Metabolic Studio Twain Tours Historic Bridge Excursions

December 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

View from the North Broadway Bridge's central belvedere - during the December 3rd Twain Tour - photo by Miguel Luna

Last Friday and the Friday before I had a great time showing off a dozen of  my favorite historic bridges in and around Downtown Los Angeles. The events were the Metabolic Studio Twain Tour L.A. Creek Freak Historic Bridges Excursions. « Read the rest of this entry »

Twain Historic Bridges Tours – December 3 and 10

November 24, 2010 § 1 Comment

1927 Seventh Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River - drawing from the Historic American Engineering Record

Starting next week, I am working with Metabolic Studio to host river bridges tours. Make a reservation today! AS OF 12/2/2010 BOTH TOURS ARE FULL – still accepting a few standbys in case of cancellation, though. I am hoping to do a few more of these in 2011!

The Metabolic Studio Twain Tour:
L.A. Creek Freak Historic Bridges Excursion

This December, the Metabolic Studio teams up with L.A. Creek Freak for a new installment in its “The TwainTrolley tours. The December tours will showcase a dozen of Los Angeles’ iconic historic downtown bridges. These monumental City Beautiful bridges, over the Los Angeles River and in Downtown L.A., were built between 1906 and 1932 and represent a hopeful forward-looking moment in the city’s history of growth and expansion. Many of the beautiful concrete-arch spans are targeted for demolition; this tour will spur conversations on the bridges’ significance – past and future.

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Recent News – 8 November 2010

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

> Watch the above vid for more green streets meets complete streets – from Portland and Streetfilms. The beautiful rain garden drainage stuff is shown at minute 4:06… but I know many creek freaks will like all the sexy bike boulevard stuff, too. Landscape+Urbanism has some photos – note that Portland is able to retain existing trees on these projects. Here’s a design for a similar bike boulevard project in Los Angeles that would divert cars off to side streets, allow bikes to pass directly through, and would cleanse rainwater, too: (read more about 4SBB here and get involved!) [more cool green street stuff later this week, too!]

4th Street Bicycle Boulevard Catalina Islands - proposal for diverter at 4th and Catalina - image by Aaron Kuehn

> More fun creek freak videos: watch Ballona Creek Renaissance leader Jim Lamm (Culver City Real Estate Voice) and watch the recent US Green Building Council panel ( which we announced here and was reviewed as follows:

I thought it was one of the best USGBC events I have ever been to in this city.  It was really informative …I wasn’t planning on staying as long as I did, but I found myself so engaged with the discussions and didn’t want to leave.

(It was a a great panel, if I do say so myself, though vid may be “tl;dw” for some.)

> UCLA Lab School plans a Stone Canyon Creek restoration planting day later this month.

> The Jewish Journal reports that Heschel School has received a grant for a new L.A. River mural.

> Downtown News reports on the groundbreaking for the downtown’s 7th Street Low Flow Diversion Project. (Announcemed at LACF here.)

The Los Angeles River: The Future is Now - official poster by Oscar Amaro

> Contest! About a week to go to name all the animals in the L.A. city’s L.A. River poster and win framed artwork. Enter your best guess in the comments at LA Stormwater Blog.

>On December 7th, The city of Duarte is opening its new bioswale and outdoor classroom park at El Encanto oops! corrected 11-12-2010: Encanto Park, located on the San Gabriel River.

> KCRW questions the 6th Street Bridge replacement project calling it an uninspired “bridge to nowhere.”

Visit the 4th Street Bridge (and CicLAvia) this Sunday

October 7, 2010 § 5 Comments

4th Street Bridge - Photo by Paul Ong and Silvia Jimenez

This Sunday, October 10th 2010 (10-10-10) the city will host its first CicLAvia – a free bicycling and walking festival event that really has little to do with creeks and water issues in L.A. (other than that creek-bike stuff I bring up from time to time), but because I am working hard to make CicLAvia a success, I figured I would plug it here, with an article about the historic 4th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River – a bridge featured on the CicLAvia route.

