A developer’s option could take the rio out of Rio de Los Angeles State Park

December 21, 2011 § 9 Comments

[Updated with corrected development costs.  Thanks to Melanie Winter at The River Project for the corrections.]

Things are about to get a little ridiculous over by the RIO DE LOS ANGELES State Park.  Because that whole Rio de Los Angeles part could potentially be blocked from that State Park part by a wall of industrial development.  Kids, come and play soccer over by this…well never mind.

Here’s the shortish explanation:  Anyone remember that huge battle to buy the Taylor Yards and create a vision for a riverside park(1,2), with the potential for eventual naturalization of the river along this largest underutilized brownfield parcel on the river?  We got 40 acres and developed parkland along San Fernando Road for something like $45 million, with another parcel (aka G2) between that and the river.  (We also got an 18-acre strip, G1, along the river further upstream for an additional $10.7m- A link to parcels and ownership is here.)  Parcel G2 (that really should be river floodplain) is up for grabs.   Developer Trammel Crow appears to be an interested buyer in G2, and is apparently talking industrial development.  Is this a ploy – common enough in local environmental conservation/acquisition efforts –  to up the property value with entitlements and re-sell to the City/State for a big return?  And who would take on remediation costs in such a scenario?  Who knows.  Why even let the situation get to that point?  Here’s a link to a petition, sponsored by The River Project, an organization that’s carried the Taylor Yard torch from early on, to Trammel Crow asking them to withdraw their interest in exercising their option to buy.  Phew, that’s a mouthful.  But hopefully correctly stated.

I’m a little confused why/if the City/State didn’t have an option to buy this parcel, and why “railbanking,” something the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy makes look so doable never seems to be so in LA.

Anyway…we need our developers to share our vision of a livable Los Angeles – and to put their resources towards making it happen.  This action seems like the wrong direction when visions of a Los Angeles living with natural processes is actually becoming chic.   This is even more humiliating when you see how Chicago has managed to coalesce around a really big vision of a 140,000 acre conversion of brownfields to wildlands.  (Yes, you just read 140,000.)  A higher quality of life supports multiple returns on investment, so what’s the big?

Some of Joe’s previous posts related to the Taylor Yards/Rio de Los Angeles State Park:

Demolition at the Taylor Yards

What’s the Plan

Touring Native Plantings at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park

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What’s Up, Whatcom Creek?

November 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

Fish ladder on Whatcom Creek

I recently made a quick trip to Bellingham, Washington, where Whatcom Creek flows through the center of this old salmon fishery/lumber town-turned-college town.  It’s a sweet place, walkable, bikeable, with generous greenway trails that were former railroad lines.  Bellingham has its own issues, of course – among them paved-over historical wetlands currently used as railyards that are slated to become bermed mixed use development (bermed, of course, to protect from storm surges, flooding, you know, stuff that happens in wetlands) instead of restored habitat that would benefit salmon fisheries.  Just more of the everyday environmentally harmful planning decisions which are the background noise to big news stories like the fight over a coal shipping depot.

But back to the beauty.

Here’s some photos from a quick jaunt along Whatcom Creek.  These photos were taken right next to Bellingham’s Civic Center, just a few steps of descent from the street (and spitting distance from Occupy Bellingham, which was holding firm in the 30° nights!).  My friend giving me the tour – and my coworker who advised me to look for this creek – tell me salmon still run the Whatcom.  This bridge used to be a barrier until the fish ladder was installed (there are other barriers upstream, however).

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Enjoy the photos – and believe in the possibility of such a visage – perhaps a somewhat drier one – with steelhead trout, on the Arroyo Seco, or Las Virgenes Creek, Ballona Creek… We don’t need fake creeks in Los Angeles, we need real ones that bring spring runs for our fish, shade trails, offer us seasonal cycles of willows budding, fluffing out, turning from silvery green to yellow, golden, deciduous, delirious.

Our waterways are restorable, it is about political will, whether the public wants it enough.  Do we?

