The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering is seeking public comment on the Taylor Yard G2 River Park Project Final Draft Implementation Feasibility Report (IFR). Submissions close on Friday April 30, 2021.
Your comments need to be sent to:
Project Team, Taylor Yard G2 River Park Project
You’re welcome to adapt or reuse anything from my letter. The important thing is that you send a letter, by Friday April 30.
Project Team, Taylor Yard G2 River Park Project
Dear Project Team,
Comments on the Taylor Yard G2 River Park Project Final Draft Implementation Feasibility Report
I am an independent scholar and the founder/curator of Los Angeles River X. I have over a decade of international research and community engagement expertise in river landscapes and their complex interrelationships with surrounding communities, particularly the Los Angeles River. On that basis, I make the following comments on the Implementation Feasibility Report (IFR). I look forward to seeing them addressed as the planning and engagement process continues.
As the report indicates that none of the three design options are actually intended to progress as described, I have kept my comments at the more macro scale rather than specifically commenting on the site planning options, Island, Soft Edge, and The Yards. Having said that, my preferred design option would be Island, given its positive evaluations for habitat restoration, park user experience, economic return, capital cost, consistency with public input. Though that design is not as highly rated in the IFR in terms of technical feasibility, I hope that your decisions are not constrained by taking the technically easiest option. An alteration as extreme as the river’s channelization must be matched by courageous innovation to unravel the damage and redress environmental injustices. That is the task at hand.
I commend the next steps of Chapter 8 with regards to habitat improvement and I ask that these be prioritized moving forward. The presentation given at the recent public meeting (3/18) seemed to place a higher value on creating gathering places for humans than on habitat creation, and this is also – unfortunately – the dominant theme of the Draft County Master Plan. It is my view that the 100 acre parcel is – without exaggeration – the most crucial ecological site along the river’s entire 51 miles. This is the place at which the ambitious but essential task of river restoration fails or succeeds. For this reason, increasing habitat, biodiversity, and climate resilience should be the north star for the 100 acre partnership, and for Taylor Yard/G2. Genuine habitat restoration will be beneficial to the ecosystem as a whole – cleaner air, mitigation of urban heat island effects, greater flood resiliency, increased carbon sequestration, a greener city, improved biodiversity – all beneficial for us humans who are, try as we might to ignore it, an interdependent component of the environments in which we live. To make this a parkspace-first development would be a great loss of opportunity, whereas a biodiversity driven approach would be transformational for the immediate community, and the entire watershed.
In terms of planting, while the report says planting would ‘draw from’ the County’s Landscaping Guidelines and Plant Palettes I didn’t see any indication that it will at a minimum adhere to the standards in the Draft Los Angeles River Master Plan of at least 85% being native to the LA River watershed and no more than 15% being non-native, non-invasive plants. This is essential, at a minimum.
Paseo del Río
My reading of the scant information provided on the design of the Paseo del Río suggests that the design sensibility is parkspace-first and human centric, given the list of possible inclusions – ‘trails; native habitat; water quality improvement features; greenspaces; trail recreational opportunities; kayak launches and landings; gathering spaces or outdoor classrooms; passive elements; and amenities such as access points, parking, restrooms, gates, lighting, and interpretive signage’. I would urge a habitat-first approach, of course incorporating opportunities for people to access and benefit from new green and blue urban spaces, but prioritizing ecological integrity.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of the Los Angeles River is that it is an urban wilderness. Not in the sense of it being pristine, but rather that there are stretches of riverbed and bank where people can find spaciousness, can experience awe at the beautiful resilience of nature, can fish, birdwatch, engage in nature play, create (sanctioned and unsanctioned) art, play music, paint en plein air, or take a break outdoors from overcrowded housing and hectic complex lives. The importance of this spaciousness has never been as poignant as during this long pandemic year, when the respite of the river as open space has been a social safety net. While so much of our city was shuttered, including gated green spaces such as the Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park, areas such as the Bowtie Parcel were a lifeline as they remained informally open to the public. I ask the project team and the landscape architects to consider ways to maintain some of these unstructured and organic river qualities, these freedoms, in forthcoming design approaches.
On-site water quality improvement project
The onsite water quality improvement project has the potential to set a powerful blueprint for the future park, by making ecological remediation foundational. My hope is that the project will be visionary, at the forefront of science and innovation. In particular, I ask that the project team canvass possibilities for genuine remediation of the contaminated soil rather than simply sealing the filtration system with an impermeable plastic layer. Likewise, I hope to see forefront science in terms of water quality improvement mechanisms. For a community that has long experienced the burdens of environmental racism, there must be more profound remediation than simply accepting toxicity and minimizing its effects.
In particular, I ask that the project team investigate the efficacy of phyto-, ectomycorrhizal-, and myco -remediation science, which get little to no attention in the documentation thus far.
There is an opportunity for the water quality project to be at an expanded ecosystem scale rather than confined only to the site. Could the project team evaluate costs and benefits of installing rain gardens and other neighborhood infrastructure in the sub watershed? These would slow and filter stormwater flows while at the same time creating micro green spaces in yards and streetscapes, and would demonstrate a genuine interest in the wellbeing of nearby residents and communities.
Once remediation is achieved, it would then be possible, I understand, to make the hundred acres a substantial site for groundwater recharge, a game changer for climate resilience.
With Cypress Park, Glassell Park, and Elysian Valley long plagued by multiple environmental injustices, and with gentrification and displacement already the next wave of exploitation, there needs to be a tangible set of mitigation and protection commitments from the City. While the IFR lists various reports, practices, goals and policies in general terms, there is no indication in particular as to how these will be applied in relation to the Taylor Yard/G2/100 Acre Partnership projects. This is not good enough, and I ask that, moving forward, the documentation includes specific and robust protections, ensuring that the creation of this environmental good actually distributes benefits to local neighborhoods, and to communities of color, rather than causing further instability, displacement, exploitation, and socio-economic disadvantage.
I ask the City and project team members to do all that they can to facilitate engagement of the general public with the planning process, accommodating differentials of language, socioeconomic status, education, as well as cultural and social capital. You know as well as I that environmental injustices disproportionally impact disadvantaged, minority, and marginalized communities. The City has a responsibility to show meaningful leadership in this regard.
This IFR is about so much more than the building of a future city park on the east bank of the river. What happens on the 100 Acre partnership properties is the canary in the coal mine for the future of Los Angeles. The decisions made for this site are decisions for the entire river and city. I look forward to seeing your responses to public comment and the next steps that are taken at Taylor Yard.
Tilly Hinton, PhD