Pacoima Wash Greenway Moving Forward

March 19, 2014 § 1 Comment

The City of San Fernando's 8th Street Park along the Pacoima Wash. It's looking good, ready to open soon, and will be a future entry point for the planned Pacoima Wash greenway.

The City of San Fernando’s 8th Street Park along the Pacoima Wash. It’s looking good, ready to open soon, and will be a future entry point for the planned Pacoima Wash greenway.

I am blogging full-time over at Streetsblog L.A., so not posting much here at L.A. Creek Freak (excuses, excuses), but I thought Creek Freaks might like this article I wrote. The city of San Fernando is moving ahead on its 1.6-mile greenway along the Pacoima Wash.

Earlier Creek Freak articles about this include this intro to Pacoima Beautiful’s efforts, and this exploration of San Fernando’s 8th Street Park, which is due to open in the next couple months.

Pacoima Wash Meeting this Thursday

June 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

You're invited to a meeting this Thursday to help design improvements to the Pacoima Wash. Click on image for full bilingual flier

Way back in 2008, L.A. Creek Freak wrote a post about Pacoima Beautiful’s plans for a greenway along the Pacoima Wash. They’ve been hard at work, organizing in the community and moving the project forward. At 7pm this Thurday June 10th 2010, Pacoima Beautiful is hosting a community meeting to get your ideas for a portion of the greenway project. Click here for the full bilingual flier with meeting details.

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Innovative Stormwater Park Under Construction on the Pacoima Wash

October 14, 2008 § 1 Comment

Under Construction along the Pacoima Wash

8th Street Park's Creekbed Under Construction along the Pacoima Wash

The Pacoima Wash is hopping these days. You may recall Creek Freak’s recent post on Pacoima Beautiful’s efforts there, but that’s not all! The 8th Street Park Project is an excellent innovative multi-benefit park project that’s under construction right now. It’s located on the west bank of the wash extending from 8th Street to Foothill Boulevard in the city of San Fernando in the north end of the San Fernando Valley. The park is a joint project of the city and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (the MRCA is a state agency, responsible for most of the small parks developed along the Los Angeles River in recent years – they’re a joint powers authority that’s linked to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.)

The project was designed by BlueGreen – an environmental design firm consisting of Lynne Dwyer and Martin Kammerer. Dwyer is a landscape architect who’s responsible for most of North East Trees‘ early pocket parks along the Los Angeles River.  I like to credit her with the look and feel of river revitalization in Los Angeles – native landscape, permeable surfaces, river rock, public art, etc. Kammerer is a fluvial geomorphologist who was formerly with the MRCA’s watershed division.  Creek freak sat down with Dwyer and Kammerer to bring you information on this very cool new park project.

Like many concreted streams in the San Fernando Valley, the Pacoima Wash has a fair amount of undeveloped right-of-way along it. That creekside land is ripe to become a greenway to connect residents with mountains upstream and the ocean downstream. 8th Street park is being developed on a 3-acre vacant parcel, combined with additional county right-of-way to form an approximately 5-acre park. Streets there, including Bromont Avenue, which dead-end into the Pacoima Wash have often been a nuisance and an eyesore due to illegal trash dumping.

Plan view of 8th Street Park on the Pacoima Wash

Plan view of 8th Street Park on the Pacoima Wash

The park will feature native landscape with walking trails and areas for picnicing and seating. In an innovative watershed management feature, the park is designed to detain and treat stormwater run-off from the surrounding 33-acre residential and commercial neighborhood. The formerly flat site has been extensively re-graded to construct a large central creekbed running parallel to the wash. Stormwater enters the site via two small circular plazas (placitas) with large central native sycamore trees. These placitas feature what are essentially underground filters to settle and remove trash and other solid pollution before the water enters the creekbed. Water collects in the vegetated creekbed, soaking into the ground, sustaining native vegetation and removing additional pollutants. In large storm events, waters from the park overflow into the wash.

Park Cross Section at Bromont Avenue Placita

Park Cross Section at Bromont Avenue Placita

Implementing these multi-benefit watershed management parks will incrementally solve problems with water quality (pollution) and quantity (flooding.)  This results in healthier rivers and oceans downstream – while also providing much-needed green-space in park-poor neighborhoods. Creek freak is looking forward to the grand opening of the Pacoima Wash’s new 8th Street Park, expected in May 2009.

