Posts tagged with "L.A. River":

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L.A. to fund “green street” and other stormwater projects in Watts neighborhood

Los Angeles County has agreed to fund $4 million in stormwater improvement projects including a “green street” to capture and treat urban runoff in South L.A.’s Watts neighborhood. The funding comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Los Angeles Waterkeeper against the Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District from back in 2008. The lawsuit sought to hold the two entities liable for almost 500 violation of the local Clean Water Act permit along the watersheds for the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers. In a statement accompanying the ruling, Steve Fleischli, senior attorney and NRDC water program director, described the current lack of water treatment strategy as a wasted opportunity, saying, “For years, the urban slobber that’s picked up by rainwater as it flows into drains and waterways has been a real issue for Southern California – a source of pollution that’s also an underutilized supply of reusable water if it’s captured before it picks up all these pollutants.” The coming improvements will include $1.2 million in funding for residential stormwater retrofit projects designed to hold, filter, and store stormwater runoff before it becomes contaminated by street-borne pollutants in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. The program will install so-called “distributed-infrastructure” measures like rain gardens, cisterns, and green roofs on residential sites in these areas to help achieve these goals. A major aspect of the initiative will focus on improving Watts’s 103rd Street corridor, a stretch of the city also known as “Charcoal Alley” that was heavily damaged in the 1965 Watts Uprising, via public right-of-way improvements. The strip will receive a series of upgrades aimed at filtering and sequestering stormwater runoff, as well, including the addition of bioswales, installing porous pavement, planting new street trees, including drought-tolerant and native landscaping, and other parkway improvements in an effort to filter water before it reaches the Los Angeles River. The L.A. River flows with a mix of treated wastewater and stormwater runoff and dumps directly into the Pacific Ocean. A design team has not been named for the projects, but the ruling shines a light on South L.A.’s relative dislocation from the larger L.A. River restoration measures currently underway and represents a positive shift in terms of design equity for the project.
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BREAKING: BIG unveils gridded, concrete complex for L.A.’s Arts District

Copenhagen and New York City—based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has unveiled plans for a new, L-shaped mixed-use project in L.A.’s aggressively-gentrifying Arts District. The project, first reported by the L.A. Times and called 670 Mesquit, is planned to contain 800,000 square feet of office space, 250 residential units, and two specialty hotels. The project is being developed by Vella Group and will aim to inject an element of public outdoor space into the previously-industrial neighborhood by proposing a large-scale deck connecting the site with the Los Angeles River. The proposed structures and the river are currently separated from one another by a depressed railway interchange along the longest edge of the site. BIG’s proposal is organized within a gridded concrete superstructure running in three directions. Each bay of the superstructure measures 45 feet on each side and contains elements of programming that are intended to be customized by the final tenants as either housing or office space. The size of the frame will allow these users to have a say in how the spaces within are filled in, whether with interior mezzanine levels or fully-built out levels. Certain bays in the development are left open and will act as public passageways aimed at connecting the ground floor retail areas with the proposed river-bound walkway, L.A. River, and surrounding neighborhood. When these passages occur in the project, according to renderings released by the firm, they cut through an entire bay each time, effectively creating three separate buildings strung together by the concrete armature. The resulting masses step either out or in, depending on the tower block, forming ziggurat-or Breuer-inspired massings. The development will contain 41 affordable units, roughly 16-percent of the overall total, with the rest being priced at market-rate. The development marks BIG’s first commission in Los Angeles and is one of a recent crop of California-located schemes that include offices for Google in Northern California with Thomas Heatherwick and a mixed-use complex in San Francisco.
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From anti-flood measures to ecology, see what the L.A. Bureau of Engineering has in store for the L.A. River

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.

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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L.A. River revitalization takes center stage in public eye (and real estate development)

2016 has been big for the Los Angeles River’s ongoing restoration process, as several of the multi-agency, intragovernmental urban water infrastructure projects surrounding its redevelopment have begun implementation.

The 51-mile-long concrete channel currently known as the L.A. River was created in 1938 as a flood control measure, and has been the site of steadily growing public interest for decades. Activist groups started gathering around the idea of river as a social justice cause for the city back in the 1980s, exploring its hidden potential for creating an urban oasis. River-focused landscape architects like Mia Lehrer and organizations like Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), founded in 1986 by poet, filmmaker, and writer Lewis MacAdams, have been at the forefront of river advocacy for years and are responsible for keeping the river in the public eye. But suddenly, the project has gained international notoriety both as the poster child for the post-World War II era’s ham-handed approach to urban hydrology, and, crucially, as an urban project the success of which could rewrite the future of America’s second-largest city.