Trying to Respect Work Toward a Halfway Decent North Spring Street Bridge Project

May 15, 2011 § 11 Comments

Back in 2006, the city of Los Angeles proposed tearing down the 1929 North Spring Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. The city planned to demolish the locally and nationally recognized historic bridge and construct a brand new bridge. The project included widening North Spring Street  from about 43 feet to about 96 feet. More than double. Really. Spring would have gone from a large neighborhood-scale street to a freeway-scale street.

It was particularly irritating to me that city engineering folks would present this project as needed for bike safety and for river revitalization… though no cycling or river groups were pushing for it, and, in fact, many opposed it. Grrrrr. Cyclists sure don’t need fifty-feet’ worth of widening.  Wider bridges and streets just mean faster-moving cars… making conditions less safe for biking and walking. And if you really wanted to spend ~$50million to make the river healthier and/or to make streets safer for bikes, there are a lot better and more effective ways to spend it. To me, it’s clearly about wider roads for more and more and more cars… in a dense central part of the city where high percentages of people walk, bike and take transit… hence it’s about jamming more non-local car traffic into Lincoln Heights and Chinatown.

Enjoy and defend our historic bridges while you still can. Pictured: Detroit Avenue Bridge over the Rocky River - Cleveland, Ohio - demolished

Due to a lot of pressure, mostly from historic preservation folks, that massively wrong-headed version of the project is now off the table. Whew.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Off to the Rio de Flag

April 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Rio de Flag. Photo by Friends of the Rio de Flag.

I’m boarding the Southwest Chief to Flagstaff, home of Friends of the Rio de Flag, a community group organized to “support preservation and restoration of the natural beauty and beneficial functions of the Rio de Flag stream channel.” I’ll be talking at their annual Membership Meeting on the topic of “An Ecological Los Angeles: Just Add Water Political Will.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Natural Habitat or Grass? South Pasadena Council to Decide

April 1, 2011 § 7 Comments

Photo: Barbara Eisenstein.

And today’s ticking time bomb for the remnant wildness of LA is in South Pasadena, along the Arroyo Seco. South Pasadena is considering taking over some undeveloped land between the Arroyo Seco Golf Course and the Arroyo Seco Nature Park. This undeveloped land has lovely habitat – which you can view in some detail at Barbara Eisenstein’s Wild Suburbia blog.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Another creek faces the pipe – San Fernando Valley edition

March 28, 2011 § 9 Comments

April 4th is the deadline to give comment on a draft EIR that if approved will consign another small creek to permanent pipe-age in the City of LA.

[Updated paragraph] Download  the draft EIR from this City of LA site by clicking Environmental/Draft EIR in the left panel of that page. Then click on the bold-font title of The Village at Westfield Topanga to be taken to a download site.  That bold font fooled me when I first wrote this post, didn’t understand that it was a hyperlink. Thanks to readers for setting me straight! It can also be found at the Central Library, and Woodland Hills, Canoga Park and Platt Branch libraries or purchased on CD-Rom.

The creek – located at Owensmouth and Victory in the San Fernando Valley, has been dubbed Owensmouth Creek by locals. Its history is a little tricky to me, as it doesn’t appear on historical USGS maps.  GIS data from the County of Los Angeles, however, does indicate what looks to be a diversion of drainage from Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, labelled as an open channel.  Navigate LA calls it a city stormdrain, D-17768. But more incontrovertible is photography. Jim Anderson, of the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council, shared with me a photo of the threatened waterway.

Destined for a pipe? Photo: Roger Gerrish, provided courtey Jim Anderson.

Channel?  Bed?  Banks?  Sediment? Water (including seasonal)? Direction of Flow?

Looks like we’ve got a stream that meets the City’s definition. So why again is this small edge of the property being piped and paved, not set aside as a public park, or dare we suggest, part of the Low Impact Development/stormwater mitigation plan?

I’m told it’s needed for part of a Costco members’ service station at the planned Village at Westfield Topanga, folks.

I’ll just leave us all to ponder that for now.

Coverage in the Daily News here.

Send comments by 4/4 to:

Elva Nuño-O’Donnell, City Planner
City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning
6262 Van Nuys Boulevard, Room 351
Los Angeles, California 91401
(818) 374-5070 (fax)
Elva.nuno-odonnell@lacity.org

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 »

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