LA Creeks and Golf Courses – flowing by the fairways

March 26, 2012 § 6 Comments

It seems as though there’s almost always a creek on golf courses in Los Angeles – be it natural, concrete or underground.  And having proposed daylighting and restoration projects at a number of our local golf courses, I was happy to see this article, A Stream Runs Through It, published in the Golf Course Industry online magazine, supporting the idea.  I have found that golf courses and streams can coexist, but too often golf courses alter the stream, pushing it over the edge of the property, constraining it in ways that destabilize it, removing habitat, etc.  The management problems are often quite predictable.  The opportunity exists to design a golf course with an understanding of stream habitat and function, leading to a richer golf experience, fewer maintenance issues, and habitat for that remaining 5-10% of LA’s waterways.  Streams can separate greens, but when they traverse greens, they can become part of the play in interesting ways.

A couple of golf course/restoration locations I’ve referred to in Creek Freak posts include  Devil’s Dip (I promise a post on just the golf course and restoration potential there in the near future but here’s a slide from Creek Freak’s recommendations to Mark Ridley-Thomas about it.) and South Pasadena Golf Course.

A famous creek/golf course is the Arroyo Santa Monica through the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Development Proposes Platform Over the Tujunga Wash at Victory Blvd

October 13, 2009 § 9 Comments

Site plan for The Plaza at the Glen proposed development. Tujunga Wash runs diagonally from the upper left to the lower center of the plan. Image from Dasher Lawless, Inc website. Click for larger version and additional images.

Site plan for The Plaza at the Glen proposed development. The unlabeled Tujunga Wash runs diagonally from the upper left to the lower center of the plan. Image from Dasher Lawless, Inc website. Click for larger version and additional images.

A 12.2-acre mixed use development called “The Plaza at the Glen” is proposed for both sides of the Tujunga Wash on the north side of Victory Boulevard west of Coldwater Canyon Avenue. That’s in the east San Fernando Valley, a half-mile upstream from L.A. Valley College where the concrete walls of the Tujunga Wash feature the Great Wall of Los Angeles mural. The proposed development site is currently the site of the Victory Plaza shopping center, and it straddles the middle of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority’s mile-mile long Tujunga Wash Greenway Restoration project wjhich extends along both sides of the wash from Oxnard Street to Vanowen Street.

L.A. Creek Freak found out about the project via an article on the usually insightful Curbed L.A. blog, which stated “In a savvy move, there’re also plans for a transit plaza over the Tujunga Wash that will connect the DASH with the Orange Line.” This L.A. Creek Freak is actually quite a fan of transit-oriented walkable density, and overall the project actually looks pretty good. I don’t find the idea of putting more lids over our already threatened waterways to be “savvy” … more like “nearsighted”.

While it’s good, maybe even savvy, to link projects like this with transit, it seems unnecessary to carve out this transit plaza turnout, which will more likely serve to delay the Van Nuys/Studio City DASH by giving it an extra little dog-leg (on top of the proposed additional loop, which I like.) Why not just run those DASH shuttles on Victory Blvd? Improve the transit stops there, which could also support the Metro 164 bus line and activate the boulevard. The transit plaza feels more like the project is turning its back to the street; emphasizing enclosed private space at the expense of livelier public space.

It would be better if the project could actually strengthen its interface with the existing park on the Tujunga Wash. The 1996 Los Angeles River Master Plan and the current Bicycle Master Plan draft update designate this area for a bike path, which the project should interface with. The project could strengthen Tujunga Wash’s bike and pedestrian connections with the Metro Orange Line, including that line’s bike and walk paths. Perhaps the development could build a portion of the bike path? Better yet and more expensive, the project could benefit greatly by restoring a portion of the Tujunga Wash as a park amenity – as a project draw! Here’s an example of where that has been proposed for development along Compton Creek.

L.A. Creek Freak will be keeping an eye on this proposal… which is probably more likely to be defeated by a weak economy than by watershed concerns. If readers learn more about developments on this project (or other development impinging on local waterways) please let us know.

News and Upcoming Events – April 9 2009

April 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Artist Linda Gass Wetlands Dream Quilt - click image to see more of her work

Wetlands Dream quilt by artist Linda Gass - click image to see more of her work - copyright Linda Gass

Creeky News:

>Rainwater harvester Brad Lancaster tours the Tujunga Wash Greenway and Stream Restoration Project.   More on the water harvesting front: Alternet tells about multi-benefit rainwater harvestingin Africa; the L.A. Times explores harvesting rainwater in Downtown Los Angeles.  Lancaster’s blog features a very good guest blog entry by Julia Fonseca critiqueing the use of crushed rock (decomposed granite.)

>Frederick Reimers‘ excellent article about the Los Angeles River kayak expedition is finally on the web (after appearing in print last December in Plenty magazine).

