L.A. Times on Filming in the L.A. River

September 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lee Marvin and the Fourth Street Bridge, from the 1967 movie Point Blank - click for larger image at L.A. Times website

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times has an excellent article (including a short video) about filming on the L.A. River. (It actually indirectly mentions Ballona Creek, too, as “the river” behind Sony.) (and I need to go see Drive.)

Read and view the Times’ Hollywood: A river runs through it here.

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A Los Angeles River Christmas Story – 1889

December 20, 2010 § 5 Comments

William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, by Catherine Mulholland, UC Press, 2000

I’ve been enjoying reading Catherine Mulholland’s William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, published by the University of California Press in 2000. It’s a biography of Catherine’s grandfather William Mulholland (1855-1935) who was the engineer responsible for much of Los Angeles’ early water supply engineering and vision, including our securing of water from the Owen’s Valley.

Here’s a Los Angeles River Christmas story from 121 years ago. L.A.’s creek freaks will know to expect some flooding in century-old Los Angeles River winter tales.

From William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, starting on page 49:

[I]n 1890… [William Mulholland] received a gold watch from a grateful water company [the private Los Angeles Water Company that later became the city of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] for services beyond the call of duty when he had braved the torrential rains of Christmas Week, 1889-1890, to save the city’s water supply. « Read the rest of this entry »

Got silt? Oak woodland to become dirt pile.

December 4, 2010 § 6 Comments

A perennial management problem for our channelized, dammed river system is sediment. Natural rivers use sediment to shape and reshape their channels and floodplains – in fact the channel dimensions reflect the most efficient way for it to move that sediment.

Not so in our engineered systems. Dams trap sediment, while over-wide channels cause it to drop out, foster colonies of vegetation: both reduce flood capacity. So as long as we have people living in floodways and an engineered system, there will be jobs-for-life for the guys who truck out dirt.
What’s bewildering is where to put all this sediment. Again, nature distributes it along the floodplain, and ultimately the finest material makes it to coastal wetlands and the beaches. Not so, today. If the County has its way, it will raze an 11-acre century-old oak woodland in Arcadia to make space for dirt piles.

Funny, ’cause when I look at a map of the Arcadia-Monrovia area, near the imperiled oak grove, I see a lot of very big holes in the ground. (if any aren’t used for water recharge, what’s the big? Store it there, at least until we can get a grip on better ways to manage this stuff) Or consider the salinization problem with soil in our nearby Central Valley ag lands – wouldn’t good soil be a resource that increases our food security?

The fact is, local government is acting like parking lots have more intrinsic value than these oak woodlands, described as being in a canyon – will a stream also be impacted?

Equally disappointing, however, is that this proposal went through a 2-year environmental review process – and made it through unscathed. As much as I appreciate that we even have a public process and environmental protections, clearly they don’t go far enough to ensure that the public actually knows what’s on the table. The news didn’t cover this when it was a proposal, but waited til it was a crisis. And environmental regulations, as I feel I drone on and on about, don’t necessarily protect natural resources so much as lay out a process for evaluating and “mitigating” the loss of natural resources. But how do you mitigate time? It took one century for these trees to grow to the state that we appreciate them today. Streams flow for millenia and then are abruptly filled. And how can you agree that the mitigation will provide the same quality of habitat when 11 acres is being cleared on one site and the mitigation project will take place on acreage half that size with three times the number of trees? How will overcrowding those trees be an effective way to ensure no net loss?

You can let your Supervisor know how you feel about this:

D1: Gloria Molina: molina@bos.lacounty.gov
SD2: Mark Ridley-Thomas: markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov
SD3: Zev Yaroslavsky: zev@bos.lacounty.gov
SD4:For Don Knabe: Aaron Nevarez handles enviro/public works issues-anevarez@lacbos.org
SD5: Mike Antonovich: fifthdistrict@lacbos.org

News Sources:

San Gabriel Valley Tribune: Last ditch effort to save pristine native woodland from clearance

Los Angeles Times: Century-old oaks in the San Gabriel Mountains may make way — for silt – latimes.com.

L.A. Times Kayaks L.A. River, Great Article, Photos, and Vid

July 31, 2010 § 3 Comments

Of course that river is navigable. Photo from last week's kayaking expedition. Better photos at the L.A. Times site.

Once the EPA declared the L.A. River navigable, the Los Angeles Times’ Louis Sahagun decided to go kayaking.

