May 7, 2010 § 4 Comments
It’s been a rough time for the diminishing grey foxes* of the Anderson Wash area, aka Devil’s Dip creek, in the West Athens District of unincorporated LA County. That they’re even around here is a welcome surprise to people who track the remnant wildlands of urban LA. That is, that they were even around, as it remains to be seen if any are left after this incident.
It turns out that three grey foxes – including a baby – died recently on the campus of Southwest College. Someone there called in a nonprofit wildlife rehab group, Valley Wildlife Care, « Read the rest of this entry »
March 26, 2012 § 6 Comments
It seems as though there’s almost always a creek on golf courses in Los Angeles – be it natural, concrete or underground. And having proposed daylighting and restoration projects at a number of our local golf courses, I was happy to see this article, A Stream Runs Through It, published in the Golf Course Industry online magazine, supporting the idea. I have found that golf courses and streams can coexist, but too often golf courses alter the stream, pushing it over the edge of the property, constraining it in ways that destabilize it, removing habitat, etc. The management problems are often quite predictable. The opportunity exists to design a golf course with an understanding of stream habitat and function, leading to a richer golf experience, fewer maintenance issues, and habitat for that remaining 5-10% of LA’s waterways. Streams can separate greens, but when they traverse greens, they can become part of the play in interesting ways.
A couple of golf course/restoration locations I’ve referred to in Creek Freak posts include Devil’s Dip (I promise a post on just the golf course and restoration potential there in the near future but here’s a slide from Creek Freak’s recommendations to Mark Ridley-Thomas about it.) and South Pasadena Golf Course.
January 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
Creek Freak is mourning the razing of the Arcadia Oak Woodlands, and post-mortems will be rolling in over the next few days. But here’s another time sensitive issue where your contribution can make a big difference.
The tax year has ended, but you have til the end of the month to make tax deductible charitable contributions. We at LA Creek Freak (who are not a 501(c)3) hold a high regard for the many non-profit organizations active in our watersheds, all of whom would be worthy recipients of your donations. Check out our blogroll for links to them.
However, we thought this year to feature some very small non-profits that operate on the thinnest of shoestrings that would really benefit from your support.
South Bay Wildlife Rehab – I (Jessica here) have had the privilege of driving owls, hawks, and other birds to the vet for this group and have seen up close how dedicated these volunteers are to mitigating the harm done to winged wildlife by urban sprawl.
Friends of the Santa Clara River – donate online – our region’s last wild river is beleagured by the same development thinking that destroyed the LA and San Gabriel Rivers. And as we in the basin know, it will cost more to restore it than to protect it. Give these folks a hand. Or donate to land acquisition efforts at the Nature Conservancy or California Coastal Conservancy.
CicLAvia – donate online – Promoting a biking and walking culture in LA moves us towards sustainability; changes to make streetscapes more human-friendly inevitably also improve watershed function. (ok – it’s not quite a creek group – but Joe works there – and read Why I Creek Freak Like Bike to make the bike-creek connection. give $11 to CicLAvia’s Kickstarter campaign by January and get a cool spoke card!)
There are lots more prominent non-profits we creek freaks work with. They’re great and need support – Heal the Bay, TreePeople, the Watershed Council, FoLAR, NE Trees, Green L.A. Coalition, Ballona Creek Renaissance, Arroyo Seco Foundation and many others – see the blogroll links on the right – but we wanted to draw attention to some of the smaller ones our readers may be less familiar with. Please include other suggested groups in the comments!
December 20, 2008 § 33 Comments
OK. I need to begin by telling you that there is an offensive and insensitive word in this post, one that I regret being here, but that is also the genesis of my search. I apologize for its presence.
Some of you have also been looking for it. We can see search terms that lead you to the LA Creekfreak. And ever since that map exhibit at the Public Library, we’ve been seeing those two words, one of which is really ugly. I bet you have wanted to know how the hell a waterbody ends up with a name like that on a federal map. In any era. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the image below contains racist language, in a shockingly banal context.
