Taylor Yard River Park, a former rail yard adjacent to the L.A. River in the heart of the city will see an influx of resources for critical remediation of the site’s contaminated soil. This would be the first step in moving forward with an ambitious plan to transform the site into a public green space.
Jeff Scott, the EPA Director of the Land, Chemicals and Redevelopment Division, Pacific Southwest announced the award of a Brownfields grant. The federal funds go to economically disadvantaged communities in Opportunity Zones to assess and clean up abandoned industrial and commercial properties.
The $1.1 million grant will be delivered by September 30th, with $500,000 designated for use at 12.5 acres of the 42-acre Taylor Yard. Another $600,000 will be put towards the remediation of other properties throughout the city and the county.
The city collaborated with the National Council for Community Development in the application for the grant. Representatives from the City Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering, Department of Sanitation and Environment, and the community group Mujeres de la Tierra spoke to the impact of the grant on the local community and the city as a whole.
“This is important because 95% of the people we speak to, before they say what it is they want to see on the site, they say that they want it cleaned up,” said Irma Muñoz, founder and director of Mujeres de la Tierra.
Her organization trains women in leadership so they feel empowered to communicate community needs during outreach phases.
Community members will see that wish fulfilled by September 2021, said City Engineer Gary Lee Moore.
The former rail yard abuts the L.A. River and sits at the nexus of Cypress Hill, Glassell Park and Elysian Valley. Use of the site for rail maintenance and fueling ended in 2006, but left the soil and groundwater contaminated with chemicals including lead and arsenic.
Commissioner Kevin James, President of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works called the Taylor Yard project “an integral part of LA’s Green New Deal.” Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that initiative in April, setting goals for a sustainable future.
The Brownfields grant comes as the EPA announces $64.4 million in similar grants awarded to projects around the country.
“Since 1995, EPA has been able to give the City of Los Angeles more than $5 million. Our relatively modest financial investment has actually been leveraged into $56 million of investment in properties all around the L.A. area,” EPA’s Scott said.
The EPA sees these grants as seed money to bring parties together from the federal, state and private sectors.
There are thousands of brownfield sites in the city of Los Angeles requiring remediation, according to Enrique Zaldivar, General Manager and Executive Director, City of Los Angeles Department of Sanitation & Environment.
“We have a fruitful relationship with EPA. This is one of many grants we have gotten for projects that are already underway,” Zaldivar said.
“We want this to establish credibility and confidence in these grant awards,” he added. The hope is that this substantial grant might set a new precedent, triggering the award of similar funding for these sites going forward.
The 42-acre parcel is the last piece in the puzzle that connects over 100 acres of open space along the L.A. River in the heart of the city. With the rehabilitation of its ecosystem, the area will provide habitat and increase biodiversity in addition to providing much-needed greenspace in the heart of the city. Taylor Yard G2 River Park will be the first implemented project along the river of its scale and significance.
The $1.1 million grant from EPA is a significant award; most brownfield grants average between $500,000 and $800,000 and are allocated for multiple sites. With $500,000 devoted to a single site, Taylor Yard’s grant represents substantial federal support for the project. In addition to the EPA’s contribution, Taylor Yard received $2 million for site remediation and public access from the Board of the State Coastal Conservancy in 2017.
Top Image: Plants growing amid broken concrete and rubble at Taylor Yard. | Courtney Cecale