Storm Surges & Tsunamis: Why Coastal Wetlands Matter

March 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Let’s say you stay inside and watch tv all day, hate nature, and don’t have an issue with concrete rivers. You are unmoved by pleas to think of ecosystems and all the other life forms out there.

Well, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.

But for the many millions of Americans who think like that, now is the teachable moment. Consider the terrifying images seen by so many of us of the tsunami sweeping buildings across Japanese coastal lowlands.  Anyone remembering the storm surges of Katrina?

I am reminded of the Tsunami Hazard Zone signs posted around Venice and Playa del Rey, that little blue circle that says, here’s the line between being swept by the sea and safety.

That tsunami zone correlates with historical wetlands, now filled and populated, much like those coastal towns on television right now. « Read the rest of this entry »

More landfill design stylin’ in the Santa Clara River watershed

November 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

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(Above: I’ve outlined creeks in red – mostly elusive unmapped ephemeral drainages that will be filled by proposed development. Grey lines are existing contours, black includes new contour and lots. I only reviewed a small number of the sheets available at the website below.)

Here’s a chance to weigh in to keep the Santa Clara watershed from looking worse than the LA River watershed. I say worse because at least our hills and mountains, for the most part, haven’t been reshaped to look like engineered landfills. I haven’t had much time to review the documents, but my 5-minute assessment reveals that the beautiful terrain will be dramatically re-shaped to create stabilized and uniform slopes for cookie-cutter homes, condos and commercial areas. Drainages will definitely be filled. And these could be intermittent or ephemeral streams, with their own sensitive habitat. Remember, not all streams are properly mapped.

What’s more, as recent posts have shown, preserving uplands is also important. Will they preserve and replant the seedbank? I don’t know (the first chapter of the EIR is 122MB – too much for a mid-day work break!) That it will have the required stormwater quality detention ponds and protected areas for spineflower and stickleback is a perfunctory nod at legal requirements rather than an inspired design approach that leverages the natural capital of the site for long-term sustainability and aesthetic pleasure.

From Lynne Plambeck, Friends of Santa Clara River:

Just a head’s up to anyone that might be interested – The Mission Village project will be heard at the LA County Regional Planning Hearing Rm 150 (320 Temple St., LA 90012) Wenesday morning at 9AM. (emphasis by LA Creekfreak) « Read the rest of this entry »

Commerce over creeks at Wilshire + Hoover

November 10, 2008 § 4 Comments


Not going to happen.

Not going to happen.

Joe forwarded me the following blog post, about a planned shopping center at Wilshire and Hoover, across from Lafayette Park:

Curbed LA: Rumblings Update: New Shopping Center at Lafayette Park

Oh, that hurts, as for years I’ve been hoping we could convince a public agency to acquire the parking lot in question and use it to expand Lafayette Park, one of the city’s most intensively used parks, in probably the densest and most park-poor part of Los Angeles.  I knew it was a losing battle, it would take serious political will to purchase property for the public good on Wilshire Blvd, but it is disappointing nonetheless.  In expanding the park, we also would create an opportunity to daylight the buried Arroyo de la Brea, the stream that used to flow through this terrain.  I referenced it in an earlier post.

And it was called Arroyo de la Brea for good reason, as even today there are tar seeps in the parking lot. I almost lost my shoe in one of them back in 2001 when I first explored the area. I hope the developer is well informed about their legal obligation to not only notify the Natural History/George C. Page Museum about any archeological remains they encounter (i.e. dinos) but they will also cover the excavation costs on behalf of the Museum, which is a County facility.

So before it all goes into the dustbin of wasted idealism, here’s some slides I put together for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, to promote what could happen at Lafayette Park (and surrounds), including a public-private partnership scenario. Meanwhile, the once graceful Lafayette Park is continuing to be chopped up into an increasingly visually disjointed patchwork of specifically programmed uses.  Would this happen in Pacific Palisades?

Hidden Creek Estates

October 16, 2008 § Leave a comment


2003 photo of stream in Brown's Canyon watershed

2003 photo of stream in Brown's Cyn watershed.

At last night’s Stream Protection meeting, an elderly gentleman in the audience mentioned a proposed development, Hidden Creek Estates, in Mormon Canyon, which would be annexed by the City to make the development possible. Mormon Canyon drains into Brown’s Canyon, a beautiful perennial stream that is a tributary to the LA River (and apparently source of the LAR Navigable Waters Jurisdication Determination kerfuffle – well the owner of Brown’s Canyon, that is).  Both were hit by the recent Sesnon fire.  

2003 view of the area

2003 view of the area

Hidden Creek Estates proposes 188 homes in a wildlands area, apparently re-grading hillsides of the Santa Susana Mountains to keep the development on higher ground.  It would be nice to see developers maintain the natural character of our mountains and canyons, something called landform grading – here it appears the slopes will be levelled and stabilized, on perfectly even slopes.  You know, the kind you see around landfills and subdivisions everywhere now.  

landfill grading aesthetics at neighboring Porter Ranch

Background: landfill grading aesthetics at neighboring Porter Ranch

But this is a creek blog: fortunately it appears that the streams will not be built over, although one small area of the proposed development map appears to grade over one of the streams, where perhaps a bridge could be used.  Altering the hillslopes does change the sediment supply that maintains the stream’s channel and habitat, however.  The draft EIR proposes Best Management Practices to mitigate runoff, which is great, but we don’t want to cut off sediment altogether either.  But what of the wildlife?  What we are left with is a conversation of how much more of our biodiversity we can cut into.  Remember in Math class, there was this idea that you could infinitely divide something in half, and never reach zero? We are now reaching into the terrain of several 00’s after the decimal.  I sometimes wonder how much land wildlife would allocate to us, if they were the planners and developers and we were at their mercy.  Would they say, as we do, “well, as long as we preserve a representative population, it’s ok to reduce their habitat. I mean, how many of them do we need to maintain biodiversity anyway?”

Click to enlarge. Original image converted to gif (hence black background).

Grousing about Hidden Creek aside, at least it doesn’t take the top off a mountain and dump it in canyons, like we see here in this cut and fill diagram for Mountain Gate, in the Santa Monica Mountains above Bundy Canyon in Brentwood.  You can view the actual draft and final EIRs here, click on Environmental, Final EIR and scroll to Mountain Gate.  While you are at it, scroll on over to the Canyon Hills Final EIR in the Verdugo Hills, which, while preserving one stream, will result in the loss of some of its tributaries, which are noted for their good representation of increasingly rare Southern California riparian (streamside) habitats.  Which brings us back to Math class.  How many times can we divide 1/2?

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