Silver Lake wonders when the water returns to the reservoir

Silver Lake Reservoir | Barry Lank


SILVER LAKE — Some residents are starting to wonder when the water will ever come back to the Silver Lake Reservoir. But, as of now, the L.A. Department of Water and Power doesn’t have an answer.

“The delay refilling is based on the drought,” said Anne Marie Johnson, a candidate for neighborhood council on the Silver Lake United slate, which lists refilling the reservoir as one of its platform causes. “But they knew there was a drought when they drained it.”

When they drained it, yes — but not when they planned it.

The water was drained last year to allow the construction of a water pipeline across the bed of the reservoir, as part of a much larger water-quality improvement project. The LADWP had originally planned to refill the reservoir in about 12 months with about 400 million gallons of drinking water. But the final Environmental Impact Report for the project was filed in May 2006, before the drought took hold, according to Amanda Parsons, the media relations manager for the LADWP.

By 2014, however – a year before the city began “drinking down” the reservoir – the drought was fully upon us, and a report from the DWP mentioned using non-potable water instead. Conservation mandates from Gov. Jerry Brown and Mayor Eric Garcetti meant that drinking water is out, Parsons said.

So if we can’t fill the “reservoir” with drinking water, where will the water come from? Possibly the L.A. River, maybe recycled water, perhaps storm water, possibly some other source — and that won’t work without designing and building additional infrastructure, Parsons said.

As a result, two years after the report acknowledged the need for new water source, the city still is not quite sure what that source is. And although a LADWP report last February indicates construction should end by early next year, the LADWP gives no date for when – or how much – the water ever comes back.

“The timing for the refill and water sources that will be used are currently being determined,” Parsons said.

In his weekly email, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell noted one side effect of the continued drainage and construction: The community has a chance to rethink what to do with the reservoir. This is, in fact, already turning up the volume of online arguments.

“The community is now left with a blank canvass,” O’Farrell said, “an opportunity to re-envision the reservoir, dream big, and think of ways to repurpose the area.”

Barry Lank grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, then went away for a seriously long time. He has worked in TV and radio, and currently helps produce The Final Edition Radio Hour.

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  1. Given the drought, it would be criminal to refill it. I say we turn it into a combination motocross course and homeless village.

    • good idea and when the drought is over we can convert the lake to surfing with a wave machine, something for everyone…

    • Wait A Minute...

      Um, if they put the pipeline under the lake, does that mean when the pipeline has any issues, they have to re-drain the lake to fix it?

  2. totally, populated by micro houses. but keep the fence around it to keep them in. then posts guards, flood lights and a loud speaker system. don’t forget guard towers.

  3. I heard it’s being turned into casino Agua Silverado, with all the amenities that people want, Swimming pool, boating, and gambling. It’s a total win win situation for all parties.

  4. Uh, the reference to the EIR for this project being done in 2006 – not for the draining and refilling, that was not part of the plan at that time.

    The draining and refilling was a plan change at the time the construction of the project arrived at that location a few years ago. The pipeline was going to go under the street adjacent to the lake, but residents complained about their street being dug up and closed for an extended period. Work was stopped, there were community meetings, and the DWP agreed to instead drain the lake and put the pipeline through that area rather than under the adjoining street.

    So, an EIR done in 2006 has nothing to do with this issue now. It seem the DWP public relations people have successfully done their job of fooling the press.

    I also note, while filling it with non-potable water does leave a lake there, it undermines the original idea that the water in Silver Lake could be emergency backup if ever needed. Non-potable water cannot be that.

    • J.W., you got it exactly right. I think there is something more to this situation that meets the eye, and maybe it needs to be investigated a little bit more.

  5. Laura Paterson

    potable water is only potable as long as as someone or somebodies don’t unpot it. what an easy target. so is the central park resevoir for that matter.

