When a tree falls in Hollenbeck Park

July 13, 2011 § 8 Comments

In my work with CicLAvia, I’ve been enjoying passing the time sometimes in Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights. It’s a great historic park in a great historic neighborhood, well-loved by the community… both community and park have been degraded by freeways… but both community and park are hanging in there doing all right.

I forget when I first became aware of it, but I was kinda fond of this tree, leaning over the lake at Hollenbeck:

Lakeside sycamore tree at Hollenbeck Park - August 2010

After Sunday’s CicLAvia group ride, I noticed the tree wasn’t there:

Lakeside sycamore stump at Hollenbeck Park - July 2011

(sorry I didn’t quite succeed in getting exactly the same angle on my before and after shots.)  « Read the rest of this entry »

Places to Visit: Burbank’s Lake-Providencia Bridge and Compass Tree Park

April 19, 2011 § 13 Comments

The 1949 Lake-Providencia Bridge - double parentheses, one in the foreground, the other in the upper right

The Burbank Western Wash runs pretty anonymously through the city of Burbank, and a tiny bit of the city of Glendale, then enters the L.A. River at a confluence just upstream of Bette Davis Picnic Area. As far as I know, it’s all concrete box-channel. There’s not too much going on there, though the city has a few bike paths planned.

I first explored the Burbank Western Wash (sometimes called the Burbank Western Channel) while I was tracking down bridges for my book, Down by the Los Angeles River. A librarian friend found me a Caltrans list of all the bridges in Los Angeles County. I reviewed the date on each bridge and bicycled out to check out every L.A. River watershed bridge built before the mid-1950s.

The anonymous Burbank Western Wash, from Verdugo Avenue

Most of the bridges on the Burbank Western Wash are nice, but unremarkable. In my book, I described them as “unassuming, friendly, neighborhood-scale bridges.” From upstream to downstream, these include:

  • Magnolia Boulevard (now frontage road) 1949
  • Olive Avenue (now frontage road) 1949
  • Verdugo Avenue (now frontage road) 1949
  • Lake Street and Providencia Avenue 1949
  • Alameda Avenue 1949
  • Victory Boulevard 1940
  • Riverside Drive 1940 (in city of Glendale – all others in city of Burbank)

The 1940 bridges feature decorative metal railing, with concrete posts, and a modest arch below. The 1949 bridges all feature the same pleasant concrete railing, ending at quarter-circle-shaped approach walls. They’re flat – no arch. Not bad, not spectacular or flashy.

The curved concrete railing of the 1949 Lake-Providencia bridge

When I was exploring these, though, one caught my attention: the 1949 Lake Street and Providencia Avenue Bridge. It’s not much compared to, say, the L.A. River bridges in downtown Los Angeles, but it is nice in its own way – and has a sweet small Compass Point Sycamore Park adjacent downstream. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Arcadia Woodlands: In Memoriam

January 14, 2011 § 11 Comments

A view into a cathedral-like canopy that exists only in memory as of Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Indulge my sorrow for a moment by pondering this: as a complex and regenerative living system, the Arcadia Woodlands did not have a date of birth. Yes, technically the site contained trees that could be counted and carbon dated to determine age, but this approach fails to take into account the perpetuity of life and death that had existed there for thousands of years. The Woodlands were born long before the human concept of birth, before our concept of tree. This dynamic ensemble of life bore witness to countless iterations of diversity and evolution. The Woodlands were, at one time, undoubtedly inhabited by species we will never have the opportunity to name. They were shaped by wind, water, fire, plate tectonics and natural selection, forces far beyond the influence of the minuscule Homo sapiens, the seldom-wise-but-often-arrogant man. Yet, in less than one day, this ecology that knows no time was irreverently reduced to a memory by a construction crew swinging steel arms, and by officials wielding twisted words and hasty pens. « Read the rest of this entry »

Woodland Update: The Eve of Destruction

January 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

From left to right, David Czamanske (Sierra Club), Cam Stone (Arcadia), Caroline Brown (Sierra Madre) and Glen Owens (Monrovia) speak in front of Supervisor Michael Antonovich during the L.A. County Board of Supervisors Meeting