In 2004, the City of Los Angeles founded a nonprofit group, L.A. River Revitalization Corporation, to wrangle the ever-growing constellation of river-related programs, and ultimately hired Frank Gehry and Associates, landscape firm OLIN, and Geosyntec Consultants to create a master plan. The team is currently in the midst of working through the initial study phases and has held a handful of community meetings across the region to discuss on-the-ground concerns and to gather ideas, in the process creating the L.A. River Index, an online resource for sharing information with the public. A preview of the L.A. River VR Experience, an initiative by media producers Camilla Andersson and Anders Hjemdahl at Pacific Virtual Reality and FoLAR, was released on October 8, timed with the organization’s 30th anniversary. The project is currently in the final stages of production and features a VR tour along the entire LA River. 

Additionally, Gruen Associates, Mia Lehrer Associates, and Oyler Wu Collaborative were recently selected to design bike paths across the river’s length in the San Fernando Valley. Their project will link to the existing, popular path along the river running through the Frogtown neighborhood just north of Downtown Los Angeles. That particular area has been the site of highly partisan anti-gentrification battles, as the development community quickly began to take note of an impending windfall if the river becomes a desirable location. Housing projects have begun to sprout up around this neck of the river, which is surrounded by a mix of sleepy residential and industrial areas. A forthcoming project by Rios Clementi Hale Studios aims to bring 419 apartments, 39,600 square feet of ground-floor retail space, and 18 acres of open space to a river-adjacent site.

In Downtown Los Angeles, Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA) is working toward beginning construction on their new vision for the Sixth Street Viaduct. The project will replace a structurally compromised bridge from 1932 currently under demolition. MMA aims to work in parallel with the bridge’s demolition, starting construction at the recently demolished eastern banks of the river and moving in the path of the old bridge. That project, a partnership with the City’s Bureau of Engineering, is being designed explicitly to facilitate community access to the river along both banks, and is due to be completed in 2019.

Whether it’s online, in virtual reality, or along the newly permeable banks of a beautified L.A. River, one thing is sure: L.A.’s River is changing very, very quickly.

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Going green at ULI’s VerdeXchange: The L.A. River, development, and the future of Los Angeles

If words were water, the Los Angeles River would be overflowing its banks. If pronouncements were viable projects, a very green sustainable Southern California is in the offing. There certainly were a lot of words and pronouncements at the industry heralded “FutureBuild” convocation in L.A. this week, staged over two days by the venerable VerdeXchange conference with the Urban Land Institute. Attending were an estimated 700 people described by the sponsors as “public and private sector market-makers who buy, manufacture, sell, finance, endorse, and legislate green technologies, products, innovations, infrastructure, and sustainable services.” It was very much a design and development crowd. Of major interest was a keynote session entitled “A River Runs Through It: Reimagining L.A.’s Water Way,” with opening remarks by the city’s personable Mayor Eric Garcetti, to be followed by a widely promoted panel prominently featuring celebrity architect Frank Gehry. Garcetti was his smooth self, reviewing the rise and fall of the river’s prominence through the city’s history, touting its present planned revitalization by a concerted community effort, and its critical importance to the future of the city. It was a variation on a speech the mayor has been delivering for several years. However, it did not assuage the announcement that Gehry had bowed out of the event at the last moment. His appearance had been anticipated as an opportunity for him to reply to the skepticism surrounding his appointment by the mayor’s L.A. River Revitalization Corp. to master plan the 51-mile waterway. Instead of being viewed as a second coming, the selection roiled river advocates who had been involved in various long term and long suffering efforts, marked by team planning and transparency. They charged that Gehry, with little landscape experience, has come late to the party, attracted by the publicity it is generating and a $1.4 billion price tag. Gehry has been sharply dismissive of any criticism, while his fans, including the mayor and his minions, have been hinting at the architect generating concepts that will catapult the city to prominence and also enhance its bid for the 2024 Olympics. They will have to wait a little longer, according to Tensho Takemori, Gehry’s surrogate, who said the office was still gathering information while working on a 3D model of the river. “We are not holding our breaths,” commented architect Gerhard Mayer. Indeed, in addition to the one on the L.A. River, the sessions covering every shade of the rising “green” consciousness, from energy to infrastructure, were mostly standing room only. Said an architect trading candor for anonymity, “We’re here not for Frank, nor really for the presentations, but for the networking.” Green is hot.
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The end of the Los Angeles’ Sixth Street bridge brings a subdued HNTB-Maltzan design