  6. Wow. Seriously?! Freaking DWP. What a racket. What a waste of time all of us who went to a ton of meetings talking and talking and talking about the draining and drilling and digging… and at the end of those meetings, because people did not like their “option A”, DWP was forced to do “option d” and dig and reconnect the pipes under the reservoir. It was reported option d saved tax payers over $30 million bucks. And DWP did say they would refill the lake. They said it a million times. Not surprised about O’farrell. He’s a tool and in love with all developers. I hope someone runs against him. Remember that group who wants to make the lake into some sort of swim park? Silver lake Plunge or something like that. I went to their site and looked up some of their members. Easy to cross reverence and find out that some are connected to the group who wants to build a park over the 101 freeway. and do you know who supports that? O’Farrell. Anyway these same people want to turn Silver Lake into a park. No gates, no fences, no parking,…. in other words, the biggest homeless encampment in all of L.A. Nice………. Might as well say good bye to Silver Lake neighborhood. Thank you O’Farrell and your Frankenstein creator Garcetti.

    • A vehement effort at the community level needs to be initiated to force the issue here. O’Farrell needs a clear message from the community that failure on his part to get the reservoir refilled at the earliest practical date is political suicide. I am sure that there is more than enough antipathy to O’Farrell’s ambiguity about and apparent lack of concern for the issue of following through on the plan to refill the reservoir to fire up some significant opposition to his reelection. All these crazy ideas on what to do with the space are symptomatic of what’s happened to the neighborhood in general in the last five years or so. It’s a sort of creative overload that threatens to rob Silver Lake of its long established serenity. The former body of water that is now a pit where a pipeline is being laid down is the center of gravity for this neighborhood and a major missing piece of its identity at the moment. The idea that is would not return to being a body of water as before is an outrage and an affront to the good faith of the community.

    • The only way the reservoir should be refilled is if the wealthy, NIMBY property owners with views of the lake pay for it themselves, using water that has been shipped in from outside our drought starved state. The surrounding homeowners refuse to open up the lake for the public to enjoy, so let them shoulder the entire cost themselves. As a Los Angeles taxpayer, I refuse to pay for their pretty view.

      • Bill,, the surrounding homeowners don’t have a say in removing the fence. DWP owns the property and has the only say in whether or not the fence remains. Up until recently, it was fenced for obvious reasons. It seems questionable whether or not water will return to the site, though it’d be further asinine for DWP to spend the money to replace a pipeline that didn’t even need replacing only to not refill the reservoir. But this wouldn’t be the first time DWP acted haphazardly.

  7. Ok Mr. Bill, let’s review your comment, the wealthy NIMBYS who you reference in your comment will be paying higher property taxes on their view. They also have to deal with all those lovely toxic chemicals that will be deposited in your new swimming hole to keep the diarrhea at bay. Which back door did you come thing where it the homeowners refusing to open up the lake.
    I guess you have no concept of just enjoying nature without stomping through it with your big footprints.

  8. Fabian o'Phurrel

    How come nobody will answer this question:
    Why is the DWP even replacing the bypass line below the reservoir in the first place?
    The existing 60 inch line bypass line is only 62 years old with no reported problems.
    The extra capacity provided by the new 66 inch line was planned to supply expected increased demand before the drought conditions resulted in a permanent 25% reduction order.
    The DWP currently operates water lines over 95 years old in their system. Those lines are supposed to have priority for relacement,
    But instead of replacing lines with the highest risk to fail and cause flooding, DWP pressed on to drain Silver Lake Reservoir and spend millions of $$$ installing a new bypass line alongside the good existing bypass line.
    Maybe Tom LaBonge can provide an answer, since he spent 12 years serving as the DWP’s inside man on the L.A. City Council.

