A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study, also known as the ARBOR (Alternative with Restoration Benefits and Opportunities for Revitalization) Study, for October 17, between 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles River Center, 570 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles. There will be a formal presentation of the project to interested residents. It will also provide an opportunity to provide comments on the proposal.
To help clarify your stand on the project, we have also asked a few advocates what their thoughts are on the study. We hope these statements could be food for thought as you write down your comments on the study.
The four alternatives that are currently being considered are:
There has never been a comprehensive and continuous monitoring of the Los Angeles River watershed that would tell us definitively if Los Angeles is doing a good job at keeping its waters and surrounding ecosystems clean. Until now.
On October 10, the Council for Watershed Health will release the initial results of its five-year study of the Los Angeles River watershed, which they call the Los Angeles River Watershed-wide Monitoring Program (LARWMP).
Nancy Steele, Executive Director for the Council, sums up the results of this first report this way. "Overall, things are not bad. They're not really, really good, but they're not really, really horrible." Steele says that the results of the report provide a baseline for future reports that focus on the same measures. When aggregated, Los Angeles would better see if its revitalization efforts (including the ARBOR study) have actually made a difference. The report hopes to be a barometer for policymakers to make better decisions when it comes to water projects in Los Angeles.
Cyclists and pedestrian advocates find proposed improvements on the Glendale-Hyperion bridge lacking in the wake of its preliminary environmental impact report release. "This project considered the needs of one user group -- automobile drivers -- first before considering anyone else that might use the bridge, and the freeway-like design standards they chose to use are incompatible with the kinds of improvements that would accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians safely and comfortably," writes Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC).
Bike lanes that appeared in the approved 2010 Bicycle Master Plan are nowhere to be found in the planned improvements. In addition, the new sidewalk would still not be wide enough. "They are consolidating the sidewalks to a single-side in order to have one wider sidewalk rather than two narrow sidewalks. But in doing so, they did not make it safe to get from that single-side sidewalk back to the other side of the street in Atwater Village."
Construction on the new Riverside-Figueroa Bridge has been ongoing since 2011, but recently Elysian Valley architects RAC Design Build has approached the city with the possibility of preserving the steel section of the old bridge and turning into an elevated park, a la New York City's High Line.
"Why are we dismantling infrastructure that could otherwise be repurposed?" asked Kevin Mulcahy of RAC Design about eight months ago, when the whole idea was investigated in earnest.
In the original plans from 2006, the old bridge needed to be demolished because the alignment between the new and old bridge would overlap. But revised plans, circa 2010, show that the two bridges would actually have a 4-feet clearance between each other. The clearance provided an opportunity to explore options for saving the steel portion of the old bridge, and start to create a green space that would provide community benefits, says Mulcahy.
The public comment period has been extended for the gamechanging Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study, also known as the ARBOR (Alternative with Restoration Benefits and Opportunities for Revitalization) Study. The deadline for comments is now November 18, confirmed Jay Field, Chief of Public Affairs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The extension is due to the timing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's EPA posting of the ARBOR Study on the Federal Register, which triggers the 45-day comment period. "Our schedule will not be impacted," said Field. "We will continue to work with the comments as we receive them."
As concerned citizens make their way through the report, we asked a few advocates what their thoughts are on the study. These statements, found below, could be food for thought, as you write down your comments on the study. Comments can be submitted via email. If you've chosen Alternative 20, you can add your voice online, or sign L.A. River Corp's Change.org petition.
The four alternatives that are currently being considered are:
These days it seems that a week can't pass by without some activities related to the L.A. River. So mark your calendars, here are river-related activities happening this week, starting Thursday:
Movies Under the Bridge, Thursday, 8 p.m.
Movies along the Los Angeles River are slowly gaining traction it seems. The California State Parks is hosting an L.A. noir movie night at the northern edge of L.A. State Historic Park, under the historic North Broadway Street Bridge, a Beaux Arts bridge built in 1901.
This Thursday, it will be screening Nicholas Ray's "In a Lonely Place," starring Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steele, a screenwriter suspected of murder.
The screening is part of Chinatown artist Elizabeth Sonenberg's L.A. noir film series, a project she conceived to bring more people to the historic setting where roadway, railroad tracks and the Los Angeles River meet.
The possibility of remaking the Los Angeles River in a big way is unquestionably a milestone for Los Angeles. In the next few weeks we'll be asking those who've been keeping an eye on the project over the years, those who live around the Los Angeles River, and concerned citizens what their thoughts are on the proposals at hand in regards to the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study, also known as the ARBOR (Alternative with Restoration Benefits and Opportunities for Revitalization) Study.