>Minnesota Public Radio talks about why the Red River floods Fargo.  (Thanks Judith Lewis.)

>The L.A. Times reports that California may approve new more civilized greywater regulations.  Creek Freak Joe Linton is still loving his unpermitted greywater system.

And for bridge geeks only:
>Bridge Photo of the Day blogger is working his way down the Los Angeles River
>Is Pasadena’s Colorado Street Bridge over the Arroyo Seco haunted?

 Freaky Events:

Cheong Gye Cheon river in Seoul South Korea - Photo: Wikimedia

Cheong Gye Cheon river in Seoul South Korea - Photo: Wikimedia

Dr. In-Keun Lee,  Assistant Mayor of Infrastructure of Seoul, South Korea, will be giving a talk about the dramatic revitalization of the Cheong Gye Cheong.  Seoul, South Korea, actually removed a dozen lanes of double-decked highway to daylight the historic creek that was buried below.  The free open-to-the-public talk takes place from 2:30pm-3:30pm on Friday April 17th, 2009 at the Edward R. Roybal Board of Public Works Session Room (Room 350) at Los Angeles City Hall – 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, California 90012.  Entrance is on Main Street.  Easy access from the Metro Red Line Civic Center Station.

Bloggers Joe Linton and Damien Newton teach you how to use lots of cool free stuff on the web at our Internet Skills Class on Tuesdays April 21st and 28th.

President Obama invites you to clean-up the Los Angeles River at Taylor Yard on Saturday April 25th.  Then go back and do it again at Friends of the Los Angeles River’s La Gran Limpieza at more than a dozen sites on Saturday May 9th.

Bike the Emerald Necklace on the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo with the city of El Monte’s Tour of Two Rivers bike rally on Saturday May 16th.  Then bike the Los Angeles River on the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s River Ride on Sunday June 7th.

Tales of Tujunga

November 18, 2008 § 4 Comments

I know, most of my posts are tales of our waters, but it is something special to be able to sit down with an old-timer whose childhood included explorations and adventures in the days before concrete.  I met Don Mullally a month or so ago, at one of the public meetings for stream protection.  He was a fierce advocate for protecting our remaining waterways, and had extensive knowledge of the streams and trails in the Santa Susana Mountains.  I told him I wanted to interview him about the LA River, and he went above and beyond, writing his memories down for me.  I will present them, with additional notes from our conversation, over several posts.  Don was born in 1929, and has lived his life in the LA area.  His recollections on birds of the LA basin will also be published serially in the San Fernando Valley Audubon newsletter, Phainopepla.

Recollections of Don Mullaly:  North Hollywood and Tujunga Wash

Path of Don's childhood recollections on Tujunga Wash.  Compare his description with what's here today!

GoogleEarth image of path taken by Don and pals up the Tujunga Wash. Compare his description with what's here today.

From 1943 to 1945, Don and his boyhood friends would take streetcars from West Hollywood over the Cahuenga Pass to North Hollywood Park, near Magnolia and the I-170 today. From there, they would hike up Tujunga Wash to approximately where a May Company (now Macy’s, he believes) was later built.

“The Tujunga Wash…ran across the San Fernando Valley to the western side of the Park. It probably received storm water runoff from Pacoima Creek, Little Tujunga Creek, and Big Tujunga stream. The Wash was approximately 100 yards wide and when dry resembled a desert with very few trees and patches of low shrubs; buckwheat, I believe.

Our goal was to reach the Wash. Once there, we walked upstream or north searching for whatever animals lived in it. The Wash was flanked by wide open spaces having very few and widely separated houses. Observed in the Wash were rabbits, quail, mourning doves, small birds, and lizards. Also one huge green headed bullfrog washed down from some distant pond…

Within a mile or two an abandoned gravel pit was soon discovered on the eastern side of the wash. The pit contained a lake occupied by ducks and mud hens (coots). On one occasion a group of the mud hens was noticed to be foraging beyond the shoreline. Having read that these birds sometimes froze in place when surprised, I rushed down a slope onto the birds. One became immobile, was captured, and taken home. It proved to be of little interest and was released.

On two visits I brought my trusty Daisy BB Air Rifle. A couple of roosting quail and a dove were shot dead, taken home, and eaten for dinner…

On one visit I found Tujunga Wash in flood stage. The river was large and fast moving with trains at least three foot high standing waves in the current. Across the river a house was balanced on a bank: half over the water, and half on land. (Don later stated that he learned to stay out of the washes during rainstorms from this experience.)

On rainy days sea gulls flew overhead the length of the river. I once tried to shoot some down with bow and arrow. Strings were tied to te back ends of the arrows. No luck. As a youth I was a predatory Daniel Boone!”

