Restoring Neighborhood Streams: a book that LA could use

February 19, 2018 § 9 Comments


Creekfreaks! If you, like me, have resolved to pull away a bit from the netflix-amazonprime-hulu bingefests that serve as a daily nonpharma escapist (are we really living these political times?) opiate, and if maybe you, like me, are rediscovering those magical things called books – then I have a few reads for you! They range from  practical, to lyrical, to celebratory. Personally, I find them all inspirational. In today’s post, I give you –

The Practical: Restoring Neighborhood Streams; Planning, Design, and Construction

Restoring Neighborhood Streams; Planning, Design, and Construction (2016, Island Press), builds on author A.L. Riley’s decades of engagement and effort in the restoring and daylighting of streams in urban and suburban areas. This Creekfreak was especially influenced by Riley and her work. Her previous book, Restoring Streams in Cities, is well dog-eared in my library, and has been an important go-to reference for how to think about stream function and restoration design. This new book provides case studies that illuminate fundamental questions that should be the basis for planning and design of urban stream restoration:

  • Is it physically feasible to restore?
  • Is it financially feasible?
  • Does the public support (I’d add: political will) exist to support land use changes to support a live river or stream?

« Read the rest of this entry »

Processes of becoming: water and wastewater in some Northwest urban landscapes

October 2, 2011 § 5 Comments

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Last week I spent time in a city where rivers and streams are so much a fabric of the culture, they are a character in public life, possibly even approaching equals along with salmon, Microsoft, clearcut forest, and eagles… « Read the rest of this entry »

Upcoming Event: Creekfreak talk at South Coast CNPS

October 29, 2010 § 5 Comments

Cross-section demonstrating naturalization strategy in soon-to-be-completed planning study.

Monday night I’m giving a talk at the South Coast California Native Plant Society. Come on down! The talk is “Hope for Southern California Streams” and my hope is to stuff flowers in your muskets and arm you with a sense of the possible, to fuel our collective political will on behalf of our waterways and remnant habitat patches – with some specific time to think out loud about South Bay wild things (and I’m so not referring to beach bunnies).

When: 7:30pm

Where: South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Boulevard, Palos Verdes, CA 90274

Opportunity knocks at Compton Creek

July 11, 2010 § 3 Comments

Public officials on Compton Creek last week. Photo: Mia Lehrer.

Last Wednesday’s press conference on Compton Creek with EPA official Lisa Jackson has been the source of much navigability excitement in the creekfreak blogosphere, but as Joe mentioned, the press conference had another purpose: to bring together officialdom to celebrate and unite in purpose around acquisition of part of Compton Creek.

If you think the navigability issue on LA’s waterways is tricky, you should take a look at ownership! « 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 »

Creek celebration at El Dorado Nature Center

March 30, 2010 § 2 Comments

The newly re-made (man-made) stream at El Dorado Nature Center

The El Dorado Nature Center’s stream flows again!  The City and construction team, led by Bubalo  Construction, completed the regrading of the stream, protecting the banks with a mix of coir fabric and in places of high traffic, stone retaining walls. Willows staked into the coir will grow into trees, stabilizing the banks with their roots. « Read the rest of this entry »

Streambank sushi

December 28, 2009 § 2 Comments

Down in Long Beach, streambank stabilization continues.  The Friday before the Christmas holidays, Drew Goetting of Restoration Design Group (in other words, my boss) flew down from Berkeley to train folks working at the El Dorado Nature Center on the process.  Following is a little photo essay on making a willow wattle, for example.

The running joke was how much it was like making sushi.  You lay down your fabric (or seaweed) in a little trench, put in the willow and soil (or rice, fish, avocado…) and roll it up.  Two big exceptions to the analogy:  the wattle needs stakes (we used live willow posts that will sprout into trees) and the sushi roll tastes better.

Soil bioengineering techniques like this have been used for centuries, and have found a resurgence in rural areas of America, as well as in some urban restorations in Northern California.  Willow has long been observed to have tenacious roots that provide natural armoring of streambanks.  And while the roots are strong, the trees themselves are flexible: if they fall over in a large flood, they form a layer that also protects the banks.  But it is important to understand the dynamic interplay between a stream’s structure and how it functions, or forms its channel, however, in order to place these treatments correctly.

Stream restoration projects installed a couple of years ago at the Mountains Restoration Trust (Dry Canyon Creek) and (to a lesser degree) on Las Virgenes Creek also used forms of streambank soil bioengineering – proving that it has applicability here in Southern California.