So long, Sixth Street Bridge. We knew it was coming, but Wednesday marked the last day the iconic Art Deco span would be open to the public. Built in 1932, the iconic double-loop overpass over the L.A. River will live on in movies, videos, and photos. A victim of age, the bridge was declared unsalvageable due to irreversible decay in 2012 and the Bureau of Engineering launched a competition to design a new, $400 million, cable stayed structure. HNTB with Michael Maltzan Architecture came out the winners in that infrastructural bout and with the demise of the old bridge their loop-de-loop ten-arch span is one step closer to realization. The mayor’s office released new renderings of the bridge that look decidedly toned down from the 2012 winning boards. While older images depicted stairways built into the arches so that pedestrians could get an elevated view and the concrete embankments planted with wildflowers, updated renderings depict a staid park in the shade of the roadbed. that with the Developer Leonard Hill (a founding partner of Linear City Development) recently gave a $1.9 million gift to the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. Those moneys were earmarked to fund the design, construction, and programming of an arts plaza beneath the new Sixth Street Bridge. With such a contribution, one might hope that the park space slated to open in 2019 will be more fully realized than the uninspired placeholder suggested in the renderings.
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Gehry’s Los Angeles River study awarded one million dollar grant

los-angeles-river-05 Is there gold in the L.A. River? The Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation just released news that it was awarded a million dollar matching grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in support of the Frank Gehry-led study of the 51-mile waterway. Making clear that what they are embarking on is an initial study and not a “master plan,” the L.A. River Corp and the Gehry team, which includes OLIN Landscape Architects, Geosyntec, and others, are “developing a data-driven analysis of the river and formulating a set of recommendations for a range of river interventions and capital improvements based on design storm impacts and process methodology.” The stated goal of the study is to establish an identity for the river and propose “multi-use benefits.” The L.A. River Corp noted that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy grant originated from the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Costal Protection Bond Act of 2006. Deliverables associated with the award will focus on the Upper L.A. River, even as the study tasks itself with the full length. According to the organization, the $1 million represents one-third of the larger project cost, which seems like a pretty trim budget for a project of this size.
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Gehry Partners presents preliminary Los Angeles River study, not master plan

“This is not a master plan,” said Omar Brownson, executive director of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (LARRC) at an event to introduce members of the press to the work underway by Gehry Partners on the Los Angeles River. The news earlier this month that Frank Gehry was spearheading a new master plan for the river drew surprised and mixed responses from design, development, and landscape communities near and far. Gehry was not in attendance at the press event, hosted at 100 Years Studio in Downtown Los Angeles, due to recent back surgery. Instead, partners Tensho Takemori and Anand Devarajan presented a series of boards documenting the beginning phases of a study, which Brownson suggested would take 3–6 months and would be supported by public and private funding. Specific private partnerships were kept under wraps. Fifty-one miles—the length of the entire L.A. River—was reiterated again and again. The figure acted as shorthand for an all-inclusive vision for the redevelopment and the identity of the waterway. Representatives from Gehry Partners’ full team were present: landscape architects Olin, Geosyntec, and 270 Strategies, the community engagement firm that got its start doing grassroots work on the Obama campaign. The last, underscores the scope and challenge of working with the river's diverse group of institutional, governmental, and individual stakeholders. The boards presented to reporters were preliminary strategies for tackling the whole river, and in parts seemed thin. Gehry Partners has conceptualized the river as a series of “layers,” a term familiar to anyone who uses drafting or mapping software, but at bit jargony for the public. These include: flood control, water recharge, water quality, ecosystems and habitat, parks and open space, land use, stakeholders, public health, transportation, and arts and culture. Presently, the team is continuing to review the multiple reports and master plans from Alternative 20 to work by the Arid Lands Institute to documents from the DWP and Department of Sanitation, with the hope of codifying the wealth of already completed research on the river from Canoga Park to Long Beach. Much of this data is in GIS form, but the team is also working with a beta 2-D model from Army Corps of Engineer. Long term, however, Gehry Partners is developing a 3-D model in Trimble of the whole L.A. River, which should be available for public interface. According to Takemori, the company used a LIDAR unit to map close to seventy percent of the hard-bottomed sections of the channel. Soft bottom sections in Elysian Valley and Sawtelle will require more on site documentation. Devarajan suggested that the comprehensive map would help identify opportunities to “solve multiple problems with one intervention.” A question about who would design these interventions or what the overall design of the river would look like left the architects a little flummoxed, who noted that Gehry Partners has no desire as a firm to design the whole river. Brownson hedged that there might be a couple select projects. Most of the designs on view were initial screen shots of what the architects called the L.A. River Media Platform, a public, interactive website to host a centralized database of river basin materials, including the eventual 3-D model. Given the scale and scope of such a comprehensive digital effort, it is no wonder that the design firm selected is named Prophet.
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Eavesdrop> Raging River Rumors: What’s next for the Los Angeles River?

