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Engineers, designers and residents weigh in on new L.A. River park [updated]

Concepts for Taylor Yard River Park

One of three presentations about Taylor Yard River G2 Park | Javier Rojas

By JAVIER ROJAS

Residents last week were briefed on the long and costly process ahead to transform a barren and contaminated 42-acre chunk of former railroad property into riverside parkland on the border of Cypress Park and Glassell Park.

Three competing engineering teams presented their concepts for the interim and long-term development of what is now known as Taylor Yard G2 River Park.

The 42-acre site, once owned by the Union Pacific Railroad,  sits between the L.A. River and Rio de Los Angeles State Park, with tracks used by Metrolink commuter trains separating the two properties. The  future parkland was purchased by the city earlier this year for about $50 million. But the cost of actually cleaning up the contaminated soil and building the park could top $200 million.

Audience members sound off on the park concepts | Javier Rojas

The city wants to come up with temporary public uses for the land — such as creating walkways and bike paths — while developing a long-term plan for the park and coming up with the money to pay for it. The State Coastal Conservancy issued a grant of $2 million that would be spent on figuring out how to clean up the site and and how to provide long term public access to it.

The following is a rundown of the three proposals presented at last Wednesday’s community meeting by three engineering teams:

Promenades & Boardwalks

AECOM, a global engineering group that has worked on such projects as extending the Metro Gold Line, said its proposal was based on the premise of creating a “community oriented project” that would revitalize the LA River. The firm’s short and long term plans include building a creek, a promenade and pedestrian boardwalks.

“This river is part of our everyday lives and deserves a project that will be able to unite communities,” said AECOM Project Manager Maria Alvarez.

Kayak Launch & Cultural Plaza

WSP, a professional consulting and engineering firm, envisions a park with picnic areas, an amphitheater, kayak launch space and a cultural plaza.

“We’re hoping to create [an] immersive experience with nature in the city,” said Irma Munoz of Nuestro Futuro, a non-profit  working with WSP. “Imagine going for a kayak ride in the river followed by a stop by a cafe then running into a wedding ceremony in the park.”

While WSP has developed its own ideas for the park, company representatives encouraged audience members to voice their opinions and preferences.

”We need you to tell us what you want,” Munoz said. “We’re not going to assume anything and we’re not going to tell you what you want.”

“Ecological Icon”

Mark Hannah, Senior Principal Water Resources Engineer for the firm Geosyntec, said his group wants to make the Taylor Yard Park an “ecological icon” with three focuses: Nature, water and community.

“Imagine a river park that is an icon to the world that demonstrates what’s possible on this former industrial site, ” said Lucinda Sanders, a landscape and urban designer partnering with Geosyntec.

The group explained the steps that they would take to first clean the river and design ways to help preserve plant and wildlife.

“Our number one priority ….  is to make a safe, clean and healthy park for the community,” Sanders said. “The science is nothing without the people and we want to make this a model park.”

Audience Response

When asked to respond to the presentations, audience members asked questions on a variety of topics, ranging from water conservation and the potential for the park to spur further gentrification in the surrounding neighborhoods. One resident was concerned about the lack of attention given to local youth and desires for additional soccer fields.

Gary Moore, City Engineer of Los Angeles, said the goal is to showcase the park in time for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics.

The next step in the process will be to present the proposals to the Board of Public Workers by November for review, Moore said.

A website has been set up to provide updates on the development of the Taylor Yard park.

Taylor Yard River Park | Bureau of Engineering

UPDATE: The staff of the Bureau of Engineering will recommend that the Board of Public Works select WSP as the design team.  The interim improvements could be ready for the public in two to three years.

Javier Rojas is a freelance writer and award-winning photographer who lives in El Sereno

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