(All images in this blog entry courtesy BlueGreen.)

Pacoima Wash, Pacoima Beautiful

September 25, 2008 § 3 Comments

The Pacoima Wash downstream of the San Fernando Road Bridge

The Pacoima Wash downstream of the San Fernando Road Bridge

The non-profit Pacoima Beautiful is undertaking a 3-year community process to plan and implement a community greenway along the Pacoima Wash. The neighborhood of Pacoima (part of the city of Los Angeles) is located in the north end of the San Fernando Valley.

The Pacoima Wash is a tributary to the Tujunga Wash which is in turn tributary to the Los Angeles River. The Pacoima Wash originates in the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains, where it’s still very wild. Before entering the Valley, the Pacoima Wash’s natural flows are cut off by Pacoima Dam and the Lopez Debris Basin, so during dry weather there’s very little stream flow. The combined Tujunga Wash / Pacoima Wash watershed was recently the subject of a thorough and exciting watershed plan, created by The River Project.

Pacoima is a Tataviam Native American word that, depending where you look, means “the entrance” or “flowing waters“. The communities along the Pacoima Wash are some of the region’s poorest, resulting from past racial segregation. Historically, Pacoima was the only part of the Valley where blacks could live and own. In recent years, the African-American population has shifted to predominantly Latino.

Pacoima Beautiful is a non-profit organization that works on environmental justice and environmental health issues in, you guessed it, Pacoima. PB received a grant through the County Public Health Department’s PLACE (Policies for Livable, Active Communities and Environments) program. The PLACE program funds community and city efforts to create changes in the built environment to foster better health by incorporating more physical activity into people’s daily lives. Pacoima Beautiful will be working with the community to create a Pacoima Wash Greenway Master Plan which will extend from Lopez Debris Basin to the Pacoima Spreading Grounds (which are located south of Devonshire Street, east of Woodman Avenue.) Additionally, they’ll be working with local partners to create an initial linear park along the wash in the vicinity of Telfair Avenue, where there are two linear vacant areas along the creek. This is an important chance to get new green space into one of the most park-poor communities in Los Angeles. Continuous trails along the Pacoima Wash can make it safe and convenient for local residents to bike or hike up into the San Gabriel Mountains, or, someday, down the Los Angeles River to the Pacific Ocean.

Creek Freak had an opportunity recently to walk the area with Pacoima Beautiful’s Max Podemski. The wash’s channel is anonymous trapezoidal concrete. At some streets that dead-end into the Pacoima Wash, there are issues with illegal trash dumping. There is quite a bit of vacant space, though, so there’s a good potential space for greening in a neighborhood that can really use it. Creek Freak is looking forward to seeing what Pacoima Beautiful comes up with along this neglected tributary.

If you’re intersted in getting involved in this project, email Max at “mpodemski {at}”

(Note that the adjacent city of San Fernando is currently under construction with its Pacoima Wash greenway project – I’ll blog about that one soon, too.)

What’s the Plan?

August 29, 2008 § 1 Comment

Rendering of a Revitalized Los Angeles River in Downtown L.A. (from the city of L.A.'s LA River Revitalization Master Plan)

Rendering from the City of LA's River Plan

Recently someone asked me to show some sections of the L.A. River that are “not covered by the plan.” In the light of publicity around the city of Los Angeles’ recent plan (the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan – the LARRMP – adopted in 2007), many people assume that it’s the plan for the river. While the LARRMP has a lot of great features, it’s actually a relative newcomer on the scene, building on the success of Los Angeles County’s plan (the Los Angeles River Master Plan – the LARMP – adopted in 1996.)

The Los Angeles River is part of an interconnected system of tributaries, many of which have their own plans. The waterways are the spine of the Los Angeles River watershed; tributaries have their nestled subwatersheds. Many problems in the river corridors – especially flooding and pollution (water quantity and quality, respectively) – are nearly impossible to solve just by fixing up our waterways themselves. Solving these problems requires planning on the watershed scale… so there are watershed plans and sub-watershed plans, too.

There are officially adopted plans by cities, counties, and other public agencies. These cover river corridors, water quality, river zones, individual parks, bike paths, etc. There are also plans created by advocacy groups, who don’t necessarily see ourselves as limited by the adopted master plans. There are also various vision plans created by students, engineering firms, artists, and others.