  • D-DAY (DEMOLITION DAY) IS TOMORROW!!!: Cam Stone reports that at 11:15PM tonight, he witnessed a large flat-bed truck passing by his house on Elkins Avenue (driving away from the gate that leads to the Woodlands), followed by what appeared to be a government vehicle (black Crown Victoria). This likely means that the heavy machinery will be on site for work in the morning. Time is near gone for the venerable oaks and sycamores of the Arcadia Woodlands.
  • Protest at Elkins Avenue gate: As a last-ditch effort, supporters will gather at the Elkins Aveune gate at 7:00AM sharp to protest the destruction of the Arcadia Woodlands. If you are available tomorrow and at all vested in this issue, this is most likely your last opportunity to act. Directions: From the 210 Freeway, head north on Santa Anita Avenue (for approx. 1.5 miles), make a right on Elkins Avenue, drive about 1/2 mile to the end of Elkins, the gate is at the end of the road.
  • City of Arcadia finally recognizes the project is flawed: As reported in the Arcadia Patch, the City of Arcadia sent a letter to Supervisor Michael Antonovich this morning explaining that they were now (finally) aware that the Santa Anita Reservoir Sediment Removal Project may actually result in more truck loads through the neighborhood rather than less (as was explained by the County during the EIR process… the idea of trucks driving through Arcadia neighborhoods on a continual basis was not well-received in the community and public opposition led to the County’s choice of the plan that would clear the Woodlands to prevent trucking through the neighborhood). The City of Arcadia expressed concern because by destroying the Woodlands, the County would gain 500,000 cubic yards of space for future sediment dumping (not all of which would come from Santa Anita Reservoir but from seven other debris basins outside the City of Arcadia as well, which means… trucks through Arcadia neighborhoods). This was not communicated by the County during the EIR process… while welcomed with open arms, the letter from the City of Arcadia may be too little too late.
  • Woodland supporters voice their concerns before the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (to no avail…): Despite being excluded from the agenda, approximately twenty supporters of the Arcadia Woodlands appeared at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ weekly meeting today. Many spoke eloquently and passionately on the topic during the public comment portion of the meeting, but since the Board cannot deliberate on non-agenda items, no action was taken.
  • L.A. County Department of Public Works officials speak in front of the Board: Prior to public comments at the end of the meeting (where supporters of the Arcadia Woodlands spoke out), Mark Pestrella and Chris Stone of the L.A. County Department of Public Works sat before the Board and provided a brief summary of the DPW report on potential alternatives and public comments regarding the Santa Anita Reservoir Sediment Removal Project (the report was produced in response to the 30-day moratorium on construction to “explore project alternatives” called for by the Board of Supervisors). Not surprisingly, Pestrella and Stone defended their plan and stated that if the project was shelved, the entire City of Sierra Madre and a portion of Arcadia would loose drinking water and flood protection for nearly 56,000 residents would be lost. This is a subtle misrepresentation of the argument put forth by supporters of the Arcadia Woodlands who are, by no means, calling for the project to be canceled. Woodland supporters recognize the need for sediment removal and have proof (in the form of an independently commissioned engineering report) that this can happen without destroying the Woodlands. One of the most notable moments of the exchange occurred when Pestrella contended that the removal of the Woodlands and subsequent sediment placement was actually the most “sustainable” option (in lieu of trucking the sediment off-site) because, if there were no dam upstream and no channel, the sediment would be deposited in the Woodlands “naturally”. I am at a loss for words…

Woodland Update: Monday, Jan. 10, 2011

January 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Oaks and sycamores line the access road adjacent to the Arcadia Woodlands.


  • Arcadia Woodlands on Fox 11 News: Glen Owens (Monrovia Planning Commissioner) and Cam Stone (Arcadia resident and Woodlands Advocate) were interviewed by Hal Eisner of Fox 11 News a short time ago. The piece will air during the 10:00PM news hour tonight.
  • Protest scheduled for tomorrow: The following message is an excerpt from a press release composed by Christle Balvin of Hintz & Balvin Communications: Halt those bulldozers and switch off those chain saws” will be the message delivered by a wide-spread coalition of Arcadia neighbors and environmentalists massing in front of the Board of Supervisor’s at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 11th at 500 West Temple in Los Angeles. If you are interested, by all means join in!
  • L.A. County Board of Supervisors Meeting: Despite numerous phone calls, letters, and emails, the Woodlands did not make it onto the supplemental agenda for the Board meeting tomorrow. However, there will be a contingent of supporters on hand to voice their opposition to the destruction of the Woodlands. If you wish to have your voice heard, show up early and fill out a speaker card. The board cannot act on any item that is not on the agenda, but if enough voices are heard, perhaps Supervisor Antonovich will be moved to action.
  • Legal action on behalf of the Woodlands: The following is an excerpt from an email sent by Caroline Brown (spokeswoman for the California Oaks Foundation): “Glen [Owens] has hired an attorney to file a letter with the County.  It will request a short moratorium asking for a week or more to review the County’s report which only was available Friday around 2:00 p.m.  The Country Board of Supervisors meets on Tuesday morning.  If the Board does not grant the extension at its morning meeting, the attorney will file a restraining order to stop the bulldozers now scheduled for Wednesday morning.”
  • Arcadia Woodlands on YouTube: On Saturday (Jan. 8), Cam Stone and Kevin Breckner (Time River Productions) visited the woodlands and were spotted by security guards who promptly contacted the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. The confrontation was uneventful and led to no penalties, but the visit did produce what might be some of the last film footage of the Woodlands. The YouTube video “Santa Anita Wash Oak Grove Threatened” has over 200 hits as of this post.
  • Arcadia Woodlands on Facebook: Save the Arcadia Woodlands group HERE.
  • Petition Update: The online petition to save the Arcadia Woodlands has over 1,300 signatures as of this post!

