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,