Clearly a loaded topic, and one which links our environmental history to our racial (and racist) history, something which has been lurking in the background in a number of our posts on historical LA and its waterbodies, and which I also feel as an angelena is often not readily acknowledged.
I have been avoiding writing about this slough in part out of the theory that it is better to let sleeping dogs lie. We have a lot of trauma in the city caused by racism, we are still living out the effects of this trauma, and unfortunately there are those creating new traumas. All the time. And I don’t want to re-traumatize our African-American neighbors by reviving this horrible name. But I have also regretted that the story behind the name can’t be turned on its head, and wondered if there was a way to elevate the story to help unwind history a little.
And so this is my attempt, and an incomplete one at that.
There has been quite a bit of speculation as to the origin of this former place name, later renamed the Dominguez Slough, and today the Dominguez Channel (the slough being all but gone). Some have asserted that its desultory name came from the black mud that surrounded the area, but I don’t buy it. The 1914 Reagan papers have repeated references to this Slough, one of which added the name Tom:
“The water was pouring through the bridge that caused our wreck and was running into the Nigger Tom slough…” Mr. A. C. Cook, 1914, in Reagan.
Who was this man Tom, if this name refers to an actual person? Rudy Mattoni and Travis Longcore, in their 1997 publication, The Los Angeles Coastal Prairie, A Vanished Community, provide the following comment in a footnote: “The wetland was reportedly named after the freemen who farmed near it and the name appears on historic maps of the area (Nelson 1919).” To further complicate matters, I went over to the CSU Dominguez Hills archives to see what information they had. In 1977, a student researcher, Bonita Lucille Braddock Miramontes, pulled together archival resources to what she could piece together. She had met with Bill Mason, then of the Natural History Museum (I don’t know if he’s still there), who shared the view that our mystery man was believed to be a hog farmer who lived on the old Rancho Dominguez lands, near the slough, in the 1870s. Bonita then tracked down Robert C. Gillingham, who wrote a history of the Rancho San Pedro. Gillingham elaborated that he had heard this story from an old caretaker and Dominguez-Carson family members, who in turn heard it from old Mexican farmhands. He also noted that our mystery man arrived sometime after the Civil War, but that by the 1880s there were no blacks living in the vicinity of the slough. He also mentioned that “one conjecture is that” the hogfarmer “may have been a descendant of one of the pioneer settlers who founded Los Angeles in 1871, which included a number of negroes.” Bonita went further with her research, locating the name of a black man, Joshua William Smart, who owned property near the slough, in the Assessment Book for LA County, 1870-71. So…Joshua or Tom? Or someone else?or all of them? How did they come to live there, and why did they leave? How did the slough affect their lives and livelihoods? How were the neighbors?
Clearly more research is needed. Bonita listed newspapers that could be consulted, including the California Eagle, a black LA newspaper that began publishing in 1879. There are other historical society archives to visit, and perhaps even descendants of early settlers. I haven’t given up this thread just yet. You see, I can’t help but think of how courageous and resilient he or they would have been, and I think his or their presence lends yet more richness to the diversity that was early Los Angeles.
If only the County could have been as aggressive in erasing housing covenants and other forms of discrimination as it was in erasing this glaringly embarrassing and insulting name from the maps. If only they didn’t have to erase the history of Tom/Joshua when they did this.
I will write more about the slough and its story another time. For now, I’d just like to point out to you that it was so large as to extend from Carson (think Victoria Golf Course) to Torrance (Madrona Marsh), Gardena, and parts of Compton, with fingerlets in Hawthorne and West Athens(fragments still remain at the Devil’s Dip/Chester Washington Golf Course). Other bits of remaining marshland include the Gardena Willows near Vermont and Artesia, and what’s called Albertoni Farms in Carson, a bit of slough in the middle of a trailer park.
I think it would be pretty cool if one day, a park or greenway or remnant wetland was properly named after Tom X, or Joshua Smart, or whoever our mystery man is. Smart Creek has a nice ring to it.
