Posts tagged LA River

Image Credit: Jenni Zell

AHBE interns, W. Zhou (left), Y. Tian. Image credit: Linda Daley

This past summer we had the pleasure of working with our interns to develop a speculative proposal to advance the Rio Hondo Confluence, which is a signature strategy identified in the Lower Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan (LLARRP). The LLARRP is an important document that will guide the transformation of the Lower Los Angeles River for decades. Our independent speculative project, outlined below, integrates strategies providing green infrastructure, ecological habitat, recreational and cultural use.

We selected one opportunity area identified in the LLARRP, the confluence of the Lower Los Angeles River and the Rio Hondo in the city of South Gate, as the focus of our separate investigation and developed a proposal which we entitled River Commons. The Rio Hondo Confluence is a place that presents significant possibilities to transform into both a cultural and ecological asset for the community.

Credit: Regional context and other graphics in post are by AHBE.

The 254-acre site has a complex history. In addition to hydrologic flows converging at this location, transportation and energy flows converge along the 710 Freeway and Imperial Highway. Although it is within a 30-minute walk of several cities including Compton, Lynwood, and Paramount, the flows of traffic, power and water have isolated people and adjacent communities from one another and from the natural resource of the Los Angeles River.

Image Credit: Calvin R. Abe

Located in a landscape where grizzly bears once fished for steelhead trout, the seasonally riparian and upper terrace upland habitat of the Rio Hondo Confluence provided critical habitat functions of the Los Angeles River ecosystem. Our River Commons proposal outlines building blocks to re-connect people and nature by interweaving cultural and natural systems. In addition, the proposal prioritizes the establishment of physical connections, habitat connections and ecological functions to the site while also providing support for wildlife species, stormwater capture and cleaning and new recreational amenities.

The concrete lined river channel has provided flood protection for decades and adjacent freeways have sped up the transportation of people and goods, but the benefits come at the tremendous cost of dividing communities, destroying significant habitats, and breaking ties of the surrounding people to the historic cultural and natural resource of the waterway for food, leisure and health. River Commons tackles the seemingly intractable problem of choosing between flood protection and economic progress and ecological and community health and vitality. Transforming what is currently a single purpose flood control channel into a civic asset, River Commons proposes to advance a signature strategy identified in the LLARRP.

Building Blocks Approach

The building blocks we explored in River Commons can be tested at the Rio Hondo confluence site and adapted and applied to other Los Angeles River and adjacent sites. We identified four key building blocks in our proposal.

  • Temporary and seasonal in-channel recreation is the first building block, which will build momentum for future projects. It will increase awareness of the river channel as a community resource and provides unique experiences not currently available in nearby parks.

  • Levee terracing will provide seasonal access to the river channel during dry weather and new in-channel habitat spaces.

  • Low-flow channel modifications: Creating meandering and multiple crossings of the low-flow channel create water movement and attraction to the water’s edge. Installing ecological concrete and widening the channel enhances biological value by supporting the growth of organisms including targeted fish species.

  • Bridge crossings to connect pedestrian, equestrians and bicyclists: Multi-modal channel crossings provide much needed connections of communities to one another, the river and river adjacent regional trail systems, along with viewing opportunities of local mud swallows.

Site Specific Design Strategies

Charles S. Dwyer, USACE. Credit: Linda Daley

Hydrological modeling and engineering principles were integrated into the analysis and design phase for our selected area through collaborations with local civil engineers and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). We acknowledge and thank USACE’s Charles S. Dwyer (shown at right) and Reuben Sasaki for giving generously to our investigation in terms of their time, LA River knowledge, and technical review and feedback.

By closely collaborating with hydraulic and civil engineers, we received feedback on the draft building blocks to determine the feasibility of our proposals. This collaboration was critical in identifying and evaluating potential design strategies, a few of which we share below.

  • Treating stormwater before it enters the river is key to improving water quality in the river and ocean. River adjacent properties can be utilized to collect and filter runoff while also increasing habitat and at some sites, recharging underlying aquifers.

  • Expanding the river channel to the bend in the 710 freeway presents a unique opportunity for adding substantial new habitat areas hydrologically connected to the LA River ecosystem. This area would flood during design storm events, but regenerate naturally.