Often plans are referred to by their acronyms, which can be very similar – there’s the LARMP and the LARRMP, the IRP and IRWMP… Is your head spinning yet? Mine is, and I live and breathe this stuff.

So, in order to help folks familarize themselves with some of the acronyms plans for the L.A. River (and that’s just one of the half-dozen rivers in L.A. County,) here’s a short list of some that I think are worth knowing about… this is not an exhaustive list – feel free to comment with your favorite plan that I’ve omitted!

LARMP – The Los Angeles River Master Plan was adopted by the county of Los Angeles in 1996. It covers the entire Los Angeles River and the portion of the Tujunga Wash downstream of Hansen Dam. The LARMP was a collaborative effort between three separate county departments: Public Works, Regional Planning and Parks and Recreation. The pioneering document was instrumental in opening up the formerly fenced-off river, and has resulted in various additional documents, including guidelines for signage and landscaping.

LARRMP – The Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan was adopted by the city of Los Angeles in 2007. It covers the 32 miles (about 2/3rds) of the river within the city of L.A. – from Canoga Park to Vernon. The LARRMP calls for a greenway along the river, and for dramatic interventions at five opportunity sites: Canoga Park, Verdugo Wash, Taylor Yard, Cornfields/Chinatown, and Downtown L.A.

IRP – The Integrated Resources Plan is the city of Los Angeles’ plan for wastewater, stormwater and recycled water for the next 20 years.

IRWMP – The Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, known unfortunately as the “Urr Wimp”, is a mega-plan for Los Angeles County that focuses water supply, while also incorporating aspects of watershed management, recreation, groundwater recharge, flood prevention, restoration, and perhaps even the kitchen sink. It’s a unwieldy document that folds together various projects, mostly so the region can say that we’re working together and therefore we qualify for state funding. Creekfreak’s hero Anne Riley has called IRWMPs “the big staple” – more-or-less an exercise in stapling various water agency projects together.

Long Beach RiverLink is the city of Long Beach’s master plan for their 10 miles of the Los Angeles River. Adopted in 2003, RiverLink plans more than 220 acres of new parks along the lower river.

And that’s not all. There are plan for tributaries, including the Tujunga Pacoima Watershed Plan (by The River Project), a handful of Arroyo Seco plans (by the city of Pasadena for various stretches, by North East Trees and the Arroyo Seco Foundation, and one underway by the Army Corps of Engineers), more for the Rio Hondo (part of Los Angeles County’s San Gabriel River Corridor Master Plan, the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy’s Rio Hondo Watershed Management Plan, and Amigos de los Rios’ Emerald Necklace plan), and a couple for Compton Creek (the city of Compton’s Compton Creek Regional Garden Park Master Plan and the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council’s Compton Creek Watershed Management Plan.)

Thank you dear reader for getting this far with me… all these plans are making me forget the point I was intending to make. Overall these multiple overlapping and interconnecting plans are worthwhile: they include some opportunities for public input and public awareness; they direct governmental expenditures to the river; and they’ve resulted in new parks, paths, public art, landscaping and more. One of the issues with them is the scale: to really solve problems, we need to look at the whole watershed, but when we’re looking at a watershed scale, the plans become cumbersome and difficult for local communities to identify with. It’s difficult to strike the balance between comprehensive and specific.

Advocates should be familiar with these plans, and should use them where they serve us, but shouldn’t be limited by plans’ shortcomings. The 1996 county LARMP, useful and important as it was and still is, didn’t include large new parks at Taylor Yard or the Cornfield Yards or even small ones including Marsh Park or Steelhead Park. Much of the work done along the river have been bottom-up grassroots efforts where environmentalists, residents, soccer players, businesses, bicyclists, parents, and others (including some elected officials and governmental agencies) came together around meeting the needs of local communities.

To date, a lot of the river revitalization projects, from South Gate to Frogtown to El Monte have been opportunistic. Considerably less of an orderly implementation of master planning than opportunistic seizing of opportunities. Our waterways run through diverse neighborhoods, so our plans for healthy rivers should be diverse, too. We should respect the steps forward taken through past planning efforts while we continue go beyond them.

(Keep your RSS tuned to LA Creek Freak – More information on these and other plans in upcoming blogs!)

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