November 19, 2008 § 3 Comments
“…it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies.” – from Alice Walker’s Open Letter to Barack Obama
Congratulations Supervisor-Elect Mark Ridley Thomas!
LA Creekfreak is happy that you won! You were endorsed by many environmentalists including the LALCV and river advocates like Creekfreak Joe Linton, Martin Schlageter and Lewis MacAdams. We contributed modestly of our time to help your phone-banking. We were inspired to hear Cornell West rally your supporters. We felt excited on election night to hear that you and many other inspired leaders would represent us in the years ahead.
Now that you are set to occupy one of the County’s most powerful positions, we at the LA Creekfreak would like to load you up with good ideas on how to steer a new era of environmental stewardship in Los Angeles County’s Second District (map) and the County as a whole. We support your future efforts to ensure proper air quality, public transit and bike/ped improvements, public safety, functional hospitals and youth and social programs. But our focus is the water and things related to it. The future of the greater LA area depends upon our ability to really address our human needs in an integrated fashion, building a strong societal fabric that rests on the tableau of a healthy and vibrant environment. We know you’ve got many significant social and environmental problems to address, and we feel that our ideas can help you out with some of them. We’ll present our wish list to you in two parts. Today’s post focuses on opportunities within the Second District. Our coming post looks at County-wide issues.
-Joe Linton & Jessica Hall
The Second District’s natural environment has been highly degraded and poses great challenges for revitalization, yet enthusiasts carry the torch for restoration and increased open space for our youth, health, water management, and wildlife & habitat.
Here’s our list of some favorites, with descriptions in case you’re not familiar with them, to run with:
A Ballona Greenway. Ballona Creek, once a perennially verdant, meandering stream with willows, wetland plants, birds, amphibians, and fish, is today soul-wrenchingly lost, dwarfing humans and animals alike in massive expanses of concrete, which makes for an excellent graffiti gallery and large-item dumping depot. Yet despite this grim situation, endangered steelhead trout have been spotted in the channel, and shorebirds can be seen gorging themselves on…well, something. The Ballona Creek Watershed Task Force, Mid-City Neighborhood Council, Culver City, Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, are among the many groups and agencies trying to humanize this big beast. Projects have included creating new access points, native plantings, and trails & fencing. We even talk about studying ways to partially naturalize it within the right-of-way. But our ability to act is limited without the County – we NEED a County champion. Help us Obe-Won Kenobe, you’re our only hope. (JH)
Ballona Wetlands Restoration. Part of the wetlands appear to fall within your District. The Coastal Conservancy, CA Fish & Game and the State Lands Conservancy have been working diligently, with the support of many other agencies, including the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project, and Army Corps of Engineers, and many NGOs and citizens in developing restoration alternatives for these parcels. Alternatives 4 & 5 have floated to the top as favorites, although not without controversy. We at Creekfreak support Alternative 5, as the restoration approach that restores the greatest amount of natural function – what is a coastal wetland without the stream or river dropping its sediment and mixing its freshwater with the tides? Given that wetlands occur in very special places and ways, we also see this as a rare opportunity to bring these habitats back. We recognize that there are legitimate concerns with the disturbance of the species that have adapted to the site in its current degraded state – many of the animals there now prefer grasslands or coastal sage scrub, and we encourage that adjacent open spaces be aggressively revegetated with these plant species so that the wildlife can migrate to other areas. Your political support for this project can help it move forward – tied with a Ballona Greenway and Baldwin Hills State Park improvements, it can be a real centerpiece within the District. (JH)
A Dominguez Greenway. Like Ballona Creek above, without the stakeholders or the steelhead. And with probably twice the level of need in terms of population and access to open space. As the channel leads to El Camino Community College, it could become a nice alternative transportation route for students, with opportunities for commercial/open space joint ventures. You also have a few fragments of the old slough that remain, at the Gardena Willows, the Devil’s Dip(below), Albertoni Farms, and Madrona Marsh(in neighboring Knabe’s District). The Victoria Golf Course also has a small stream that was part of the big system – unfortunately the stream is flanked by Superfund sites. Another note the old Slough’s original name referred (very crudely) to the early freeman settler of the region – the erasure of the offensive name by calling it Dominguez Slough is understandable, but in the process, we lose the cultural memory of the man, family, or group of free blacks who settled in early Los Angeles. If we can find his actual name, perhaps we could dignify his courage and history with a proper re-naming. I am working on tracking down the story on this individual or group and will post details as they come to me. (JH)