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Spring Street Historic Bridge Threatened

June 1, 2010 § 4 Comments

Attend a hearing tomorrow to tell the city not to tear down the historic North Spring Street Bridge. Photo from city of Los Angeles historic cultural monuments website

This alert, reproduced in full below, came in from the Los Angeles Conservancy. The city is planning to tear down the gorgeous historic 1927 Spring Street Bridge and build a wholly unecessary doubly-wide bridge in its place. The L.A. Conservancy and L.A. Creek Freak encourage folks to come to the Board of Public Works hearing tomorrow morning at 9:30am at Los Angeles City Hall. Details below.

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Glendale’s Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Coming Soon

May 26, 2010 § 11 Comments

Map of overall City of Glendale Riverwalk project - courtesy city of Glendale

It’s been a long time coming but it looks like the city of Glendale is finally poised to improve their short stretch of the Los Angeles River. Their riverfront linear park will be called the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk, and construction of the initial phase is expected late summer 2010. Creek Freak sat in on a briefing about the project this week and is happy to bring you lots of details about its various phases. « Read the rest of this entry »

Sixth Street Bridge L.A. Times Editorial

April 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

The central span of Downtown L.A.'s 3600-foot-long 1932 Sixth Street Bridge - during the 2008 LA River Kayak expedition. Photo: High Country News

Lewis MacAdams and Alex Ward have written a very good L.A. Times editorial on replacing the ailing 1932 Sixth Street Viaduct – one of downtown L.A.’s most iconic historic bridges. The piece is entitled Beauty and the bridge and here’s an excerpt:

Currently, $200 million from the city’s Prop. 1B bond — about half what it will take to replace the bridge — has been set aside for the project. A draft environmental impact report has been completed, and a final report is expected soon. The Bureau of Engineering and its consultants have introduced five design alternatives, most of which attempt to replicate the current bridge’s signature arches. But not one of them comes close to equaling the current bridge’s singular drama. None of the designs has drawn much enthusiasm from the Bureau of Engineering’s neighborhood advisory committee, from the American Institute of Architects or from the Los Angeles Conservancy. None of the designs has stirred anybody’s blood or grabbed anybody’s imagination.

All over the Earth, bridges are important symbols of their metropolises. Everyone knows the Rialto Bridge in Venice, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate. Bridges rightfully come to symbolize a city’s aspirations, its hopes and dreams.

Ours is an age of magnificent new bridges. In the past decade a new era of artistry and technical mastery has yielded a new generation of brilliant structures. The next time you’re trolling the Internet, check out Ben van Berkel’s Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, Christian Menn’s Bunker Hill Bridge over the Charles River in Boston and Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge that spans the Sacramento River, the newest tourist attraction in Redding. Look at L.A.-based Buro Happold’s Mobius Bridge in Bristol, in Britain. All are different, all are amazing. The specific style of the replacement bridge is less important than assuring that the design be unique, appropriate and iconic.

To promote the highest level of design, Los Angeles should hold an international design competition juried by bridge design experts with strong local participation.

I think that the design competition idea is a good one. During her recent trip to Los Angeles, New York City’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spoke of the sucesses that NYC has had with these sorts of competitions – not only do they produce excellent designs, but they foster a broader civic dialogue about the project.

Journey into the Seventh Street Bridge

April 8, 2010 § 9 Comments

My drawing of the double-deck Seventh Street Bridge from my 2005 book Down by the Los Angeles River

My friend Jason Neville was asking me some questions about possibly accessing the interior space of the Seventh Street Bridge… so I responded that we should just go and explore.

I’d never actually been inside the Seventh Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River in downtown Los Angeles. Many bridges don’t actually have an inside, but 7th does.

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Recommended Videos: from India and NYC

January 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

Stereoscopic view of the 1848 High Bridge in New York City - see Streetfilm below - image: public domain via Wikimedia

Here are some recommendations for some worthwhile documentary videos that spoke to me, and that I think would appeal to Los Angeles’ creek freaks. These are from two of my favorite ways to waste time educational video websites: and Streetfilms.

Gharial - Indian River Crocodile - from, click on image to watch video

 Romulus Whitaker: The real danger lurking in the water – This video is about king cobras and gharials (20-foot-long fish-eating crocodiles) and how these species are impacted by humans screwing up the rivers that nurture them and us. Beautiful images of snakes dancing, crocodiles fishing… and awful scary images of dams and pollution that are endangering these creatures.

