Q&A with the BoE

From anti-flood measures to ecology, see what the L.A. Bureau of Engineering has in store for the L.A. River

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The Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering 
has had a hand in shaping many major 
infrastructural projects—like the Michael Maltzan Architects–designed Sixth Street Viaduct—to achieve balanced sites that 
incorporate urban-scale utility with a 
pedestrian-oriented, ecologically-driven ethos. These projects, many of which surround the redevelopments on the Los Angeles River, have the potential to change the way Los Angeles’s urban infrastructure relates to the everyday user. (Courtesy City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering/Michael Maltzan Architecture/HNTB Corporation)
The Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering has had a hand in shaping many major infrastructural projects—like the Michael Maltzan Architects–designed Sixth Street Viaduct—to achieve balanced sites that incorporate urban-scale utility with a pedestrian-oriented, ecologically-driven ethos. These projects, many of which surround the redevelopments on the Los Angeles River, have the potential to change the way Los Angeles’s urban infrastructure relates to the everyday user. (Courtesy City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering/Michael Maltzan Architecture/HNTB Corporation)

Gary Lee Moore is the city engineer with the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, one of the many organizations and agencies involved in the ongoing restoration and redevelopment of the Los Angeles River. Among the numerous river-related projects on which the bureau is currently working are the restoration of an 11-mile run of the river within city limits and the replacement of the Sixth Street Viaduct with new designs by Michael Maltzan Architecture.

The Architect’s Newspaper: What role does the L.A. Bureau of Engineering play in facilitating the ongoing L.A. River restoration process?

Gary Lee Moore: The Bureau of Engineering (BoE) has a long history of working on the Los Angeles River. We led the development of the L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan, passed by the Los Angeles City Council in 2007, and were assigned the responsibility of implementing the plan, which continues today. BoE also led the city’s collaboration with the United States Army Corps of Engineers on the development of the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility study and the Alternative with Restoration Benefits and Opportunities for Revitalization (ARBOR) study that recommended Alternative 20 (the policy recommendation that called for the most expansive level of restoration for the river). Alternative 20 was adopted by the city council in June 2016 and is pending approval in Congress. BoE is also managing a variety of significant L.A. River projects that include new bikeways, river-adjacent parks, bridges that cross the river, and bridge underpasses, as well as restored river-access points and existing bridges. For our regional colleagues who are also focusing on river revitalization, BoE has been the city’s point of collaboration. This includes a variety of nonprofits and other public agencies.

(Courtesy Ron Reiring/Wikimedia Images)

(Courtesy Ron Reiring/Wikimedia Images)

How does the L.A. River restoration feed into the BoE’s overall mission?

BoE’s vision is to transform Los Angeles into the world’s most livable city. Revitalization of the Los Angeles River corridor, with public access, open space, native ecosystem restoration, and world-class parks, will contribute to creating a more livable, more sustainable Los Angeles.

What are some of the approaches being taken with regard to maintaining the river’s usefulness as a piece of flood control infrastructure for the region?

The ARBOR study assumed that current levels of flood protection would be maintained with the suggested changes to the river. For example, this means increasing the flood channel’s capacity where planting is suggested in the channel for habitat creation.

Which measures are being taken to guide forthcoming development along the L.A. River toward having a more positive relationship with the local hydrology and ecology (in terms of runoff, infiltration, sewage, etc.)?

The city established a citywide Low Impact Development ordinance in 2012 that requires on-site capture or infiltration and a dispersed approach to stormwater management that positively diverts it to the L.A. River.

In addition, recent projects done by the city along the L.A. River have been designed to direct stormwater into vegetated swales. The River Improvement Overlay (RIO) guidelines  produced by the Department of City Planning in 2014 provide private property owners along the river with design approaches that reflect habitat sensitivity.

In terms of ecology, the city uses Los Angeles County’s L.A. River Master Plan Landscaping Guidelines and Plant Palettes, published in 2004, which calls for a native L.A. River plant palette all along the river. This palette was identified to support local fauna and to restore the native landscape.

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