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Turtles, Ballona Bikes, Dorothy Green and more!

October 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

Here are some on-line videos that all us creek freaks might enjoy:

>Los Angeles Times account of Aquarium of the Pacific’s healing and release of an injured San Gabriel River sea turtle (Great video – with fascinating x-rays of broken turtle flipper bones. Kudos to the great work of the Aquarium of the Pacific staff and the Times’ Louis Sahagun. There are also sea lions in the San Gabriel River.)

>KTLA news coverage of Ballona Creek Bike Path issues (via LA Streetsblog, includes Ballona Creek Renaissance’s Jim Lamm)

>Dorothy Green with Creek Freak bloggers (Jessica and Joe) talking with Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes on the city’s L.A. River Report public information channel

>Hook TV on How to fish for carp in the Los Angeles River

>Jeffrey Tipton’s Montage on the July 2008 Los Angeles River Boating Expedition organized by George Wolfe (Coming soon: an actual high production value trailer about this expedition. Also, check out George’s kayak commute video.)

>A group I don’t know about called LA River Story has done a somewhat accurate trio of documentaries beginning with San Fernando Valley tributaries: The Great Wall of Los Angeles Mural on the Tujunga Wash, the adjacent Tujunga Wash Greenway, and what they’re calling the beginning of the river in Chatsworth.

>Turn Here’s Down by the (L.A.) River (How many errors can you spot in Creek Freak Joe Linton’s brief appearance? Be grateful that I don’t plan to blog on restaurant recommendations any time soon.)

>Meeting of Styles Graffiti Murals Event (These murals were later painted out)

>Insidious Bliss (A bleak and beautiful documentary on crystal meth addiction and homelessness in the Glendale Narrows stretch of the L. A. River)

and lastly a couple of not entirely successful attempts at Los Angeles River Humor:

>Stewart Paap in search of the LA River (“Easy access, huh?”)

>Deep Sea Fishing in Studio City (My favorite part of this are the outtakes and the brief scene where the actor steps around the construction fence – I plan to blog soon about my frustration that the city of Los Angeles’ Studio City Riverwalk has been fenced off for more than a year.)

Standing up for Big Tujunga

September 25, 2008 § 1 Comment

Spilling forth from the San Gabriel Mountains, Big Tujunga Wash is an impressive site.  Laden with boulders and white sands, it has made large contributions to the San Fernando Valley aquifer and laid the material for much of the building industry’s large quarries downstream.  

Yet Big Tujunga is more than a rock-and-water factory for us – it is a place of exquisite, and increasingly rare, habitats, of endangered species.  Recreationists visit the Wash, following an equestrial trail that runs alongside it.  

A few years back, citizens objected to a proposed golf course in the Wash’s floodplain, that ultimately got built. Predictably, the wash flooded the golf course.  While inconvenient for the golf course, this project was bad news for wildlife: not only did it displace habitat, even subtle changes to the wash from runoff or adjacent plantings can introduce toxins and invasive species, or change the hydrology of the Wash, increasing erosion or changing the plant composition.  

Google Earth image of Tujunga Wash and proposed development.  Click on image for enlargement.

Google Earth image of Tujunga Wash and proposed development. Click on image for enlargement.

Rick Grubb, environmental representative for the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council, reminded me of these facts recently – and put out the word that the City is yet again considering development that could impact the wash.  

According to Navigate LA, over 1/2 of the property at 11130 Oro Vista falls within the 100-Year Alluvial Floodplain. It also falls within the proposed Rim of the Valley trail area, a project to link the major mountain ranges that encircle the San Fernando Valley.  Rick’s group will fight for the wash at the appeal hearing before the Planning and Land Use Management committee, most likely on October 7.  Considering the wild and wooly nature of this river, the proximity to threatened and endangered species, and an active wildlife corridor, it seems foolish to permit development in this floodplain.  Considering, as Rick points out, that this wash is an “important source of VERY clean water for the city…” which encroaching development could impair, puts us beyond foolish.  Degradation, even if piecemeal, costs us in the long run.

Fortunately Rick and the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council aren’t stopping there – as Rick says in a recent email:  “I am currently working…on crafting 2 new specific plan protection areas.  The first is for the permanent protection of the Big Tujunga Wash wildlife corridor…as a preserve for it’s(sic) rare undisturbed natural riverine habitat, as a river trail parkway, and as a major wildlife corridor…” the second is “for ‘Hillside area native habitat protection'” that will “set…zoning land use limits, fencing (to allow for the continued passage of wildlife) design standards, and…native plant rescue landscaping design requirements…”  Creekfreak wishes the STNC folks the best of luck with this, and looks forward to putting on lugsoles and trekking around with the local experts in the hills and washes of Tujunga.

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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