The View from atop the High Bridge – This Streetfilm is about the oldest extant bridge in New York (built in 1848) and community and city work to convert it into a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Over the Harlem River, the High Bridge was part of the original aqueduct bringing fresh water into New York City. (Another Streetfilm recommended for Creek Freaks: the story of community efforts for Bronx River revitalization in Building Greenways and Community in the Bronx.)

Anupam Mishra: The ancient ingenuity of water harvesting – Another excellent video from TED. All about how indigenous dryland rainwater harvesting techniques have stood the test of time – and are more reliable than current water supply efforts that dam rivers. Not only are these ingenious and built-to-last, they’re architecturally beautiful.

Places to Visit: Lower Arroyo Seco in Pasadena

November 22, 2009 § 7 Comments

Midstream in the Arroyo Seco

When some of the Swedish visitors were here for their The Fifth Ecology: Los Angeles Beyond Desire exhibit, we planned to go for a hike to Millard Canyon Falls, above Pasadena. Unfortunately the area was closed, likely due to the recent fires. We instead ended up taking a hike along the Lower Arroyo Seco in Pasadena. The lower Arroyo is a very popular, very pleasant site.

We parked the Swedes’ rental car at the southern end of the massive Rose Bowl parking lots, near the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. A portion of the parking area was recently retrofitted to detain and infiltrate stormwater. A handful of parking spaces were removed to create a few oases of native plants. Here’s what it looks like:

Parking Lot Infiltration Area with Native Vegetation

and here’s a helpful sign explaining the project:

Parking Lot Signage about Improving Water Quality and Enhancing Habitat

(It’s all pretty nice… for a parking lot… but loyal readers can probably guess that this creek freak is not all that into parking lots. What I would like to see in this area is enhanced Rose Bowl access via bike and transit… allowing for much less parking needed… then ripping out some big chunks of that parking to make way for a re-naturalized Arroyo Seco streambed. Someday.)

Walking into the Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park

We crossed Arroyo Boulevard, turned left, and walked downstream. We crossed below the Holly Street bridge and entered the Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park. The park has a very pleasant walking paths with plenty of mature sycamores trees overhanging. This time of year, the site is particularly green and lush. Note that the park can also have poison oak. We didn’t encounter any this trip, but I’ve seen it there before. If you’re unfamiliar with poison oak, I recommend that you stick to the established trails.

For a short stretch here, about a quarter mile upstream from Colorado Boulevard, the bed of the Arroyo Seco is not channelized in concrete. It’s a nice meandering streambed.

This is the area where the city of Pasadena and the Arroyo Seco Foundation collaborated on a project to restore the arroyo chub – a small native fish species that is threatened.

We continued walking downstream. Below the magnificent historic Colorado Street Bridge, the Arroyo Seco is again channelized in concrete. In this area there’s a wetlands restoration project that was built in 1997. Water from the main stem of the Arroyo is shunted into parallel side streams, now dense with vegetation. These side-streams continue for about a half-mile below the Colorado Bridge.

There are plenty of wonderful historic bridges on this walk. I am pretty sure it’s the largest local concentration of historic bridges other than in Downtown Los Angeles. These include: the Linda Vista Bridge (now Holly Street) – 1925, the Colorado Street Bridge (now Colorado Boulevard) – 1913, the Loma Road Bridge – 1914, and the San Rafael Avenue Bridge – 1922.

We walked along the channel for about two miles. Though the stream is contained in the concrete channel, the surrounding area is a nice deep canyon – which is a bit unusual for Southern California creeks which tended to spread out into broad alluvial washes. The area is very popular for hikers, joggers, and folks walking their dogs.

Checking out the Busch Gardens' remains below San Rafael

We crossed to the opposite bank at the pedestrian bridge just below San Rafael Avenue – right where San Rafael Creek enters from the west. Locals there told us about the remains of Busch Gardens – an early amusement park that was located on the east bank of the Arroyo above and below San Rafael. Stonework adorned pathway remnants of the park are still visible on the hillsides.

The lower Arroyo Seco is an excellent site to visit and explore today… and a site that shows a lot of potential for greater restoration in the future.

(Notes: Another version of this walk appears on pages 160-163 in my book Down by the Los Angeles River published in 2005 by Wilderness Press and available at bookstores, libraries and on-line. Thanks to My Wårhagen for taking the photos.)

Walking upstream near the 134 Freeway Bridge

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