Woodland Demolition to Begin on 1/12/11

January 7, 2011 § 3 Comments


The decision is yours...

In a valiant and rapid display of literary unity, Creek Freak co-founder Jessica Hall organized Blogger Solidarity Day today in response to the pending destruction of the Arcadia Woodlands next Wednesday, January 12th. In an effort to spread the word about the cause far and wide, the online community here in L.A. took action (see list of participants at bottom). Following are a few of our thoughts (a big thanks to Jessica for her contributions here!) on a cause worthy of a fight right in our own backyard… « Read the rest of this entry »

Arcadia Woodlands Update

January 5, 2011 § 22 Comments

The heart of the Arcadia Woodlands



According to trustworthy sources, the Department of Public Works plans on continuing with the project as is and states that it completed all procedural work correctly, despite an otherworldly lack of communication! Work will resume (and chainsaws will bite) next Wednesday, January 12th unless extraordinary action is taken by the Board of Supervisors. It’s time to flood the lines of Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich! Please call (213) 974-5555 to request that this item be added to the Board of Supervisors Agenda for this Tuesday (1/11/11). Today is the last day supplemental items can be added!

Click HERE for what might be the last film footage of the Arcadia Woodlands.


The 30-day moratorium on construction proposed by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich (5th District) and approved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on December 7th expires at midnight on January 7th (this Friday). In theory, if no further action is taken by the Board of Supervisors to halt construction, there is nothing stopping the L.A. County Department of Public Works from authorizing the demolition (which could technically begin this Friday!) of a significant portion of the Arcadia Woodlands to make way for 250,000 cubic yards of sediment from nearby Santa Anita Reservoir. It seems to be an appropriate time to provide a somewhat detailed summary of the continued plight to save the Woodlands in what may prove to be the final days of this shining example of our natural heritage. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Arcadia Woodland (and its possible future)

December 14, 2010 § 13 Comments

Arcadia Woodland Location Map (aerial image obtained from Google Earth)

Escorted by Cam Stone, a long-time resident of the Arcadia foothills, two Sierra Club members and I passed through a series of locked gates en route to an ageless, enduring place that in recent days has become perilously ephemeral. Inspired by Jessica’s previous post on plans to raze the 11-acre old-growth oak woodland, I felt immediately compelled to see it, to hear it, to feel it beneath my feet. The Woodland was unknown to me prior to reading the post but minutes later I found myself making phone calls to writers and local residents already involved in the story, eagerly trying to find a way to go. There are so few remnant places like this in the area and I was awestruck to find out that the County was actually planning on wiping the Woodland off the map to make way for a stockpile of sediment. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Small Red “Y”

February 27, 2010 § 4 Comments

The red "Y" indicates "stream bottom" vegetation, and coincides with the Eagle Rock Creek forming from two small branches. Light brown indicates "sage". Other indicated plants include Sycamore (in stream bottoms), and on the slopes, Chamise, Ceanothus crassifolius, Laurel Sumac, Black sage, and Scrub oak ("Quercus dumosa"). Source: Wieslander, 1928.

A very interesting day! We visited several sections of the Eagle Rock canyon on a quest to find sycamores that predate development. It is amazing that despite the scale of engineering and earthmoving that resulted in  1.) the building of the 134 freeway over foothill terrain  2.) an entire complex of utilities related buildings and an access road to Scholl Canyon Dump being built over the streambed– that the stream continues to flow, as if nothing has ever changed!

All this urban complexity means that the landscape around the stream appears radically different  (if it’s above ground at all) in different places. Depending on where you are, you might only see concrete under your feet and utility lines overhead. In another section, you might look down from the road and see sycamores growing near the base of steep canyon walls.

The most idyllic part of the canyon is the far upper reaches, which still show a similar same palette of vegetation as recorded by a crew under Wieslander in 1928, save for some very old introduced trees.

I was thankful to be with plant people.  Barbara Eisenstein pointed out monkey flower, and Ceanothus crassifolius, which was in full bloom.

It was amazing to think that only a couple generations ago, this same mix of vegetation extended all the way down the canyon past the Eagle Rock. This reminds me of the passage by Helen and Francis Line, who lived right at the Eagle Rock, from January 1945:

Shortly after we moved here to our home last January 26, the buckthorn bloomed. It has come early this season and the hills are already turning white again. Each of the eleven months that we have been here– save one or two– has seen wild shrubs and flowers in blossom;– the buckthorn, monkey flower, buckwheat, toyon, and wild tobacco.

By a wonderful stroke of luck, we also met someone who knew about the history of the canyon, who offered information to corroborate something told to me by one of Eagle Rock’s most illustrious oldtimers. More on this later.

The lower part of Eagle Rock Creek, which used to be the central feature of a well-known local park is described at Myriad Unnamed Streams.

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