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'Missing Link' in San Fernando Valley L.A. River Trail Launches

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Residents perusing over the plans for the L.A. River Greenway Trail

It didn't look like much right then. The overcast sky combined with the interminable brown and gray of dirt path meeting concrete didn't help much either, but in by spring 2016, this overlooked piece of land just north of Ventura Boulevard will be replaced with a $2-million Zev Yaroslavsky L.A. River Greenway Trail, a new half-mile trail dotted with more than 4,000 native trees and plants including Coast Live Oak, Toyons, California poppy flowers. It would connect a section of the river trail from Whitsett Avenue almost to the CBS Studios and a section from Coldwater Canyon upstream to form a three-mile Los Angeles River path.

Esther Feldman, President of Community Conservation Solutions (CCS), the non-profit organization who led the development of the project, addressed a crowd of more than 140 people on the day of the greenway's launch. CCS also helped piece together the public and private funding to realize the trail. Funding came from the California Natural Resource Agency, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Caltrans, and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's discretionary Proposition A Regional Park and Open Space fund. Apart from those, the city of Los Angeles and the Studio City Residents Associated has also committed money.

Named after the departing County Supervisor, whose term ends next month, the Zev Yaroslavsky L.A. River Greenway Trail not only enhances the quality of the open space in a park poor San Fernando Valley, it would also help clean up the water nearby. A bioswale would be integrated into the trail, infiltrating urban runoff and returning it back to the aquafer or through the Los Angeles River. "We're really copping Mother Nature with this eco-system based design," said Feldman.

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The trail includes a native trail dotted with trash and recycling bins, dog stations, seating with a shaded trellis, a river fence with an educational component, and a river entry gate, all of which are up for naming in a bid to add to the project's funding.

Though the project has been much-lauded for adding connectivity along the Los Angeles River in San Fernando Valley, it could still do a better job easing pedestrian access. Further inquiry revealed that though each end of the trail would be capped with ADA-compliant ramps for pedestrian access, connections on Whitsett Avenue and Coldwater Canyon would still be at-grade, prompting pedestrians to brave busy major roads to traverse to existing Los Angeles River trails on either side without the benefit of any painted pedestrian crossing or stoplights.

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"We're trying to get these connection issues as much as we can," said Ming Ho of Mia Lehrer and Associates, which is working with CCS on the project, but Ho again cites the overlapping networks of agencies working along the Los Angeles River for its difficulties.

"What we can do right now is trying to build up projects segment by segment and then once everyone gets used to using the space, start working on getting better connections," said Ho, who saw the greenway trail as a great start to building a more pedestrian-friendly Los Angeles River trail.

Entry to the L.A. River Greenway Trail is beyond the Weddington Golf and Tennis
Entry to the L.A. River Greenway Trail is beyond the Weddington Golf and Tennis

Nevertheless, the project's launch elicited loud cheers among Studio City residents, particularly members of Save LA Open Space, which is trying to prevent development of the Weddington Golf and Tennis into senior housing and instead convert it to a 16-acre Los Angeles River Natural Park. The sports complex overlooks the greenway.

"This is just part of what we want this part of Studio City to be, open," said Josh Campbell, a resident who got involved with Save LA Open Space, "I'm not against development in older, rundown neighborhoods, but we don't want development in this space." Campbell regularly makes use of the Weddington Gold and Tennis facilities, playing golf and practicing at the driving range.

His was one of the many voices raised in support of saving the Weddington Golf and Tennis. A number of other residents wore Save LA Open Space shirts, or carried yellow signs in protest. It seems they aren't alone in their support for more green space in Studio City. During his speech, Councilman Paul Krekorian came out in support of the residents. "This project is adjacent to the largest privately owned open space in the Valley. It must be preserved at all times." Krekorian's statement met with loud cheers from the crowd.

Overall, the greenway trail may only be a half-mile, but it's small stretch on which hinges many future hopes for increased connectivity along the Los Angeles River and added open space in San Fernando Valley.

Josh Campbell helps increase awareness for Save LA Open Space
Josh Campbell helps increase awareness for Save LA Open Space
Departing County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, along with other local stakeholders that came out during the opening
Departing County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, along with other local stakeholders that came out during the opening

Photos by Carren Jao