Daylighting the Devil’s Dip creek. This one’s very special to the LA Creekfreak, as one of us (JH) grew up near there, and has been involved in past efforts on this creek. The Devil’s Dip, also called Anderson Wash, was a tributary to the Dominguez Slough, and persisted in a natural condition until the 1970s or so, when the construction of Southwest College affected some of it. But the 105 Freeway is what really took it down. It is a wonderful thing to wander into West Athens, to utter the words Devil’s Dip, and be regaled with great tales of boyhood adventures in the old creek, pre-105. Today we are left with a few small reaches in the Chester Washington Golf Course, on El Segundo and Western. North East Trees worked with Restoration Design Group and a golf course architect to daylight the creek at the Golf Course, but the project did not proceed. This restoration would enhance the golf course, increase habitat, and give the gents in the neighborhood a vehicle for more great storytelling. (JH)
Compton Creek Restoration. OK, we confess to a slight conflict of interest here. Mia Lehrer & Associates and Restoration Design Group is helping the Watershed Council assess the feasibility of restoring Compton Creek through its soft-bottom reach, from the Crystal Park Casino to its confluence with the LA River. The birds here are amazing to watch, yet it is possible to allow even more habitat in this reach of Compton Creek, and just think how cool it would be if the Blue Line stop at the Crystal Park Casino had great pedestrian access to the creek and the commercial complex at the old Autoplaza site! But we need political will to make it happen. (JH)
Lafayette Park expansion. You can refer to an earlier post about this site. Briefly, this is a highly impacted park, with great population density and not much space to play. It also has a buried stream, Arroyo de la Brea, flowing through the site. An undeveloped lot is used for parking and could be acquired (not cheap – it is on Wilshire), increasing park acreage, enabling a little breathing room between activities, possibly allowing the stream to be daylighted. Act now while the economy is down! (JH)
Baldwin Hills. Issues abound at the Baldwin Hills, and we know your assistance has been called upon already. Ultimately, we want to see the Big Park come together! In the meantime, how can the community obtain greater benefits from the existing public lands? And can habitat be protected within the oil lands? We defer to the Baldwin Hills Conservancy as the go-to team for priorities here. (JH)
From Lot to Spot. Here we had a great opportunity to create parkland that can help kids while helping to deal with our stormwater. This Creekfreak positively seethes at the collective inability of multiple agencies – but especially the City of Hawthorne’s (speaking as one who grew up there) – inability to stand up for our children! Hijole, it makes me sick. So Supervisor, let’s not let the well being of our communities depend upon others, let’s snapple up vacant lots, especially in neighborhoods with mid-to-high densities and large concentrations of children, and create pockets of livability, even if other elected officials are only thinking of commercial development. (BTW, we’re not against commercial development – but not at the expense of the needs of our people or habitat).
And while we’re at it, let’s engage the kids! You could host an annual Service competition among all the High Schools for their aggregate social and environmental service. Get the kids in the District excited about how they can participate in creating a more livable community for themselves. (JH)
Green Streets. Green Streets help redirect stormwater into streetside basins and swales, preventing runoff, reducing peak flows into our channels, recharging our groundwater, and filtering contaminants. Sounds like a good deal, eh? And it can be done SO simply – imagine a glorified parkway, depressed a few inches, with curb cuts, and sidewalks sloped to drain into the parkways. Combined with urban forestry, you have street beautification! And that’s just the Hyundai version – the Cadillac version comes with permeable paving, subsurface infiltration gizmos, the works! Some cities integrate these features with traffic calming, which residential areas like. There’s really no reason every street in the district doesn’t work like this – it can still overflow into the stormdrain in really big rains. But you know, we’re asking for it all – so while we’re at it, let’s work with those cities in the District who think it’s bad not to have a lawn, or that cite residents who plant natives for keeping weeds. It’s time for a new ethic in LA County, and we encourage you to take leadership in working with your partner cities to embrace change. (JH)
Hope you feel more energized than exhausted by these possibilities!