We’ve been collecting dribs and drabs about the next phase of development along the already booming Los Angeles River, and the next is that the LA River Revitalization Corporation—the non-profit created to oversee development around the changing waterway—is hoping to put together a dream team of architects and planners to do something ambitious. The group won’t comment on the specifics (though their last board meeting did discuss “projects, infrastructure, and investment, according to the agenda), but we’re very curious to learn more about this.
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Redevelopment projects piling up along the Los Angeles River

Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to secure funding for its planned $1 billion restoration of the Los Angeles River, projects along the waterway's banks are sprouting up regularly, including parks, cafes, trails, and even new buildings. The latest, reported KCET, is the Elysian Valley Marsh Park, a three-acre landscape expansion on what was once an auto body complex in LA's Elysian Valley neighborhood. Designed by Melendrez, the $4 million, 3-acre project includes native (and drought-tolerant) plants and landscaping, filtering bioswales, a meadow, fitness facilities, and a 200-person Spanish mission-style picnic pavilion by ERW Design. The idea was to provide gathering, learning, and play areas, and to "bring some nature back into the city," Melendrez Principal Melani Smith told AN. Via large entryways the meandering facility is designed to connect users to both the river and to the river bike path. It's also the first park on the river with amenities like restrooms, drinking fountains, bike racks, parking, and picnic benches. "It's an iconic area. A centerpiece space for the river," said Smith. Initiated by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the park was funded via Prop A, Prop 84, IRWNP state grants, and more grants from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program, and Council District 13.  Below are some more additions to the fast-growing LA River landscape, brought about through private, non-profit, local, state, and even federal initiatives. While they're happening in piecemeal fashion (often when funding is secured), these projects are starting to create a sense of  place along the river. The parallel goal, pointed out Maria Comacho of the LA River Revitalization Corporation (created via the LA River Revitalization Master Plan to work with the many entities involved with the river), is to unite all the projects into a linear park and  "make sure these projects are accessible and connected." The Corporation's Greenway 2020 program, which Comacho directs, hopes to connect all 51 miles of the river by 2020. The recently passed LA River Improvement Overlay (PDF) will provide more guidance for projects moving ahead. "We have to think about how these pieces all fit together," said Melendrez's Smith, who acknowledges the challenge of unity along a river with so many contributors flowing through so many jurisdictions. "Not many people have articulated how many moving pieces there are on the river," agreed Mary Nemick, spokesperson for LA's Bureau of Engineering . "It all has to fit together and serve the community."
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Proponents Lose Battle to Build Park Across Los Angeles River

A proposal to turn the old Riverside-Figueroa Bridge into a High Line–style park appears to be dead after a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order to demolition crews. Introduced by RAC Design Build and EnrichLA last fall, the Figueroa Landbridge would have preserved part of the 1939 bridge for use by pedestrians and cyclists while the replacement span for vehicular traffic was built upstream. RAC Design Build’s Kevin Mulcahy blamed the collapse of the Landbridge scheme on the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, who he said exaggerated the extent to which the plan would impact the replacement project. When they first introduced the Landbridge, he said, the designers were optimistic. The city had new leadership, many of whom had championed the revitalization of the LA River during their campaigns. “But what we learned is that those promises are not easily embraced,” said Mulcahy. “The politics eroded in an immediate way a very sincere opportunity. The Bureau of Engineering read the political tea leaves and said, ‘We’re not supporting this.’” At the June 2 hearing, lawyers for RAC Design Build and EnrichLA argued that the city is obligated to conduct further environmental review before removing the bridge in light of its status as an historical monument. (The bridge was declared an historic monument seven years ago, one year after the initial decision to demolish it.) The city attorney, meanwhile, claimed that delaying the demolition of the old bridge would stop all work on the new span, to the tune of $18,000 a day. Judge James Chalfant decided in favor of the city, on the grounds that the Landbridge’s proponents should have made their case in 2011. That’s when the Bureau of Engineering decided to build the new bridge upstream of, rather than in the same location as, the 1939 structure. “The judge made his ruling on a failed assumption,” said Mulcahy. “We weren’t here in 2011 because the [Bureau of Engineering] changed the work and they never daylighted that fact. We’re not late because the public has failed here, we’re late as a result of the failure of the Bureau of Engineering to act timely and appropriately.” Mulcahy isn’t sure what happens next. “We’re trying to decide what to do,” he said. “The only way to get [the story] out is to follow through with a lawsuit, and that’s not why we’re in this. We don’t exactly know where we’re going to go with this.” In the meantime, he was heartened by the public’s response to the Landbridge proposal. One Angeleno even organized a “wake” on the old bridge following the hearing. “Here we were on a Sunday with kids running around, just free play with no traffic,” said Mulcahy. “It was a day of a park spanning the Los Angeles River, an absolute proof of concept.” Whether or not the Landbridge is built, Mulcahy still sees value in the lessons learned over the past nine months. “We set out to just ask questions,” he said. “What we discovered were gaping holes in the process, and that’s both unfortunate and—I’m a little bit of an eternal optimist—we can turn that on its head. When we see these kinds of failures, these are opportunities to actually improve things. We’ll see where this goes, but it may bring about change that can actually help the next project.”