The four alternatives that are currently being considered are:
This week, we hear from Councilman Tom LaBonge, who has kept the river in mind as Vice Chair of the Ad Hoc River Committee (now the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee); Kirsten James, Science and Policy Director of Heal the Bay; and Jenny Price, an artist/activist whose Los Angeles River tours opened Angelenos eyes to the river in their backyard.
Here's what they had to say:
Tom La Bonge, Councilman for Fourth District
I'm supporting Alternative 20 [the most comprehensive available option]. It provides Los Angeles with the best possible chance to remake our Los Angeles River and bring out the true potential of what it can be.
What would you say of the Army Corps' support of Alternative 13?
We only have one chance to do this right. There are no do-overs in once-in-a-lifetime projects. Let's not leave this to the next generation to do.
Kirsten James, Science and Policy Director, Water Quality at Heal the Bay
The Army Corps study of the Los Angeles River brings long overdue attention to one of Los Angeles's precious resources. Heal the Bay has long worked with communities and public agencies involved in the Los Angeles River to further their connection and understanding of its importance. We also work with government agencies to develop policies and regulations that protect water quality in the River, such as the successful Los Angeles River Trash pollution limits. Therefore this study will complement these efforts already underway.
Heal the Bay has not taken a formal position on any alternative, and staff are in the process of reviewing the EIR. However, we recognize that the alternative with the greatest habitat value that provides a nexus to the Los Angeles River is Alternative 20.
Is there an issue you think the Army Corps should have focused more on in the study?
We find that the Army Corps study misses opportunities to address other environmental stressors, such as the effect of climate change or improving water quality.
In November 2012, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board renewed the Los Angeles County Municipal Stormwater Permit, a process in which Heal the Bay was very involved. That new permit system now has to be implemented and it requires cities to develop watershed management plans that will include specific projects to help improve water quality in our local rivers and streams. That's something we'd like to see more of in the ARBOR study. Our understanding is that the alternatives focused more on habitat restoration, but some of the projects outlined in the alternatives could incorporate ancillary water benefits.
Did the study bring up other dilemmas on the part of Heal the Bay?
This study brings to mind another important natural resource issue for the Army Corps that has been left unaddressed to date. Earlier this year the Army Corps was called-out for bulldozing important habitat in the Sepulveda Basin. The Corps has not publicly acknowledged their misstep in bulldozing existing habitat and impacting a Los Angeles River tributary. It is difficult for environmental groups to reconcile these two actions that are opposite ends of the spectrum as far as habitat management.
Jenny Price, Environmental Writer and Activist
I support Alternative 20 -- but really, I support Alternative 37, or maybe 153 [earlier, more comprehensive alternatives that weren't included in the final report], which is what we really should be doing at this point.
Here's the thing. It's going to happen -- Alternative 20 and beyond.
The revitalization of the entire L.A. River system -- the River and its tributaries and the lands around them -- are already bringing tremendous benefits to this megalopolis. Social, economic, ecological, and more. It's essential to cleaning up the water and air, ensuring water supplies at a time when our imported supplies are dwindling, providing parks and green space and connectivity in a city that's desperately starved for all of these. And quite important, it'll do all that in many of the least green and most polluted neighborhoods of L.A.
In other words, if Alternative 13 wins out, it'll demonstrate the need for and will drive the demand for Alternative 20, and then Alternative 32, and then Alternative 153. That's what's happened steadily for the past three decades -- smaller projects have led to bigger projects, and then to bigger projects -- and you know what? We're getting impatient. Let's do it now. Let's quit mucking around. It's going to happen -- so why should we postpone this essential and necessarily hugely ambitious civic project for another 30-40 years?
Most of the essential players have been convinced for a decade. All the other public agencies. All the social and environmental nonprofits. The riverside communities -- and many beyond. Even some Corps leaders in L.A. get it.
Not the Corps outside L.A., though. Their argument that this is the most cost-beneficial alternative just demonstrates a willful blindness and deafness to the colossal and multi-faceted benefits of this project -- and to its significance, not just in L.A. but to the eastern and western Sierra watersheds, the Colorado River watersheds, communities all over the West, and cities worldwide that will see that the impossible is actually possible when it comes to urban transformation.
Alternative 13 doesn't understand that it's going to happen -- and that the Corps will eventually be doing and arguing for a lot of it. Why not do it NOW?
Los Angeles city officials, including Councilmember Tom LaBonge, broke ground this week on an extension of the Los Angeles River Bike through San Fernando Valley.