  • Taking advantage of the water collected by a downstream rubber dam and utilizing control gates and drainage lines through the levee, river adjacent fisheries can be created to move water and create a hydraulic connection to the river.

  • Horse Camp at the Hollydale Park expansion builds on the rich equestrian culture in the area and provides a revenue source and river trail rides, connecting people and nature to one another and their river.

In developing our design solutions, we were guided by cultural investigations which foster an interconnectedness between the surrounding community’s citizens, environment, and cultural resources. By linking public health, air quality improvements, energy and water demands and supply, accessibility and mobility improvements with sound green infrastructure strategies, the River Commons proposal is an additional resource for community members and agencies to help visualize and build support for future projects.

Image credits: Wendy Chan (above left) and Jenni Zell (right)

 

 

Image Collage: credits for photos are as shown in this post.

This is the second part of my coverage of Perceptions of the Los Angeles River, which is a photography exhibition by AHBE colleagues and friends. See part one for an introduction and a selection of photographs from the collection. I chose another set for this week and share the story behind each work, as told by the individual photographer.

credit: “James” by Andrea Klein

photo by Calvin R. Abe

Title of Work: “James”
Photographer: Andrea Klein (shown at right)
Artist’s Statement:  James is a plein air painter who I met while visiting the Los Angeles River in Glendale Narrows. He was focused on a landscape scene on the opposite bank of the river. Although people, like myself, stopped to chat with him, he remained single minded in capturing the view on his canvas. As I looked over his shoulder, I realized my attention was not focused on his painting but on his act of interpreting the context of the river. I took my photo at that moment of realization. I removed the image’s color component to draw the focus away from his canvas and underscore the moment of observation and perception.

 

credit: “Emergence” by Jessica Roberts

photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy

Title of Work: “Emergence”
Photographer: Jessica Roberts (shown at right)
Artist’s Statement:  I wrote at length about “Emergence” in an earlier post and share my thoughts again in this synopsis. By dividing the picture plane evenly in two, I hope viewers will focus on the horizon line and interpret its meaning in relationship to everything else they observe. The horizon line is a visual component that gives perspective to a landscape, and its quality is arguably the most defining element of a place.

Being in the LA River reminds me of being out in the middle of a desert, except sunken down further into the earth. The experience is different from the layered nature of a forest or the density of buildings in a city. The sensation can feel as disorienting and isolating as standing in the middle of a prairie, without even the sway of the grasses to distract attention. It is an uncommon urban experience.

credit: “iAguas!” by Darren Shirai

photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy

Title of Work: “iAguas!”
Photographer: Darren Shirai (shown at right)
Artist’s Statement:  The word aguas can mean different things in Mexican Spanish. It can mean ‘waters’, as seen flowing in the river channel on the right side of my photo or used as a warning in situations like the scene depicted on the left, where its meaning in American English is “Watch it!” or “Heads up!”.

Like the word aguas, this photo has a double meaning that conveys my perception of the Los Angeles River. I captured this “LA moment” along a stretch of the river in the Glendale Narrows. It represents the promise of an optimistic future where the river corridor and the landscape along it banks revitalize and reconnect people and communities – spiritually, socially, ecologically and economically. However, this scene also reminds me of the need for vigilance when our profession assesses the broader contextual impacts of a proposed landscape design, and the integrity required to creatively overcome impending design challenges in equitable and meaningful ways. iAguas!

credit: “Weedy Foreground” by Jenni Zell

photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy

Title of Work: “Weedy Foreground”
Photographer: Jenni Zell (shown at right) 
Artist’s Statement:  I took this photo in the channel of the Los Angeles River and was initially captivated by the audacity of this species to set up life in such a hostile place. Positioning my camera with plants in the foreground and middle ground creates the illusion of a future takeover of vegetative growth in the channel of the Los Angeles River. Takeover is unlikely, and the species pictured in the foreground is Plantago lanceolate, a noxious invasive plant. At closer inspection, Weedy Foreground crushes any dreamy vision of a restored native riparian landscape and instead predicts a future where only the most noxious and invasive species survive.

