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Stormwater Capture that Doubles as Green Space Opens in Panorama City

Not all good things are always visible to the naked eye.

Last week, the Woodman Avenue Multi-Beneficial Stormwater Capture and Median Retrofit Project, developed by The River Project and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) in collaboration with the Panorama City community, officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

About a hundred people attended the event, a surprising turnout for a seemingly humble project. "It may not look like a big project in width, but the length of it is wow," said now-Congressman Tony Cardenas, who had first worked on the project before passing it onto the hands of Los Angeles Councilwoman Nury Martinez.

The project doesn't call attention to itself. No ostentatious sculptures or audacious signs adorn the 3,500-foot long median, but what it does offer is a welcome change from the abundance of concrete one usually finds along Los Angeles's streets, plus a natural way to reduce the amount of pollution that would otherwise go to L.A.'s rivers and oceans.

What used to be a daunting concrete median is now a winding, five-foot wide walking path on the Woodman Avenue median, calmed by the addition of 27,000 square-feet of native and drought tolerant landscape and 99 new street trees.

Locations of proposed bus sheltersLongtime resident Rosemary Wever says, "There was a lot of dirt and dust while they were re-doing the median, but in the long run, it's wonderful. I use the median a lot because I walk from Lanark to Saticoy every day."

What most pedestrian don't see is an infiltration system that will capture, clean and infiltrate 1.5 million gallons of rainwater every average storm. The median is designed to capture stormwater runoff within 130 acres. That water will be added to the local water supplies rather than flushed out to the ocean.

"This is the way we build our local groundwater, by recharging it through small and large projects throughout the city. That's urban acupuncture," said Melanie Winter, director of the River Project.

Though much of the work will remain unnoticed, the River Project has worked with collaborative Urban Applications to design shade structures with educational messages about Los Angeles water.

The work isn't quite done yet. Four educational bus shelters will be installed at Willard Street, Strathern Street, Ranchito Avenue, and Saticoy Street, each with a unique design that explains the history and origins of water in Los Angeles. The structures were designed by the students of Ranchito Elementary School and San Fernando High School, with the help of collaborative Urban Applications.

The project is part of the Tujunga-Pacoima Watershed Plan and was funded by a $1.6 million State Proposition 50 grant, as well as $1 million from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and nearly $1 million in staff support cost from Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation.

Los Angeles will soon be seeing more multi-benefit projects like these that offer additional green space, while lessening Los Angeles' reliance on foreign water supplies. "We're trying to connect the dots, drops and hearts," says Adel Hagekhalil, assistant director of the Bureau of Sanitation. Projects in the works include the Manchester Greenway, which will turn a strip of city-owned land at Figueroa and the 110 freeway into a pedestrian path with infiltration functions, and the Broadway Greenway, which targets public and privates spaces between Broadway and Main Street.

"I'm glad to see it finished," added resident Pat O'Rielly, "I hope it works."

A clue to the median's infiltration features. Over the next months, the median will become greener as the native plants mature

Longtime residents. Top: Ed Wever. Bottom L-R: Pat O'Rielly and Rosemary Wever

Woodman Median opening was a well-attended event

Photos by Carren Jao

About the Author

Carren is an art, architecture and design writer and an avid explorer of Los Angeles. Her work has been spotted on Core77, Dwell, Surface Asia, and Fast Co.Design. You can find her online and on Twitter. 
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