Tech, the Dept. of Public Works was the client). Last time I visited the zoo they were not up yet, but I’ll have to go check them out. Thanks so much for the story Ciara and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  • Mattie says:

    ​​​​​Your lovely picture of the bioswale seems to have made it into a master plan for St. Mary’s College. I hope you gave permission for this. See page 122 of Chapter 4 of the document:

    https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/vice-president-for-finance/campus-master-plan

    • Joe Linton says:

      If it leads to bioswales at St. Mary’s – I am OK with our images being appropriated. (Though when asked for permission, I do request credit, which I couldn’t find.)

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