Revealing Rainwater at Seattle’s Othello Station

March 4, 2010 § 1 Comment

Stormwater Project sculpture - Photo from Delicious Baby

Here’s a piece of public art that I think L.A.’s Creek Freaks will enjoy.

While procrastinating today, I was watching an excellent new short Streetfilms documentary about Seattle’s new light rail system (where they actually worked with bicyclists to design bike accommodations at their stations and on their trains.) Near the very end of the video (at 4:07), for about a second there’s a shot of what I now know is part of an art installation called Stormwater Project by a sculptor named Brian Goldbloom. It’s at the Othello Station – where I’ve never been, other than virtually.

It’s a kind of a mini-granite creek that drains rainwater from the roof of the rail station’s downspout, directing that water onto adjacent landscaping.

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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:  TED.com and Streetfilms.

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

 Romulus Whitaker: The real danger lurking in the water – This TED.com 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.

Rainy Morning L.I.D. Workshop at Augustus Hawkins Park

October 14, 2009 § 5 Comments

Wetlands at Augustus Hawkins Nature Park

Wetlands at Augustus Hawkins Nature Park

L.A. Creek Freak was happy to train and bike down to Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park for a city of Los Angeles Low Impact Development (LID) workshop this morning.

The highlight of the trip was exploring parts of the park while it was lightly raining. I hadn’t visited the site since 2005, when I wrote about it as a side trip in my book. The 8-acre park is located at the intersection of Compton and Slauson Avenues in South L.A. – two blocks west of the Slauson Metro Blue Line Station.

The park opened around 2002. It incorporated some of healthy older trees already at the site. The older and newer trees have grown tall and stately. The park features a nature center, picnic area, and paths that wind and spiral through areas of restored native vegetation. The landscape has grown in a great deal, and looked really lush in the rain.

Today’s LID workshop, the last of four scheduled, had about 30 people in attendance, including representation from developers, architects, consultants and engineers, all trying to wrap their heads around the new ordinance.

The workshop presentation was by Shahram Kharaghani, the head of the city Sanitation Bureau’s Watershed Protection division. The description of the ordinance is pretty much the same as what creek freak described in this earlier post. Kharaghani asserted that the city is doing the new LID requirements in advance of them being required as part of the city’s stormwater permit, which is due to be renewed in 2010.

LID is anticipated to consist of an ordinance and a handbook, which Kharaghani stated would be on-line in draft form “soon.”Kharaghani stressed that LID apply to everything public and private, and that the rainwater features prioritized will be natural ones.

While slides showed a seemingly orderly flowchart decision tree, questions revealed the gray areas open to some interpretation. It’s not completely clear exactly how green roofs, treatment of off-site run-off, hillside development, single-family home best management practices (BMP’s) etc. will be handled, but perhaps the soon-to-be online documents can offer additional guidance.  It appears that the main bottom-line standard is the capture of that 85th percentile rainstorm on site.

Kharaghani anticipated that LID requirements would take effect approximately February 2010 – first they go before the Public Works board, city council and mayor for approval.

Today’s L.A. Times on Fisherman and Farmers

August 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

Today on page A2, the L.A. Times has another very good article that is likely to appeal to many of us Creek Freaks. Sacramento correspondent George Skelton’s ‘Water buffaloes’ got it all wrong suggests that California’s delta struggles shouldn’t be framed as farmers vs. fish, but more like farmers and fishermen. The article is perhaps a bit human-centric (and perhaps could mention fisherwomen, too,) but definitely worth reading.

Also, folks might want to listen to Homegrown Evolution‘s first podcast, where L.A. City’s Wing Tam and I speak about the city’s rainwater harvesting program. The stormwater story fills the second half of the hour-long audio file.

News and Events – 12 August 2009

August 12, 2009 § 2 Comments

Some recent coverage of items that might be of interest to our fellow creek freaks – scroll down for events:

>The Los Angeles Times Greenspace Blog entry Trapping the Rain highlights the Natural Resources Defense Council’s new report A Clear Blue Future: How Greening California Cities Can Address Water Resources and Climate Challenges in the 21st Century. The report  is about Low Impact Development “LID” and how we can build smarter to save water and energy.