Sahagun has written a great article and the times photographers and videographers have put it together as a great web extravaganza. The full article appears in the Sunday paper (which includes a big picture of me! – available Saturday) and online here. Here are two brief excerpts – but go to the Times and read the whole thing:

Wolfe’s party took advantage of that legal gray area, launching at dawn on a recent workday in one canoe and five brightly colored kayaks just south of Los Feliz Boulevard in Atwater Village — one of the few stretches of the Los Angeles River that has a soft bottom and still looks like a river.

It is a rambunctious urban patch of rumbling water, serene greenery and occasional homeless encampments, framed by slanting concrete walls rising to electrical power-line towers, set to an endless soundtrack of freeway traffic. Paddling on the murky water, the kayakers surprised hundreds of shorebirds and waterfowl. Huge carp darted past like bronze torpedoes.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Little chirps in praise of willows and floods

June 7, 2010 § 29 Comments

Photo: Don Sterba, reprinted by LA Times

[ERRATA: Photo of Least bell’s vireo was previously erroneously attributed to the LA Times. The photographer is Don Sterba, who also was the person to see and identify the bird. Apologies to Mr. Sterba for the error. The LA Times published his photo with credit, the oversight here was mine.]

Two pair of Least bell’s vireo, an endangered willow-loving bird, have set up camp in the vicinity of the Ballona Freshwater Marsh. Thanks to the Friends of Ballona Wetlands blog and the LA Times for getting the word out!  The Times piece also touches on the controversy associated with the freshwater marsh and Playa Vista development. I do disagree with the Times’ characterization of the drainage “ditch” Hughes dug. It may have become a drainage ditch, but early USGS maps clearly indicate that Centinela Creek flowed through the land that became Hughes’ airfield, and the landscape there would have been a floodplain and likely transitional freshwater or brackish marsh area, the “ditch” a functioning creek.   « Read the rest of this entry »

The Dry Garden on a Rainy Day

December 11, 2009 § 5 Comments

Creekfreak gets a nod in Emily Green’s Dry Garden blog in the online edition of the LA Times today as we talk about how to bring the creekfreak ethos into your garden.  Follow the water – and the link – for more.

Tragedy at the Elysian Springs

October 26, 2009 § 4 Comments

Thanks to Creekfreak readers who added so much richness of detail to the post, A tree grows on Beaudry. If you are intrigued by Echo Park’s former Arroyo de los Reyes, Elysian Springs and Woolen Mill Ditch, I recommend you scroll through the comments there.  One reader, David Kimbrough, confirmed the rumor of springs at the Elysian Heights Elementary School – near Valentine and Baxter.  He followed up by sending Joe and me a fascinating and creepy Los Angeles Times news clipping from 1904, which I am summarizing for you here.

Los Angeles Times, 1904 (LA Public Library via D. Kimbrough)

Los Angeles Times, 1904 (LA Public Library via D. Kimbrough)

If you’ve ever felt that there’s something slightly haunted about Echo Park, this may be (partially) why.

On the evening of December 27, 1904, Columbus C. Champion, 67, committed fratricide, shooting down his brother Thomas in a “deadly fusillade…in front of the Elysian Springs bottling plant,” for whom Thomas worked as a water delivery man.  Columbus, called “Lum,” lived on property next to the bottling company. Due to Lum’s tyrannical nature, “not only were the members of the murdered man’s family in terror of the surly and churlish relative, but the whole settlement in the little valley through which runs the Echo Park electric line seems…to have dreaded some such tragic outcome as that which took place last night.”

Lum had already been abandoned by his wife, son and father several months previously, and neighbors believed it was “worth almost any effort to keep on good terms.  It is said he has terrorized the neighborhood on numerous occasions…”  Earlier in the day, he fired BB shot at his niece, threatening to kill the entire family, which precipitated the deadly confrontation with his brother.

Thomas, returning to the Elysian Springs Bottling Company, rode his wagon with his son Sam past Lum’s property.  “At once the old man rushed out of the house and began to abuse his brother. Sam Champion, fearing for his father’s safety, secured a revolver from the home, and started up to where his father and uncle were quarreling.  The younger brother (Thomas) was trying to ward off the attacks of Lum, and just as Sam arrived his father told Lum to go back into his own lot and leave him alone, or he would knock him down.  With an oath, Lum started toward the cottage, crying out that he would kill the whole outfit.  He quickly reappeared with his gun, and when within twenty feet of this brother fired the load of shot into his breast.  Thomas sank to the ground and expired almost immediately.”

The villain was unrepentant and actually joking with the police who carried him away.

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