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.”
Posts tagged with "L.A. River":
“We got very attracted to the project, and to the idea of making something that reconnects Los Angeles,” Zoltan Pali said of Taylor Yard Bridge, the pedestrian and bicycle bridge designed by his firm, Studio Pali Fekete architects (SPF:a). Originally introduced as part of a mitigations package twenty-two years ago, the bridge, which will span the Los Angeles River between Cypress Park and Elysian Valley, should be completed within two years at a cost of $5.3 million. “Frankly bridges are a very interesting topic,” Pali said. “It’s also one of those types of things that you can design ten bridges in ten minutes, there’s so many different ways of looking at it.” In the case of the Taylor Yard Bridge, the designers faced a unique set of challenges. Large power lines on the Taylor Yard side of the 360-foot span limited the height of the bridge. Also on the Taylor Yard side is a maintenance road, hampering access to the riverbank; on the opposite side is a narrow bike path. Finally, the two banks are about ten feet apart in height, necessitating a 3 percent grade. “[We] had a lot of issues we had to deal with from the standpoint of geometry,” Pali said. To deal with those concerns, and to minimize construction time, Pali and his colleagues chose a lightweight steel construction that eliminated the need for supports in the river bed. The body of the bridge is a 30-foot-by-30-foot box truss, painted orange. A DWP recycled water pipeline, painted purple, will provide a contrasting splash of color. The 17-foot-wide road platform, designed with lanes for pedestrian and bicycle use, “kind of floats, almost seems as if it’s suspended” within the truss, Pali said. The Taylor Yard Bridge is more than just a solution to a set of practical problems. It’s also Pali’s way of pushing back against over-the-top bridge designs. “Truth be told, we really wanted to have a counterpoint philosophically and architecturally from the sort of heroics that lots of folks go through to make bridges,” he explained. The designers aimed for “simplicity, elegance. We wanted to refer to those really beautiful, utilitarian bridges you see around the world, plus the railroad bridges that used to span the LA River. Just do what you need.”
While pathways and parks are springing up near the Los Angeles River, plans to redevelop and green the concrete stretch still need the support of the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government. In the meantime, students from landscape architecture firm SWA's Summer Student Program have developed these mind bending proposals for the concrete expanse. Most not only remove the concrete, which was put in place in the 1930s, but provide walkable spaces, take down walls and other barriers, and add housing and additional program. The number-one goal seems to be to create valuable public space in a city where it is sorely lacking. Their plans received feedback from judges from the University of Southern California, the City of LA, and Friends of the LA River (FOLAR). Just a few examples: BinBin Ma's fashion park would remove water altogether, replaced by people, shops, studios, and vegetation. Marta Gual-Ricart's dense ecological habitat would also provide natural flood prevention and water filtration; and Rachel Vassar's Performative Punk Playground would create new outdoor spaces for art, recreation, and even a "sculptural stormwater garden."
Those of you who live in Los Angeles may know that much of the LA River is already tacitly open to activity like biking and jogging. But it's all been very unofficial—until now. Last week, AN attended a meeting about an upcoming program to open a 4.6 mile portion of the Los Angeles River known as the Glendale Narrows—stretching from Griffith Park to Elysian Park—to public recreational use this summer. "Recreational use" includes walking, hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and yes, even boating (portions of the river have been open to guided kayak tours, but not to general boating)—but, alas, no tubing. The pilot program will include oversight by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority from Sunrise to Sunset, so it's all very proper. And if the pilot program goes well we might see people enjoying the river all year long. "This was too good of an opportunity to let go," explained LA council member Ed Reyes. And thanks to Senate Bill 1201, which amended the LA Flood Control Act to provide for "public use of navigable waterways...that are suitable for recreational and educational purposes," it's a public right. See more upcoming plans for the LA River below, including a River Development District. They're further off, but with the LA River open to recreation, you could be hearing more about them soon.
Rollin' on the River. After seventy years, the Los Angeles River is now open to use by residents and visitors. The LA Times reported that the EPA has designated the river a navigable waterway, and a pilot program, Paddle the Los Angeles, launched this Monday. Visitors can now tour the waterway by kayak or canoe on weekends. Unplugged Plugin. The new Sanya Skypump electric vehicle charging station is off the grid; it uses a combination of wind and solar energy, says Engadget. It is also a streetlamp, providing safe, green, parking illumination. Urbanized Ablaze. Among of the casualties of the London Riots are the cousins of the upcoming documentary, Urbanized. According to the project's blog, looters broke into a Sony distribution warehouse containing 20,000 DVDs of the Helvetica and Objectified films, took what they could and burned the rest. Many other independent films were also lost in the blaze. Suburban dreams. The 2000 Census indicated that young Americans ages 25 to 34 were fleeing the suburbs and moving to cities, but polemic writer Joel Kotkin argued in Forbes that new census data analyzed by Wendell Cox points to a reversed trend. He said the demographic is returning the suburbs as they grow older and have kids. Money McQueen. The Alexander McQueen retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which closed this past Sunday at midnight, was the Met’s 8th most popular exhibit of all time. Over its three-month showing, 661,508 people visited. Jezebel estimated the Met netted a minimum revenue of $14,603,862.