Urgent action needed: identify City of LA creeks for protection under ordinance

March 7, 2012 § 5 Comments

Creek Freaks, I am posting this message on behalf of Shelley Luce, Executive Director, and Mark Abramson, their Senior Watershed Advisor.  They need your help by Friday March 16.  I have my own comment to add following their request:

Send us your Streams and Creeks!

Calling all Creek Freaks! The Santa Monica By Restoration Commission needs your help identifying and locating streams and creeks in the City of Los Angeles. The City is creating a stream protection ordinance designed to protect the few remaining healthy creeks within the City limits. They have requested a list of streams and creeks that should be protected. We are asking all our friends and creek enthusiasts to send us pictures and locations of creeks within the City so that we can ensure their protection. If you have a favorite creek spot that you feel warrants protection please send the location (preferably latitude and longitude, a picture, and any information that you might have about the stream or creek. The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission will then visit these sites and compile a list of streams and creeks that should be protected for the inclusion in the City of Los Angeles’ Stream Protection Ordinance.  Please send any information to  smbrc@waterboards.ca.gov using the subject line Protect this Stream. Your efforts will help protect these few remaining special places for generations to come. « Read the rest of this entry »

“Abusing discretion” in Bel Air’s Stone Canyon Creek

February 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

In horror movie parlance, they’re baaaaack.

2006 photos of culvert pipes intended for Stone Creek. The Planning Commission mandated protection of the stream, which the property owner now seeks to have stricken.

A Bel Air property owner is crying “abuse” and seeking to remove all references to Stone Canyon stream and, perhaps more importantly, stream protection from his 2006 development requirements. If this sounds familiar, you may have read about it in the Los Angeles Weekly story about my work, the Lost Streams of Los Angeles, which reported on this actual hearing. Or you may have seen this image of the pipe that was going to be laid in the stream at any of a number of talks I had given around town. Indeed Stone Canyon Creek (and nearby Kenter Creek) has been something of the poster-child for the need for an overarching stream protection ordinance in the City of LA.

The hearing takes place next week – Thursday, February 24, 9:50 A.M at City Hall Room 1050 (200 N. Spring Street, 90012).

So to cut to the chase, the owner contends that it is inaccurate to call the stream a stream, and that it is an abuse of discretion to impose requirements to protect the stream when other property owners have not had this requirement imposed upon them. « Read the rest of this entry »

Congratulations: River Expeditions, Elmer Avenue, and more!

November 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Recent recognition for some of Los Angeles’ creek freak heroes:

Click to go to the L.A. River Expeditions website where you can sign up for future expeditions

> The American Canoe Association (ACA) has awarded its annual Green Paddle Award to George Wolfe and L.A. River Expeditions. George was the leader of the 2008 boating expedition down the Los Angeles River that proved critical in securing federal Clean Water Act protections.  The national non-profit ACA in its press release stated:

“The American Canoe Association is extremely proud to recognize George and L.A. River Expeditions for their significant accomplishments,” says ACA Chief Operating Officer Chris Stec. “They have set a great example for the nation.”

Elmer Avenue Project - photo by LASGRWC

> The California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA) presented its Outstanding Stormwater BMP [Best Management Practice] Implementation Project award to the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council for its Elmer Avenue Neighborhood Retrofit Demonstration project. Elmer Avenue is an excellent project – the kind that we creek freaks like to go and visit in the rain!! CASQA also recognized Santa Monica’s Bicknell Avenue green street, the city of Los Angeles’ Stormwater Public Education Program (which also received recognition from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies), and others. Read the full CASQA awards recap here.

Congratulations to George, the Watershed Council, and the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles!

Ground Broken for North Atwater Creek Restoration

October 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

Department of Recreation and Parks Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan speaking at today's groundbreaking. Seated are, left to right, Public Works Commissioner Steve Nutter, Deputy City Engineer Deborah Weintraub, Councilmember Ed Reyes, Recreation and Parks Commissioner Barry Sanders, Councilmember Tom LaBonge, Council President Eric Garcetti, and Bureau of Sanitation director Enrique Zaldivar.

Another perfect Los Angeles day for another good step forward for Los Angeles River restoration and revitalization. It was a clear crisp cloudless fall sky – the kind of light that shimmers on flowing waters and shaking leaves and gives us a glimpse of just what an extraordinary natural treasure the L.A. basin was… and can again be.