From the peanut gallery, with affection,
July 30, 2008 § 73 Comments
This page is a mess! But if you can wade through it, you may find some fun info about where a creek in your neighborhood is or used to be! I promise to make an earnest cleanup effort in the verynear future.
Veteran Creek Freak readers may recall that I’ve expressed the desire to get creek maps up in a more dynamic fashion. Here’s my first attempt, with some clumsiness.
Lower Ballona, Centinela & Compton Creeks
Grrrr to the infuriating inconsistency of the interface! I don’t know if this is WordPress, Google Maps or some subtle, unperceptible-to-me, variation in what I’m doing that results in the map sometimes showing, sometimes being a link. Click “view larger map” to be taken to the Google Maps page where there is more data.
So as you can tell, this is very much a work-in-progress! My lists of caveats so far: I created it by importing waters of la.kmz (a Google Earth file based on my gis-based tracing of streams from historical maps) into GoogleMaps, using the ‘my maps’ feature. In my test run of my Google Maps, it appears to only show the data that is listed in a side panel you see when you are in “my maps” – this means that to see streams you have to scroll through all the pages of data that have been imported – and when the map is embedded as here, that option goes away. I would have to embed a separate map for each “page” of data (which it’s not letting me do, btw) – that would makes 19 maps! And my impression is that Google Maps may have cut off a certain amount of my data anyway. A bit unwieldy! And due to how the data is organized, it means that you see a stream like Ballona on one page, and tributaries on another – but never the two together. So this is less than ideal. There’s also some goofy line weights that probably need to be resolved in Google Earth or GIS prior to importing into a map.
One fix I’m contemplating is to divide up the map into many maps by watershed, or for large areas, subwatershed – so that the data for one area will all appear together. As I imagine this will mean hours of work, it may well be a very long time before I get around to it. There is another way to “hack the map” as I’ve read, but I’m going to need a little more time to focus on the steps before I try that.
Below remains the less sophisticated but still reliable downloads of older versions of these maps. Slowly I am also integrating streams shown on 1920s era 24,000 scale maps into this digital collection – and yes there are streams in those maps that don’t show in the original 62,500 scale 1900-era maps that I originally used!
Find a historical stream or wetland in your neighborhood! If it’s in a pipe, and surrounded by parkland, you may be able to daylight it (dig it up) and make it a stream again. Knowing where the creek was might help you understand your neighborhood better – why some areas tend to be wetter, why some houses are designed the way they are, etc. Old-timers in your neighborhood may delight in telling you what the area was like way-back.
The following maps overlay streams, wetlands, sloughs, ponds etc from approximately 1900 on a contemporary USGS map. These are fairly large files, and I felt it was best to keep them that way so you can actually read street names and figure out what is in your area. Click on images to enlarge or download. These maps are somewhat in draft-mode, but are legible for the average map-reader. The legend for all maps is at right. I’d love someday to make this an interactive, groovy find-a-creek site with hover buttons and linked photographs. But this is the state of my art.
My apologies to the large areas of the basin (San Fernando, San Gabriel Valleys) that I’ve not mapped!