>Los Angeles westside property owners can trap your own rain if you apply for the city’s new rainwater harvesting program. If you’re looking to set up your own rain harvesting system (like Homegrown Evolution details here) check out creek freak’s favorite water harvesting expert Brad Lancaster‘s recommendations for selecting the least toxic hose

 >Homegrown Evolution reports on the recent approval of California’s smart new greywater law, designed to make it easier to reuse your greywater. Greywater is “used” water from your washing machine, sinks or showers. Mr. Homegrown will  be teaching a greywater workshop this Sunday – see below. Soak in creek freak’s washing machine greywater system here.

>The San Gabriel Valley Tribune covers the new master planning underway for the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area – 1200 acres where the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo squeeze together behind the Whittier Narrows Dam. Also, the Pasadena Star News reports that the Altadena Foothills Conservancy is doing the early planning work to create a new trail system along the Eaton Canyon Wash, which could connect from the foothills above Pasadena all the way down to the Whittier Narrows.

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

>The Los Angeles County Sanitation District website profiles the Bixby Marshland – a 17-acre remnant wetlands located near the intersection of Figueroa and Sepulveda in the city of Carson. They’re looking for volunteers to help steward the site.

>The City Project is about to unveil new proposals for Griffith Park on the East Bank of the Los Angeles River – a future Los Angeles River park on the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks 28-acre Central Service Yard, located at the end  of Chevy Chase Drive in North Atwater. The city is already planning to restore a small remnant creek in one corner of the site.

>Federal stimulus money is helping make the Los Angeles River healthier (though creek freak would like to see it do a whole lot more!) Funds are being used to provide trash capture devices that prevent trash from getting into the river (via Spouting Off.) They’ll be installed in about a dozen downstream cities from Vernon to Montebello to Long Beach. There’s also some federal funding planned for reworking the “Shoemaker Bridge” where the 710 Freeway crosses the Los Angeles River near downtown Long Beach. The project includes doubling the size of Cesar Chavez Park. Let’s hope that it doesn’t hasten the expansion of the rest of the 710 Freeway – a huge threat to restoration on the lower river

>An odd little video featuring a homeless man fishing by throwing rocks into the Los Angeles River (thanks Jeff Chapman.) See creek freak’s earlier post on fish in the L.A. River

>And, for bridge geeks, Blogdowntown reports on the city of Los Angeles’ Cultural Heritage Commission instructions for the city’s bridge engineers to consider more preservation options as they plan to demolish (*sob*) and replace the monumental 1932 6th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. The proposal is to widen and straighten the bridge into freeway proportions. Creek freak feels a wave of despair just writing about this wrong-headed project and its “let’s destroy our heritage while bringing way more cars into dense urban areas” mentality. Here’s a grim rendering of the proposed “3-dual tower cable supported viaduct.”

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Upcoming events to explore and get involved with local creek freaks:

>The excellent documentary movie Tapped shows today and tomorrow at the Arclight theaters in Hollywood. Showtimes hereCreek Freak’s review here.

>This Sunday August 16th at 11am, Homegrown Evolution offers a greywater workshop called “D.I.Y. Greywater: Hack Your Washing Machine

>Friends of the Los Angeles River is hosting a few upcoming Los Angeles River clean-ups. On Saturday August 22nd they’ll be at the Sepulveda Basin, and Saturday August 29th at Taylor Yard. There will also be river sites at this year’s Coastal Clean-Up Day coming up on September 19th.

L.A. City Rainwater Program Looking for Westside Owners

July 22, 2009 § 9 Comments

City Rainwater Harvest Brochure Cover (click image for brochure)

City Rainwater Harvest Brochure Cover (click image for brochure)

The city of Los Angeles is looking for homes and businesses to help harvest rainwater! This is an exciting program for me for a number of reasons.