A crowd of over a hundred – mainly Atwater neighbors, creek freaks, and civil servants – assembled for the groundbreaking ceremonies for the North Atwater Park Expansion and Creek Restoration. Hosting and quarterbacking was Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, in whose district the project is located – though it will serve all Angelenos, especially Council President Eric Garcetti’s constituents, who live adjacent to the site. Rounding out the dignitaries speaking and shovelling were: Councilmember Ed Reyes, Deputy City Engineer Deborah Weintraub, Public Works Commissioner Steve Nutter, Recreation and Parks Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan, Recreation and Parks Commissioner Barry Sanders, and Bureau of Sanitation Director Enrique Zaldivar.

The project will add approximately three acres of riverside nature park to the city’s existing approximately five-acre North Atwater Park, located at the end of Chevy Chase drive. « Read the rest of this entry »

LA creek restoration project goes out to bid!

May 31, 2010 § 6 Comments

It’s not often that we can announce that a creek in LA is being restored – even more exceptional to pass along word that there’s a call for bids for qualified contractors to do the restoration work. Got some know-how in soil bioengineering, native plants, grading natural stream channels? Follow this link to get ahold of the bid packet.  Bid walk’s June 8 at the site.

And the site in question is a small intermittent drainage that flows through North Atwater Park, where Chevy Chase dead-ends at the LA River. « Read the rest of this entry »

LID Ordinance Approved by Public Works Committee

January 18, 2010 § 4 Comments

Permeable pavement sidewalk at L.A. Eco-Village. When LID passes we should see more of these kinds of rainwater infiltration practices thoughout Los Angeles.

Last Friday January 15th 2010, the Low Impact Development (or “LID”) ordinance was approved unanimously by the city of Los Angeles’ Board of Public Works. I recommend reading Spouting Off’s excellent coverage

First off, big props to Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels who has spearheaded L.A.’s work on LID.  There are certainly lots of other commissioners, city staff, non-profit folks (and even bloggers on the sidelines) who’ve done some worthwhile work on this LID effort, but Commissioner Daniels has really been the driving force on this one. She’s an articulate and committed environmentalist, a valued friend, and a true creek freak! Kudos to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for appointing such a great leader to serve on the board that oversees the city’s public works.  

After the jump below, L.A. Creek Freak links you to LID background, posts Green L.A. Coalition’s announcement, and highlights LID’s next steps.

« Read the rest of this entry »

River Bike Plan and River Bike Ride

June 2, 2009 § 3 Comments

L.A. Bike Plan map for central/west area - click for link to detailed pdf files

L.A. Bike Plan map for central/west area - click for link to detailed pdf files

Late last week, the city of Los Angeles released its draft maps for its update to its Bike Plan.  Formerly called the Bicycle Master Plan (now just the Bike Plan) and last approved in 1996,  the Bike Plan designates a city-approved network of bike facilities.  These include on-street bike lanes, river/beach bike paths and shared-lane bike routes.  You’ve probably already guessed that L.A. isn’t bike paradise and that the plan isn’t going to get us there tomorrow (and even that the bike planning process hasn’t been as committed, thorough and transparent as it might have been)… but, like the L.A. River plans, this is an important opportunity to take some steps in the right direction.

What I expect that creek freaks will be most interested in are the plans for bike paths along our rivers and creeks.  The bike plan calls for bike paths along the Los Angeles River, Arroyo Seco and Ballona Creek which have been in past plans for quite a while.  It shows new bike paths along portions of the Tujunga Wash, the Pacoima Wash, Aliso Canyon Wash and more of Brown’s Creek – all San Fernando Valley tributaries of the L.A. River.  But there are plenty more Valley tributaries missing… like Bull Creek, Caballero Creek, Arroyo Calabasas, Bell Creek, and others.

Another omission is that some of the bike lanes planned for the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan are shown as “unfeasible.”  This is, hopefully, just a matter of the department synching up their various plans.

Luckily, it’s still a draft and the city is asking for our input, so if you’re interested, take a look at the draft plan maps, and submit your comments to the City Planning Department.

And if you’re looking to get some first hand exposure to our local river bike paths… plan to ride the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Los Angeles River Ride – THIS SUNDAY!  There are various distances for the occasional rider to the hard-core centurion.  See you there!

River Bike Paths Coming to Elysian Valley and Reseda

November 9, 2008 § 11 Comments

Cutaway View of West Valley Los Angeles River Bike Path to Begin Construction in 2009 (Image courtesy LA City Bureau of Engineering, click on image to view 9MB PDF with additional views and details)

Section View of West Valley Los Angeles River Bike Path – Construction Planned to Begin in April 2009 (Image courtesy LA City Bureau of Engineering, click on image to view 9MB PDF with additional views and details)

Next year, the city of Los Angeles will begin construction on two new segments of the Los Angeles River bike path. The bikeways in Reseda and Elysian Valley are expected to be completed in 2011.