North East Los Angeles
The Arroyo Seco watershed features most strongly in this map, with its many subwatersheds (as determined by GIS) called out in varying shades of green and blue. Other drainages, including part of the LA River through the Elysian Valley, and creeks in North East and East LA are included as well. The Arroyo Seco was a much-loved waterway, with a large greenway – Sycamore Grove – around it, purchased by the citizens as a park commemorating WWI vets. Steelhead trout were known to run up the Arroyo to spawn, and it is likely that the Pasadena Freshwater Shrimp specimens in the Natural History Museum collection were also found here. Teddy Roosevelt called for the Arroyo’s preservation, and artists in the Arts and Crafts movement were inspired by its dramatic vistas and compelling plant life. Caltrans, as we know, took a big chunk of Sycamore Grove Park and the Arroyo itself to create the 110 Freeway. Debs Park was purchased to compensate after the community threatened -or did?- sue.
This map was made as part of the Stream Spirit Rising project at North East Trees. It was done in concert with the National Park Service. It was never published. Rights to photos have not all been granted, and to those institutions I beg your mercy!! This is not a profit-making enterprise and your image is really doing a good public service.
Myriad Unnamed Streams: an intimate history of the suburban landscape from the point of view of water in Northeast Los Angeles includes an interactive map comparing major historical water flows with the current storm drain network under Northeast Los Angeles. This website is a compilation of oral history, research and anecdotes that gives us a sense of what life was like before the many lesser known streams in Northeast Los Angeles were graded and drained. These include smaller tributaries to the Arroyo Seco, as well as the Eagle Rock tributaries that fed into the Los Angeles River.
Lower LA River
This map takes you from downtown and East LA to the ocean, showing the huge coastal wetland that once graced the San Pedro-Long Beach shore. There were waterfowl galore there, and made this area a popular destination for hunters.
The lower LA River channel was most likely the original San Gabriel River channel, although the two frequently flooded into each other, joining and separating with frequency. Compton Creek, more wetlands than creek, is included in this map. Portions of the Rio Hondo are also shown.
Ballona Creek Watershed & some coastal Santa Monica drainages[UPDATE 1.23.12] Ballona’s watershed extends from downtown LA west to the Pacific Ocean. Historically the LA River flowed out through its mouth, but changed courses. Ballona watershed was notable for its springs in its headwaters, its tar seeps in its middle reaches, and its artesian wells and wetlands (“the Cienega Country”) in its lowlands. Groundwater pumping greatly diminished this. Steelhead trout were most likely present while it carried LA River flows; after the disconnection, it is difficult to know – the headwater streams are so highly altered today that it is difficult to ascertain if they would have been good steelhead habitat. Of the remaining streams, Hoag Canyon Creek, Stone Canyon Creek and Franklin Canyon Creeks are the most likely candidates. But there’s these miles-long concrete tunnels (and a dam or two) in the way.
For an awesome interactive map of Ballona, go to Ballona Historical Ecology.
Dominguez & San Pedro/Palo Verdes Coastal WatershedsPobre Dominguez, to riff off of Porfirio Diaz, so far from God, so close to Industry. Probably the most ignored and most singularly industrialized of our watersheds, once home to Dominguez Lake and surrounded by a wetland, the name refers to the original ranchero whose lands included this once very extensive wetlands. The 1900-era image shows approximately 1000 acres of wetlands. Accounts in the LA Times describe it at more like 4000 acres – about the same size as Griffith Park. The name was changed to Dominguez Slough from something shocking, offensive and disturbing, which even the LA Times at the time admitted was “vulgar,” that had been the dominant name(mentioned here if you really need to know)from the late 1800s until about the 1940s. Remaining fragments of this wetland include the Gardena Willows, Albertoni Farms wetlands, Madrona Marsh, and the Devil’s Dip creek (as generations of boys in the West Athens/Hawthorne/Gardena area called it) – also known as Anderson Wash – in the Chester Washington Golf Course. The vast wetland was prone to expansion and contraction with the weather – sometimes leaving multitudes of dying fish, stinking the air for miles around. The mosquitoes were not so popular with health officials either. Mid-century, the wetlands were drained and converted to industrial uses. If you are familiar with the endless carpet of refineries and tanks from Torrance to Carson, then you know the heart of this former wetland.
Also of interest on this map are the many streams descending from the Palos Verdes Peninsula.