 

Perceptions of the Los Angeles River features the works of: Calvin Abe, Cristhian Barajas, Wendy Chan, Chuan Ding, Andrea Klein, Clarence Lacy, Brett Miller, Susan Miller, Jessica Roberts, Jennifer Salazar, Darren Shirai, Morgan Thompson, Yiran Wang, Mateo Yang, and Jenni Zell. You may recognize some of the names as regular contributors to AHBE Lab. The LA River is a subject of ongoing research and exploration for our staff, many of whom share their thoughts and discoveries through AHBE Lab.

Photo: Community Conservation Solutions

Have you heard of the Zev Yaroslavsky L.A. River Greenway Trail? Neither had I until a friend who bikes and runs regularly enthusiastically mentioned there was a newly revitalized stretch of trail following the Los Angeles River over on the San Fernando Valley side lined with California flora across its entire length.

The Zev Yaroslavsky L.A. River Greenway Trail was made possible thanks to a fruitful partnership between the local non-profit Community Conservation Solutions and the L.A. County. Map by Community Conservation Solutions

The greenway opened earlier this month, accompanied with a festive event attended by an assortment of public figures, including L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Congressman Brad Sherman, Colonel Kirk Gibbs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rudy Ortega Jr. representing the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, Joseph T. Edmiston of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and Zev Yaroslavsky, the Former L.A. County Supervisor whose namesake now graces the half-mile, unpaved walking trail along the L.A. River.

Located in Studio City, the greenway won’t just benefit people, but also a myriad of wildlife that will surely benefit from this addition connecting previously sectioned off segments of the river trail into a “four mile continuous river walking trail loop, the longest in the San Fernando Valley”.

The Zev Yaroslavsky L.A. River Greenway Trail should also prove to be an insect paradise, its length selectively planted with over 3,000 native trees, shrubs and flowers – 40 different species, including two of my Cali favorites, California walnut trees and coast live oaks – each chosen for their locally evolved beauty and ability to naturally filter water that eventually finds its way into the L.A. River via natural and urban runoff. With urban sprawl continuing, setting aside land for the purpose of establishing micro-habitats like these will help native birds, insects, mammals, amphibians, and plants eke out an existence in a city that too often chooses landscaping with invasive ornamentals over the drought-hardy and climate adapted natives.

A beautiful handcrafted metal art River and Mountains Entry Gate welcomes walkers into the new trail, with River Story Fence Panels highlighting the river’s history before and after humans arrived in what would later become Los Angeles. Photos: Community Conservation Solutions

The Zev Yaroslavsky L.A. River Greenway Trail’s is admittedly short in length, but one should not consider its importance in isolation. By connecting two previously existing segments of L.A. River Greenway Trail into a continuous five-mile corridor along the river, Angelenos are one step closer to a (far) future when we can travel the entire river’s length, and we can all reconnect with the diverse wild inhabitants who’ve long called the L.A. River home.

As they say with a wink, “it’s not the length, but how you use it”.

The Los Angeles River. Photo by Clarence Lacy

It was after a recent visit along the great Los Angeles River I began thinking about the adaptability of the natural environment in response to large infrastructure interventions. My thoughts wandered from Los Angeles across 2,500 miles, along the Toronto waterfront to the Leslie Street Spit,  a protective barrier constructed over the past 75 years to control wave action along the city’s port and harbors. Leslie Street Spit is also home to Tommy Thompson Park, one of my favorite parks/open spaces.

Following Toronto’s growing prominence in the banking sector, skyscrapers began to climb and dominate the city’s skyline. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing well into the 1980s, international architects left their fingerprint on the formerly manufacturing and packing dominated cityscape. One of the most famous being Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Toronto-Dominion Centre.

With this construction boom, subway development, and the development of the underground city known as the PATH, construction and demolition waste needed a place.  Land reclamation and the construction of bulkheads extended the shoreline into Lake Ontario, and a new spit was created in order to protect the port from erosion and sedimentation.

The main structure of the spit is constructed with hard material. This structure holds embayments made to hold earth fill and dredgate from the harbours. In the mid-1970s, Toronto Region Conservation Agency (TRCA) began to push for a plan for the future use and designation for the land as an open space.

By this time the inactive portions of the Leslie Street Spit had undergone ecological succession. This purely accidental ‘Nature’ became a feature and amenity on the Toronto lakefront. Additionally, it became a stop for migratory birds, earning the designation as an Important Bird Area. More than 300 species of birds have been spotted at the Park, with over 40 being species breeding within the headland of the spit.