Currently there are only two bikeway segments completed on the 32 miles of the Los Angeles River within the city: the Glendale Narrows bikeway (4.5 miles – from Riverside-Victory to Fletcher) and a portion of the Sepulveda Basin bikeway (about 0.2 miles riverfront miles in over 10 miles of park bike paths  – on both sides of the River at Balboa Boulevard.) Additionally, outside the city of Los Angeles, there are 17 miles of county bikeway along the lower Los Angeles River (from Atlantic Boulevard in the city of Vernon to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach.)  Shameless plug alert: Impeccably thorough bikeway information for all eleven completed bike paths on the Los Angeles River and its tributaries is available in the guidebook Down by the Los Angeles River (Wilderness Press 2005) written by one of your friendly neighborhood creek freaks.

West San Fernando Valley Segment:


Concept Landscape Plan for West Valley Los Angeles River Bikeway (Image courtesy LA City Bureau of Engineering, click on image to view 9MB PDF with additional views and details)

The city of Los Angeles has planned a 2-mile segment of the Los Angeles River bikeway from Mason Avenue to VanAlden Avenue in the west San Fernando Valley. The bikeway will be on the south bank of the river and will include grade-separated underpasses at Vanowen Street, Winnetka Avenue, Corbin Avenue, and Tampa Avenue. This bikeway project is being done in conjunction with bridge retrofit projects at Tampa, Winnetka, and Vanowen.

The initial phase will include just the Tampa Avenue Bridge. The approximately 0.8-miles bikeway will extend from Corbin Avenue to Vanalden Avenue adjacent to the Westfield Promenade mall. Construction is scheduled to begin in April 2009, and won’t be done before late 2011. The construction is estimated to take 20 months, but is not permitted to proceed inside the river channel during the wet weather season.

The bulk of the bikeway project funding is from the Metro call for projects. In addition, the city received about $2M in Proposition 50 (state park bond) funding to enhance the bikeway with landscaping, a water quality bioswale, a planter wall, interpretive signage, and even fitness stations to help bicyclists warm up before their ride.

Elysian Valley Segment:


Section View of West Valley Los Angeles River Bike Path – Construction Planned to Begin in April 2009 (Image courtesy LA City Bureau of Engineering, click on image to view 9MB PDF with additional views and details)

Officially, this 2.7-mile bike path is called Phase 1C of the Los Angeles River bikeway. It extends from Fletcher Drive to Barclay Street.  That’s from just above the 2 Freeway to nearly the 110 Freeway. The stretch currently has an unimproved access road used unofficially by bicyclists and pedestrians every day, though the surface is uneven and there are about a half-dozen large dips where street ends drain directly into the river.  The old asphalt road is also damaged from the roots of adjacent cottonwood trees.

The project will extend the existing 4.5-mile Glendale Narrows bikeway to an uninterrupted total of 7.1 miles.  It will include an undercrossing at Fletcher Drive, resurfacing, and lighting.

In 1999, the city of Los Angeles applied for and received Metro Call for Projects funding for the Elysian Valley bikeway.  The project has been delayed by legal troubles due to a complicated antiquated easement issue. The Elysian Valley stretch is under a 1920’s era LA County Flood Control District easement. The limited easement would only allow for flood control projects, and, according to city attorneys, was not sufficient for the construction of a bike path. So, even though owners had already seen their property taken away for river channelization many decades ago, the city had to approach 66 individual property owners and negotiate transportation easements. Most property owners accepted the city’s initial compensation offers, but one property owner held out and took the city to court.

In January 2008, in Rabie v. City of Los Angeles, the court’s verdict was that the city had to pay Mr. Rabie $7,000 for the easement. This amount was only a little above the city’s last offer of $4,000, and much less than the $200,000 that Rabie was demanding. This verdict allows the bike path project to move forward to finalizing design.

The city Department of Transportation is currently finalizing a lighting plan that will minimize risks of copper theft that have plagued other bikeway lighting installations. The final designs are anticipated to go out to bid in January or February 2009. Construction is expected to start in July 2009 and the path is projected to open in January 2011.