Creekfreak gets sent to the (not-a) Cornfield

September 28, 2009 § 3 Comments

But not in a Twilight Zone kind of a way!  I am giving a talk at the Farmlab/Not-A-Cornfield space, located next to the historic Cornfields aka Los Angeles State Historic Park.

When:  Friday October 9, noon

Where:  1745 North Spring Street, Unit 4, LA 90012

Under the umbrella of Los Angeles & Water, I’ll probably touch on all my favorite subjects – water, Los Angeles, creeks, urban design, political will, birth control…

Come on down!

Woodburied Creek

June 29, 2009 § 19 Comments

There’s been a lot of interest in the past few years in restoring the former stream through Washington Park.  Yesterday, LA Creekfreak got a specific request about this creek, the poster, Stanley, said it is believed that the creek’s name was Woodbury Creek.  I believe this may have also been the area of interest to my mystery emailer, “Chris” whose email I had lost.  So here goes….

Scroll through the gallery above for reference, click to enlarge the images.  The 1900 USGS map shows a little swale topography but doesn’t indicate a stream, however they defined it at that time.  The swale signature, however, means that rain water was concentrating along this alignment, and it is likely that stream habitats coexisted – we see examples of that all the time in our dwindling but still-present riparian areas.  The 1928 Altadena USGS quadrangle shows a more tightly defined “swale” that was likely the stream – or could be the “stream” was the result of an effort by farmers to concentrate and ditch the water running off their property.  In the next image, I’ve traced in the line of stream flow indicated by the swale, and in the 4th image, I’ve overlaid the contemporary street grid and County stormdrains, which don’t overlay much of the creek – I suspect the City of Pasadena may also have stormdrains over the creek, as we all know it is encased in concrete today.  This last image was also overlaid in GoogleEarth, and the .kmz file can be downloaded from the GoogleEarth community forum if you want to view it against aerial imagery (download the attachment that I have posted there).

You will note the stream tapers off without physically connecting to anything downstream.  There could be lots of reasons for that.  Given the alluvial fan soils, it may have just all seeped into the shallow groundwater table, eventually flowing from the groundwater out to one of several surface streams downstream (in the general vicinity of the Huntington Gardens).  That and other creeks in Pasadena will be in other posts.

Good luck, ye of Washington Park – let me know if you need some help with restoration design!

Stream Restoration Planned at Hazard Park

April 29, 2009 § 15 Comments

Remnant Wetlands in Hazard Park (April 2009 Photo)

Remnant Wetlands in Hazard Park (April 2009 Photo)

There’s an effort afoot to restore a degraded streambed in one of Los Angeles City’s oldest parks. The 25-acre Hazard Park, named after Henry Thomas Hazard who was the mayor of Los Angeles from 1889 to 1892, became a city park in 1884. It’s located on the east side – along Soto Street, between Valley and Marengo, near County USC Medical Center.

After being a creek for milliena, the Hazard Park creek site became part of the city’s zanja system – municipal ditches for irrigation and water delivery. It subsequently was a railroad spur track (splitting the park into two) for the Pacific Electric streetcars/trains. The rails have been removed, and a very degraded stream is slowly making a comeback.

Today, there are telltale signs of riparian habitat, including cattails and dragonflies, and even some standing water, during the wetter months… but it’s rather weedy and uninviting for most 2-leggeds. To visit the wetlands site, you can pretty much enter Hazard Park anywhere and proceed downhill. One way is to go to the Recreation Center (where Playground Street turns into Norfolk Street – 2230 Norfolk Street, Los Angeles CA 90033.) Go south into the park, between the Rec Center and the baseball fields. Pass the tennis courts, then turn left onto the path between the tennis courts and the tot lot playground. The ground dips down into a low weedy area. To get to the wettest parts, turn right and head down (south) toward the Charlotte Street Bridge.

Various groups – including the city of Los Angeles, the Hazard Park Advisory Board, BlueGreen, North East Trees, the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, the Sierra Club, and others – have done work to clean up, plan and publicize restoration efforts… but there’s still plenty of work and funding needed. Lately, with funding from the Sierra Club, the Hazard Park Teen Club, working with Carrie Sutkin, Val Marquez, and Carmelo Alvarez have produced a Hazard Times newsletter (which included some paid illustration work by me.) I couldn’t find the newsletter on-line, but they’ll probably send you one if you ask. To get involved in the Hazard Park stream restoration efforts, email Scott Johnson at outwardscott {at} yahoo {dot} com.

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