  9. Fabian o'Phurrel

    The DWP has decades of experience in doing what it takes to get what they want.
    They reach out to the community for participation. They solicit residents for ideas and input.
    The say the planning process will be inclusionary – a partnership between DWP and the local stakeholders.
    And whenever it suits them, without any discussion or notification, the DWP will dictate a change of the plans.
    The City Hall inside players long ago set their sites on grabbing control of the Reservoir acreage.
    First, they would need an excuse to drain the reservoir.
    Then they need to keep it empty. If the drought had not provided an easy excuse they would surely create another
    After awhile, people will get sick of looking at an empty weed strewn pit. Almost anything would look better than that.
    The City Hall inside players are laughing at how gullible we are. They kept us fooled long past their own expectations.
    Didn’t you realize that you had been lied to about the reservoir when:
    1.) Tom LaBonge told the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council that he was in favor of the Silver Lake Reservoir remaining as a “natural lake”( a reservoir is filled by the acts of man, a natural lake contains only water that nature alone placed inside).
    2.) When the Silver Lake Reservoir Conservancy proposed using an inflatable berm to only drain half the reservoir for the Bypass Replacement Line project. The berm would allow water to remain in the other half of the reservoir to sustain the migrating bird population which depends on the site and to remain as a critical resource for water-dropping helicopters fighting local wildfires.
    The DWP responded to the inflatable berm proposal – “NO. NOt going to do it. No discussion. No review. Don’t call us and we won’t call you.”
    3.) When Eric Garcetti was elected Mayor of Los Angeles he moved into free housing at the Getty House in Hancock Park.
    At first it was announced that Garcetti would lease out his residence on Hidalgo Street with reservoir views.
    Instead, Garecetti sold the property. And he recently sold another home in Echo Park which had been used as a rental property.
    Garcetti has withdrawn his real estate investments from this area.
    Doesn’t that tell you something?

  10. The DWP is not being truthful. There were community meetings after the drought that discussed drilling under W silver lake around the entire reservoir OR draining the reservoir to place the pipe at the bottom. They never brought up that there would be any delay in refilling the reservoir. If they did, the community would never have supported draining the reservoir. Liars!

  11. Think about this:
    If oFarrell’s new idea of “repurposing the area” was to be implemented, what would it be? A park? Affordable housing? An entertainment venue? A combination of things?
    Then consider the timeframes involved in any of these projects. The plan for the current water project was obviously in the works prior to 2006, which is ten years past. Anything new will require proposals, planning, community input and review, evirinmental Impact reports, traffic studies, etc etc etc, followed by FUNDING.
    After that will be actual construction/development, with the inevitable delays and cost overruns and protest and traffic jams that come with any such project.

    Think about all the time (in terms of years!) this all will take.

    Now consider the drought, ostensibly the cause of all this trouble in the first place. How long have we been in drought? Several years? Ok, now how long is said drought likely to continue? A year? Two? Five? Doesn’t take too much effort to recall the rains of 2004-5, does it?

    Think about the timeframe for “repurposing” the lake versus just waiting for some water to fall out of the sky. The drought is temporary. “Repurposing” the lake is permanent.

    Sorry fat cats, but I say put the cork back in the drain and wait a while.

  12. Mr Garcetti thinks he’s going to Washington DC. with the new President.
    Now that all his property has been sold he will be free to go.

  13. You can’t have Silver Lake without the lake. There needs to be refilled lake in some form. It would; however, be unconscionable to fill and keep filled indefinitely with potable water at its current size. We would become the new Beverly Hills / Amy Poehler / Tom Selleck, the out of touch Southern Californians who just don’t get it. The ones Bay Area people sneer at.

    Build a new lake with a size comparable to Echo Park or McArthur Park. Use the rest of the space for natural areas and maybe a soccer field or two. It’s probably not what was promised but think it’s the right thing.

  14. Councilman O’Farrels comments are perfectly in line with his pro development history. Developers seem to be circling behind the scenes with ideas on how they can exploit the reservoir space. O’Farrels concern seems not to be preserving space for park and natural space, rather catering to developers who fund his next campaign. Garcetti has his eye on Sacramento or D.C. The next rung on his career ladder.

    Agree with person who pointed out the great job done on Echo Park lake. That should be our pattern on what is possible.. We need more natural green space in this city,
    not more development.

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