Stormwater Harvesting Roundup

November 11, 2008 § 1 Comment

Here are three recent items for folks interested in harvesting rainwater:

>>Today, UC Riverside researchers released a report entitled Capturing Urban Stormwater Runoff: A Decentralized Market-Based Alternative. It shows that decentralized stormwater interventions can be cheaper and more effective than centralized ones. Here’s their press release or download the full 16-page report (PDF) here. From the press release: the cost of building and maintaining these smaller, decentralized devices in urban areas could be 30 percent to 50 percent cheaper than constructing and operating large, centralized stormwater facilities. They also found that the value of the water that could be captured and used to recharge aquifers could amount to 38 percent of the cost of the smaller devices.

>>Via Boing Boing and my friend/neighbor/conspirator Federico: Take a look at this photo showing a beautiful artistic water harvesting system from Kunsthofpassage in Dresden, Germany!

View of Grassy Swale at Broadous School (from TreePeople's report)

View of Grassy Swale at Broadous School (from TreePeople Rainwater as a Resource report)

>>Last year, TreePeople released a report entitled Rainwater as a Resource: A Report on Three Sites Demonstrating Sustainable Stormwater Management. The report, available at TreePeople’s website, details three innovative green watershed management projects: Hall House, Broadous Elementary School, and Open Charter Magnet Elementary School. The report tells the stories behind these projects – site selection, design processes, costs, maintenance, quantification of various benefits from water quality to air quality to flood prevention, and more. The reports tell the stories warts and all! TreePeople has made some interesting mistakes learning opportunities… which should be expected when folks push boundaries with ambitious projects. The report presents plenty of lessons learned and important recommendations for similar projects in the future. Also included are some serious appendices with as-built plans, and details regarding maintenance and inspection.

From TreePeople’s Rainwater as Resource report:

Challenge: In the absence of a written maintenance agreement for the Broadous project, partners whose contractual obligations ended when construction did nevertheless found themselves working without compensation in an effort to maintain the viability of the project. The lack of a comprehensive and easy-to-use operations manual, inadequate communication among the partners and turnover among the district’s operations and maintenance staff exacerbated the problem.
Lesson: It is difficult to get anyone to accept liability as complicated issues arise. Construction and other
liabilities (such as issues of contaminated soils disposal, underground utilities, and construction fencing to ensure student safety) nevertheless have to be adopted. It is advisable to budget extra time, care and resources toward these challenges, and to plan quarterly meetings between representatives from all involved parties for the first year after construction. Written maintenance contracts and clear instructions should be developed and agreed upon before the project is completed.
Despite the intensive resource demands of the planning and implementation phase, the project does not end once construction is complete. The project will only fulfill its purpose if there is sustained interest and a plan for continuity.

A New Vision for Studio City Golf and Tennis

October 15, 2008 § 5 Comments

Creek freak headed for Studio City last night to witness the unveiling of a new vision plan for the Studio City Golf and Tennis site.  For those of you unfamilar with the site, it’s a 22-acre parcel on the north bank of the Los Angeles River.  The site is bounded by Whitsett Avenue, Valley Spring Lane, and Bellaire Avenue.

The back story: For more than fifty years, the site has been the home of Weddington Golf & Tennis – a popular private recreational facility.  With property values soaring in recent years, the site’s owners are seeking to develop housing at the site.  The latest proposal (gory details available here) calls for 200 senior condominiums in six four-story buildings with 635 parking spaces.  Neighbors have been nearly unanimous in their vocal opposition to housing development at the site, for many reasons, including increased traffic and loss of access to the planned Los Angeles River greenway.

Last night, there were about a hundred people gathered at the Studio City Residents Association (SCRA) meeting at the Beverly Garland Hotel.  The meeting was opened by board president Alan Dymond who framed the night’s presentations by emphasizing the regional connections for the site to cleanse stormwater pollution, and to connect to a future revitalized Los Angeles River.  He stated that the river “won’t be like San Antonio” but “will be a lot better than it looks right now.”  He emphasized that the Golf & Tennis volunteer committee of the SCRA is shifting beyond local parochial issues to elevate the struggle to regional significance.  To demonstrate this, the committee has changed their name from “Save Studio City Golf & Tennis” to “Save Los Angeles River Open Space in Studio City.”  The site is regionally significant in that it really is the only river-adjacent large undeveloped parcel in the East Valley.  There’s no other promising river park site between the Sepulveda Basin and Weddington Park (about five miles.)

SCRA and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) hired Community Conservancy International (CCI) to oversee the creation of an alternative plan for the site.  CCI oversaw a 6-month process that included engaging BlueGreen and other consultants to work with the community to generate a vision for the future of the site.

The plan looks great!  I will post images of it here when they’re made available after presentation to the SMMC board next week.  The four goals of the vision plan are: 1) Improve water quality and water conservation, 2) Create a regional public access and staging area for the future Los Angeles River greenway, 3) Restore native habitat, and 4) Integrate historic recreational uses (that would be golf and tennis.)

The proposal calls for a regional park that cleanses stormwater that would flow onto the site from about 100 acres worth of adjacent residential neighborhoods.  Runoff would be directed into creekbed bioswales, which will slow down the flows, and naturally cleanse the water.  This green multi-benefit appoach also recharges underground aquifers to increase water supply, lessens flooding, and provides habitat and green space for humans to walk, bike and picnic.  The design preserves some existing mature tree canopy, mostly along Valley Spring Lane, while adding native California vegetation.  The 9-hole golf course would be removed, but the driving range, putting area, clubhouse and 16 tennis courts would remain (and could serve as a revenue source for ongoing park expenses.)  These recreational amenities would become multiple purpose features – the driving range would serve as a overflow area for larger storm events, the tennis courts would have cisterns and infiltration units below ground.  Mercifully, no additional parking is proposed.

The crowd was generally supportive of the vision presented.  Some concerns about security were expressed, and many expressed skepticism about negoitating with the current owner, who hasn’t been particularly responsive to community concerns.  The team wouldn’t put a dollar value estimate on the site… the land itself was astronomical (at least prior to the recent market downturn) and with 22 acres of park, creek freak guesses that it won’t be less than $25 million.  The volunteer committee handed out envelopes and requested donations to pay for additional studies to refine the broad plan.  CCI’s Esther Feldman stressed that this is a tremendous opportunity and that “the way to get public funds is to offer public benefits.”  With a vision of creative stormwater cleansing and greenway connections, it looks like Studio City is on the right track, but it’s going to take plenty of hard work, creative design, and savvy negotiations to bring this vision to fruition. 

To get involved in this project, email the SCRA at “scraboard {at} studiocityresidents.org” Updated 8/10/2009 – new contact email: saveopenspace [at] SLAROS.org

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