LA City’s Proposed River Zone and River Corporation

October 6, 2008 § 7 Comments

PROPOSED Boundaries for River Zone and River Corporation (click to download detailed pdf)

PROPOSED Boundaries for LA City's River Zone and River Corporation (click to download detailed map pdf)

The city of Los Angeles’ River Revitalization Plan (the LARRMP) includes many components – from taking out many tons of concrete at Taylor Yard to making river-adjacent neighborhood streets greener, more walkable and more bikeable. The city is getting the ball rolling on implementing the plan. Two proposed components of the LARRMP have been written up and are up for public review right now. Creek Freak brings you the 411 on these: the River Improvement Overlay and the River Revitalization Corporation. If you have ideas, objections, or just random musings, we invite you to be a part of the city’s process by offering your comments. It’s important to comment if you see things in these that you’d like to be changed, but it’s also good to comment favorably when you think that the overall proposals are a step in the right direction – which I think is the case here.

River Improvement Overlay (RIO)

The River Improvement Overlay District (called the RIO) is a zoning overlay that fosters appropriate and watershed-wise development in neighborhoods that are close to the LA River. For those folks familiar with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – the most prominent standards for green buildings), the RIO is somewhat similar. If someone wants to build something next to the river, then they need to include various components related to the environment and access to the river. RIO also includes street standards, calling for bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets in the river area.

There’s a bunch of very clear and helpful background information on the web – all pdf files. The two-page RIO fact sheet gives you the basics. The ordinance itself is in multiple parts attached to this table of contents. The proposed boundaries for the RIO are shown above; they include an irregularly-shaped river corridor, extending approximately a mile or so on each side into the adjacent neighborhoods.

The City Planning Department‘s River Unit had hoped to put the RIO in place right away after the LARRMP was approved in 2007. There was an initial ordinance and some meetings last year, but it wasn’t put into effect until the city did their due diligence for environmental review – in hopes that no mean-spirited developer will sue the city as the RIO will mandate them to build a bit greener. The city has evaluated the environmental impacts and has now published an initial study and a draft mitigated negative declaration both basically stating that the RIO won’t harm the environment.

Comments on the RIO are due Monday October 27th 2008.  They should be emailed to deborah.kahen {at} lacity.org

The RIO is excellent – I hope it gets approved very soon. My only criticism of the RIO is that it doesn’t go far enough. I’d like to see more specific restrictions on development immediately adjacent to the river and tributaries. Given that the entire city is watershed, the run-off from all our neighborhoods contribute to water quality and quantity problems on our rivers and creeks. We can’t solve these problems by only creating higher standards for river adjacent neighborhoods… but I am ok with us starting there.

Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (RRC)

The LARRMP calls for three new entities to manage the revitalization of the river within the city. These include 1) the Los Angeles River Authority – a new power-sharing entity where the city, county and federal governments can work collaboratively, 2) the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (RRC) – an entrepreneurial non-profit that will work to revitalize the river and connections into adjacent communities, and 3) the Los Angeles River Foundation – a philanthropic non-profit that will work on projects and programs that celebrate the river.

The city is working on all three of these (I hope to report on other second entities soon), but for now, I will focus on the second. The RRC will be a new non-profit corporation that will build river-related improvements, facilitate economic development, and be responsible for some maintenance and management. The boundaries for where the RRC will operate are the same boundaries for the RIO (shown at the top of this blog).

The RRC will function a bit like a miniature community redevelopment area, so it comes as no surprise that Los Angeles’ Community Redevelopment Agency is leading the efforts to set up the organization. LA’s CRA is helping the RRC get started by paying for the first year of staffing, providing office space and some administrative and legal support. The proposed by-laws for the corporation (2MB pdf) are available on-line. Comments on RRC by-laws are requested by October 15th 2008, and can be emailed to jneville {at} cra.lacity.org and lupe.m.vela {at} lacity.org

Creek Freak, having too much time on his hands, has actually read over the by-laws and they look pretty standard, which is fine. There will be seven members on the initial board, three appointed by the mayor, three by the City Council, and one by the chair of the council’s Ad Hoc River Committee. The proposed purposes of the RRC include “preparing and implementing plans and programs that facilitate, encourage, promote, and foster responsible development, redevelopment and revitalization of properties within … the RIO District” and “acquiring, assembling, developing or selling interests in real or personal property within the RIO District” and more.

The River in Downtown Los Angeles Today (courtesy LARRMP)

The River in Downtown Los Angeles Today (courtesy LARRMP)

Zoning and by-laws – topics no doubt guaranteed to drive up our statistics! Never say that Creek Freak doesn’t bring you the most exciting and scintillating tidbits of what’s happening along our waterways.

The City's Vision for the River in 20 Years (courtesy LARRMP)

The City's Vision Plan for the River in about 25 Years (courtesy LARRMP)

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