First off, I am happy just semantically. Agencies usually write “stormwater” – implying: perilous, foreboding, dangerous. We creek freaks, taking a lead from Brad Lancaster, usually write and say “rainwater” – implying more natural maybe even pleasant, romantic. I’m really happy to see that word rainwater in a city document, whether it’s from the city or their PR consultants (who forwarded L.A. Creek Freak a press release about the excellent program.) The language and the collaborative way the program is described signal a positive approach which bodes well.

Another promising aspect is that the program is decentralized and upstream. Often cities look at huge centralized end-of-pipe solutions: collect lots of tainted water, then pump it through an energy-intensive factory to clean it all. This innovative program aims to enlist 600 property owners to harvest rainwater on-site, before it becomes a problem downstream. Monitoring the outflow at a centralized site can be effective, and is perhaps a little more controllable, but it fosters that out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude that has gotten us in trouble on many environmental fronts. It’s sort of like saying “pollute all you want and we’ll clean up after you.” The city’s new rainwater program involves residents collaboratively; it connects them with natural cycles. It has multiple benefits. It reduces run-off, which prevents polluted waters from impacting human and eco-system health. That reduced run-off incrementally reduces risks of flooding (that flood risk is what lead to the paving of much of local waterways.) Capturing rainwater also reduces local reliance on imported water… hence lessening the huge negative environmental impacts of pumping all that water; those impacts include global warming and ecosystem degradation to the point of species extinction.

So… what does this program actually do? The city will install free rain barrels, and will redirect downspouts so that they direct water into landscaping, instead of into a stormdrain. (Maybe the city will actually make these activities legal in the city’s building codes, someday, too? A guy can dream, no? Sorry, we now return to what I am trying to make a gushingly positive post.) It’s all made available free to the property owner, though she’ll need to sign-off on maintenance and liability agreements.

Map of Eligible Neighborhoods for LA Rainwater Program - from city brochure

Map of Eligible Neighborhoods for LA Rainwater Program - from city brochure

Right now the program is only a pilot in parts of the Ballona Creek / Santa Monica Bay Watersheds. Here are maps of neighborhoods which are eligible to participate in the initial program. They include the Jefferson Area (bounded by Jefferson, La Brea, Adams, and La Cienega/Fairfax) and the Sawtelle / Mar Vista Area (bounded by Sawtelle Pico, Bundy/Centinela and Venice.) If you own property in the pilot area, contact the city right away to sign-up!

Hopefully this program will be a tremendous success and will expand to other parts of the city and of Southern California. L.A. Creek Freak looks forward to blogging more about the success stories that will come out of the program.

Updates: Gate and Garden

April 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

Fixing the Great Heron Gate

Fixing the Great Heron Gate

Today it’s up-to-the-minute updates on things that Creek Freak covered earlier:

As I was bicycling to speak at an Earth Day event, I passed a Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority crew re-assembling Brett Goldstone’s Great Heron Gate. As I had reported in an earlier post, the gate was damaged, apparently hit by a car. Thanks to the quick quality work of the MRCA, it’s all better now.

I also got a chance today to check in on my friend’s mom’s native rain garden that I wrote about earlier. Nearly all the plants are alive. The snapdragon didn’t make it. The heuchera is blooming wildly, the irises too, and the California Buckwheat is spreading nicely. There’s a wildflower that came up all over but hasn’t bloomed yet – I think it’s clarkia. At nearly three months out it’s looking good, but the test will be getting it through the hot summer without too much or too little water. I’ve been dropping by and watering once a month or so (in between Spring rains.) All these plants and seeds are from the Theodore Payne Foundation native California plant nursery.

Below is a photo gallery.

Alum root (Heuchera) in Bloom

Alum root (Heuchera) in Bloom

Buttercup (yellow flowers) and Alum Root (pink flowers)

Buttercup (yellow flowers) and Alum Root (pink flowers)

Juncus (the tall straight reeds)

Juncus (the tall straight reeds)

View of the Garden Bed (note that it's pretty shady)

View of the Garden Bed (note that it's pretty shady)

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