Dubbed the Los Angeles Riverfront Park Phase II, the project encompasses two segments on the south bank of the Los Angeles River in Sherman Oaks and Studio City, between Sepulveda Boulevard and Kester Avenue, and between Coldwater Boulevard and Whitsett Avenue. "Inch by inch, we make our Los Angeles River a better place for all," Councilmember Tom LaBonge said in a statement.
The site was earmarked a priority because, though it is technically off-limits to the public due to it being a maintenance access road, people had already been accessing the road through makeshift pedestrian paths. Phase I, a 2/3 mile segment between Laurel Canyon and Whitsett, was completed in 2004.
The $6.5-million project includes a 1/4th acre mini-park with seating, grass and landscaping; construction of sidewalks, walkways, and ramps on Coldwater Canyon and Sepulveda Boulevard; signage; and additional plantings while keeping as many mature trees as possible, according to Neil Drucker, Program Manager at the Bureau Engineering, who oversees improvements from the eastern edge of Studio City until the 405 freeway. He estimates that at present about 10 percent of the Los Angeles Riverfront in his area has been completed.
"The project in and of itself is a small part of the of the Los Angeles River Masterplan that stretches from West San Fernando Valley in West Hills all through Griffith Park. It may not be completed tomorrow -- or 2 or 5 years -- from now, but hopefully someday I will be able to walk, ride a bike or stroll anywhere from West San Fernando Valley to downtown," said Drucker, who lives in West Hills. "It takes an eyesore for many people and turns it into a usable connection for people who want to ride their bikes to work or want a really nice place to recreate along the river."
The work should be completed within a year. In the meantime, nearby residents have been informed of the construction work coming to their neighborhood. Drucker expects little interruption within the neighborhood regular comings and goings, apart from a little dust and noise coming from the construction. The extension of the Los Angeles River Bike Path was funded by Proposition K, a 30-year program that funds recreational and environmental projects. The third Phase is currently in pre-design, and may include segments from Coldwater Canyon to Fulton and Van Nuys to Cedros, on the south side of the L.A. River.
There must be something in the -- ahem -- water, because there are several H2O-related events marked for this weekend. If you thirst for an experience, mark you calendars for these events:
Coastal Cleanup Day, Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon
Give a little back by helping clean up a nearby body of water in Heal the Bay's annual Coastal Cleanup Day, September 21 from 9 am to noon. The non-profit has planned a clean up on 50 sites throughout Los Angeles County. Volunteers can participate at many of the area's waterways and beaches, including the Arroyo Seco, Ballona Wetlands, Balboa Park, Compton Creek, and more.
One novel way of cleaning up is the kayak cleanup site at Marina del Rey, hosted by Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation. A separate sign-up is required for the popular site.
A family-friendly celebration is planned just north of the Santa Monica Pier at Tower 1550, which includes yoga at 8:30 am, a standup paddleboard clinic from 11 am to 2 pm, and free admission at the Santa Monica Aquarium for volunteers until 5 pm.
The Los Angeles City Council today approved plans to build the North Atwater Bridge, finding no substantial harm to the environment if construction proceeds on the project. The $6 million suspension bridge would connect cyclists and equestrians in Atwater Village to an existing segment of the Los Angeles River Bikeway on the west bank. The connection would ease access to the vast, open areas and trails of Griffith Park.
"We've been waiting for this bridge for 20 years," said Lynn Brown, vice chair of the Los Angeles Equine Advisory Committee. "Access to Griffith Park is everything."
The bridge enhances the safety of equestrians in the Atwater Village area. Until this bridge is built, risk-taking riders would sometimes cross the Los Angeles River to exercise their horses in Griffith Park. In doing so, horses inevitably slip and fall due to the slippery cement.
Marion Dodge, secretary of Friends of Griffith Park, expressed the organization's support as well, citing the bridge as a connector of communities. "When the freeway came through the area, Griffith Park was separated from Atwater Village. Now, kids from Atwater Village can enjoy the park as well."
The project has been held up as a prime example of what public and private partnerships can accomplish together. The bridge would be named the La Kretz Bridge, in honor of its benefactor Morton La Kretz, who committed nearly $5 million in funds. The balance came from discretionary funds coming from the 4th and 13th council districts, where the bridge would be located, and Los Angeles River funds from the Bureau of Engineering.
At the recent Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River (APHAR) Committee meeting, representatives from the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (LARRC) and the Bureau of Engineering assured councilmembers of the structure's sensitivity to its environment. Recent concerns the bridge might pose hazards to the bird population were answered with a promise to monitor any bird collisions that might occur and take steps once verifiable data come in.
Should everything go according to schedule, construction should start by spring of next year, according to Jennifer Samson, LARRC project manager. Work should be finished within 8 to 10 months.
Renderings courtesy of the L.A. River Revitalization Corporation.