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DWP looking at whether to keep – and possibly paint – the concrete banks of Silver Lake Reservoir

Emptied Silver Lake Reservoir | Courtesy LADWP

Emptied Silver Lake Reservoir | Courtesy LADWP

By BARRY LANK

SILVER LAKE — Should the concrete sides of the Silver Lake Reservoir be removed now, while it’s still empty, and be replaced with more natural-looking banks?  The  L.A. Department of Water and Power is pondering the idea.

“No firm solution was decided at last week’s community meeting,” said Amanda Parsons from the L.A. DWP. “Ultimately, this issue remains under discussion.”

The LADWP discussed the idea to keep the concrete at a recent public meeting to update residents on plans to refill the reservoir.  People who attended last week’s meeting said that agency officials were concerned that removing the concrete would delay the refilling the basin, which is scheduled to begin next May. That position has left advocacy groups disagreeing with each other — while mutually criticizing the DWP.

Silver Lake Forward, which has pushed to replace the concrete with natural plantings that would increase green space, released a statement expressing disappointment with the idea, saying, “We don’t believe … that removing the concrete would delay the refilling schedule, and everyone concerned with improving wildlife habitat should support additional green space inside the Reservoir complex.”.

But Jill Cordes, co-founder of Refill Silver Lake Now, expressed no doubt that removing the concrete banks would delay the refill deadline.

“We have been committed to making sure the reservoir gets refilled starting May 1,” Cordes said. “If bringing down the sides would delay that date – which it sounds like it would – then we absolutely cannot support that idea.”

Both groups, however, took the DWP to task for the decision process, and for how the meeting was run.

“The format of the meeting just allowed people to yell at each other and at the DWP and council offices with no real plan in place for how to definitively move forward,” Cordes said. “The DWP presented options to paint the sides but didn’t show any sort of renderings as to what it would look like with the various colors.”

On this point, SLF agreed.

“DWP’s proposal presented at the meeting to paint the banks was not shared early enough with the community to allow for thoughtful discussion, and the format of the community meeting was not structured in such a way as to create consensus,” the statement from SLF said.

But Parsons said the DWP primarily wanted to get opinions.

“The goal of this meeting was not to achieve consensus, but rather to obtain public comment,” Parsons said. “We saw the meeting as a good first vetting of people’s ideas for the long term vision of Silverlake Reservoir.”

The reservoir was drained last year to construct a pipeline along the reservoir bed as part of a much larger water-quality improvement project.

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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15 comments

  1. I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I can’t imagine painting the sides would look anything short of awful. Paint them what color?

  2. To those of you who think you want to remove the concrete banks:
    How many years of studies and lawsuits over CEQA are you prepared to endure before the DWP concludes it’s not feasible to remove the banks or the reservoir? There’s been serious talk about removing concrete banks of the LA River for about 20 years now.

    An EIR will need to take place since there is likely a blue-line stream running down Silver Lake Blvd. the intersection of 3rd St, Beverly and Virgil (downstream from the reservoir) was known to flood routinely up until the City modernized flood control after several floods in the 1920s and 1930s.

    You also have to consider public safety in the event of an earthquake. Earthen banks may be more prone to failure in liquefaction

    The Baldwin Hills Dam disaster in the 1960s
    Is another reason we have concrete lined reservoirs.

    Enjoy the fake lake. It’s really emblematic of new Silver Lake where people have free range chickens on their fake lawns.

    • Agreed, surely no one of intelligence would believe that removing the banks would not lengthen the process of getting the reservoir filled.

      Leave the concrete unpainted, for much the same reason. But also because garish murals may well be the “choice” of weak, politically-correct politicians who will inevitably insert themselves into the decision.

      Just keep moving along and get the reservoir filled! (No, I don’t live in Silver Lake, but do live on the Eastside).

    • This is entirely possible and safe, we have come a long way with construction since the 30’s.

      furthermore there has been no plan in the LA river to remove the concrete embankments, only to carve paths and and plant into them.

      The Baldwin hills dam broke because they built it on a fault line and oil companies used hydraulic fracturing that triggered the fault.

      sure it will take longer, but that’s no reason not do something. It will look great for generations or look terrible quickly and forever.

  3. Natural looking banks would be my choice.

  4. The DWP at the meeting said that leaving the concrete banks would keep more stability to the structure of the walls of the lake. I like more structural stability especially in an earthquake zone. I think they should leave them. They can paint them or not paint them.

  5. let me know when they take down the fence and I can paddle a canoe across it. Until then put a tarp over it for all I care. they can print the sistine chapel on it . whats the point of a lake if you cant enjoy it ?

  6. what a bunch of garbage earthquake propaganda… Please tell me in what universe a lake near seismic activity has EVER caused a problem, let alone a lake as small as Silver Lake

    It’s absolutely baffling to me that people in Los Angeles think our short sprawling city is in any real danger from an earthquake, seemingly ignoring the fact that Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Taipei, Vancouver and Seattle ALL experience the same seismic activity brought on by the ring of fire, ALL of them have a density and height that dwarfs Los Angeles in every way. Please open your eyes to the reality of modern engineering and stop limiting the potential of our city.

    It’s actually sick to think that some NIMBY residents would prevent the conversion of an otherwise wasted space, into a valuable asset to the city that would actually allow people to enjoy the open space rather than stare at it through a hideous chainlink fence.

  7. If any painting has to happen, just paint it gray. Please for the love of god no Aztec warrior murals.

  8. if the crappy job that the DWP did with the Elysian Reservoir is any indication, DWP will go with the cheapest solution, whatever that is.

  9. The residents of Silver Lake are going to learn they don’t own this defunct reservoir, it belongs to all DWP customers. It’s not going to be refilled unless the community of Silver Lake somehow buys it, refills it and maintains it. Otherwise get used to some other use for this space that benefits all DWP customers.

    • The residents of Silver Lake and DWP customer/stakeholders throughout Los Angeles will need to remain aware, active and involved at all times and for the long haul to insure the future utilization of the Silver Lake Reservoir Complex site is not taken control of by the politicians acting for the ultimate benefit of City Hall insiders and power brokers.

  10. I think it would be good to look at the historic record of the Silver Lake reservoir. For much of its history, the reservoir did *not* have concrete lining. It was essentially a dammed arroyo. You can see that here, in a 1932 photo: http://jpg2.lapl.org/pics22/00045687.jpg. And this: http://jpg3.lapl.org/pics28/00063695.jpg (there is some concrete, but notice the bushes and trees that grow out of the banks). And here: http://jpg3.lapl.org/pics28/00063694.jpg. And here: http://jpg3.lapl.org/pics28/00063691.jpg; and here: http://jpg1.lapl.org/pics20/00009934.jpg. Also a 1930’s pic, here you can see where there *was* a fair amount of concrete – at the dam, of course: http://jpg1.lapl.org/00097/00097992.jpg. Look at those nice cyprus trees on top of the dam!

    The natural banks and public pathways around the reservoir were a big selling point for the new homes in Moreno Heights. We lost that a few decades ago when the DWP decided to turn it into a giant concrete bathtub and fence off the whole thing, separating it from the community.

    We now have an opportunity to return the reservoir to its former and more natural state. If it takes a little more time, great – it’s the right thing to do. Painting the concrete is a terrible idea – there’s no way to make that look good.

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