The Northern portion of Leslie Street Spit has been designated Tommy Thompson Park, with plans in the coming years to convert the entire Spit into part of the Park. Even James Corner Field Operations was involved in a Parks Master Plan for the Spit. It’s one of my favorite spaces in North America, showing the true tenacity and strength of “Nature” to reclaim and adapt to human constructed infrastructure.

The Leslie Street Spit. Creative Commons photo by Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine

So, back to the Los Angeles River….

How can we use the Leslie Street Spit as a precedent for redeveloping the LA River? How do we begin to understand the ecological systems currently at play? How do we begin to deconstruct and design small changes, sowing the seeds that allow for succession of this infrastructure system? And how can we strike a balance  so it still functions efficiently, but affords ‘Nature’ a chance to thrive?

Even though some parts of Leslie Street Spit have become heavily vegetated and give the appearance of a natural landscape, the archaeology of the site presents a purely anthropogenic construction. Its less about creating a space that looks like a river or a forest, and more about the functionality of the conditions. The Leslie Street Spit is still a designated dumping ground, receiving brick, concrete, stone, rebar, and excavation waste from large projects across the Greater Toronto Area.

The current river has the potential to provide a diverse range of ecologies. We only need to augment the Los Angeles River to create the right conditions. If given enough time and opportunity, Nature’s resiliency will do the rest, creating a new adapted ecology unique to the river winding through our city.

California Native Plant Garden. Creative Commons photo by Mechanoid Dolly

California Native Plant Garden. Creative Commons photo by Mechanoid Dolly

What should I plant? An introduction to California native plants for the garden with Barbara Eisenstein: This is the perfect time to prepare your plant for upcoming native plant sales and fall planting! This slideshow presents garden-worthy plants from woodland, scrubland, chaparral and desert plant communities. Barbara Eisenstein is a South Pasadena-based native plant gardener, horticulturist, writer and blogger. Her recent book, Wild Suburbia: Learning to Garden with Native Plants, guides new and experienced gardeners on a journey toward sustainable habitat gardening.
When: October 15, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM (PDT)
Where: Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley, CA

Full Moon Shinrin Yoku Walk: As the sun sets, the forest takes on new life. The trees become silhouettes, the temperature drops, the song of treefrogs fills the air, and moonlight fills the canyon. This is an invitation to join us for our monthly moonlit walk to the waterfall. Shinrin Yoku is a practice of simply being. No phone calls, no distractions, no stress. It’s a peaceful walk under the canopy while we awaken the senses and reconnect with the land. It might be the easiest thing you can do to revitalize your body and mind.
When: October 15th, 2016, 4:30pm
Where: Monrovia Canyon Waterfall

Los Angeles River Nature Walk @ The Frog Spot: Join Frog Spot’s Naturalists on our daily guided tour along the Los Angeles River Bike Path launching from the Frog Spot. This is your chance to start exploring the hidden ecosystem that runs through the heart of Los Angeles and ties us all together.
When: October 15, 10am – 11am
Where: Frog Spot, 2825 Benedict St, Los Angeles, CA 90039, USA

Hipster Botany: Crash Course in Plant ID: Learn how to identify the top 10 family of plants here at the Arboretum and which of those families have the best, and the worst, plants for gardens here in L.A. with instructor Frank McDonough.
When: October 15, 9 AM – 5 PM
Where: Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, California 91007

The City and The River:  The River & The City series is an extension of the 2015 lecture series Drought and Beauty. Consisting of four events each academic year. Each event includes two lectures from prominent landscape architects (one based in L.A., one from elsewhere) followed by a moderated debate on a theme that will change annually.  The series expands the conversation around urban issues critical to Los Angeles and familiar to designers and thinkers from all over the world. Guests are invited to share ideas, engage in dialogue, and speculate on future possibilities, questioning where we are now and where we are going. The series is co-hosted by USC’s Landscape Architecture + Urbanism Program, Cal Poly Pomona’s Landscape Architecture Program, UCLA’s Extension Program in Landscape Architecture, Arid Lands Institute and Mia Lehrer and Associates.
When: October 10, 7 PM – 10 PM
Where: AECOM, 300 S. Grand Avenue, 10th Floor, Los Angeles, California 90071