Sunday, January 30, 2011

Franklin High Arroyo Seco Academy Students Design Urban Trails

Los Angeles City Council District Member Ed Reyes welcomed more than 50 community leaders to the recent open house at Franklin High School in Highland Park for a special presentation of student work highlighting more than 30 urban trails connecting the Los Angeles State Historic Park (the Cornfields) with surrounding communities.

A joint project of the City of Los Angeles, the National Park Service, and the Transportation Academy section of the Arroyo Seco Academy at Franklin High School, this senior high school student generated experential learning program used a 'learn by doing' approach whereby the students had to study the neighborhoods, then walk/bicycle them to finalize the creation of their trail.
The project, under the direction of Patrick Johnston of the National Park Service, (shown right here with some participating students), engaged Academy students in developing research, planning, visual design, and presentation skills.

The open house featured an opening welcome, followed by visits to 'stations' throughout the school cafeteria where students both presented their trail design and answered questions from participants.
Here, Los Angeles City Planner Claire Bowin asks questions of a trail team who have created a bicycle path leading from the State Park to Highland Park. The students used a wide variety of visual tools - from powerpoint presentations to table displays to multi-media trail layouts.

One of the highlights of the open house was learning more about the City of Los Angeles' heritage, culture, and history. Most trails had themes: foodie places to stop, historic buildings to see, natural resources to see, monuments to see, Little Tokyo sites, Downtown Civic sites, and so on. It was fascinating watching the students 'defend' their work and this sometimes jaded writer who has been in Southern California for over 30 years had to admit she learned something new!

My personal favorite: the skateboarding trail from Chinatown to the Cornfields. Based on the terrific work done here, I see a number of promising planners for our future.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Arroyo Property of the Week

Highland Park along the Arroyo Seco seems to be the place to be these days for terrific rehabs of residential properties, adding upgrades and hip modern touches.

This week we get to look at a great 'pocket listing' nestled in the hills north of York Boulevard. That's right. It's not in the multiple listing service (MLS) but you can learn about it here!

This recently refurbished property features a terraced hillside footprint with unobstructed views.

The main house, located on the upper terrace, includes a wrap-around terrace for entertaining and to take in those fabulous views. The property is full of the lush urban nature ambiance so loved in the Arroyo Culture of Northeast Los Angeles.

The studio on the lower terrace is the perfect writer's retreat, quiet with bucolic views.

Both the main house and the studio boast open floor plans with sleek detailing. The kichen- dining area great room is perfect for both casual dining and parties.

Enticed so far? Check out lots of property photos here:

This adorable 3 bedroom, 2 bath property plus studio can be yours for $649,000.

And don't worry. Just because the property is not being promoted via the MLS doesn't mean that you can't see it, because it will be open this Sunday, January 30th, from 1-4pm.

Just remember when you stop by to mention that you found out about this terrific property from the Arroyo Lover!
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cal Poly Students Roam the LA River on Bicycles

Last Saturday found the Cal Poly Pomona Urban & Regional Planning 487 class on the streets of Elysian Valley, doing a site visit as part of their conceptual design plan to create a Neighborhood Gateway Center in this neighborhood on the West Bank of the Los Angeles River.

But this was no typical planning site visit. It was a bicycle tour of the neighborhood and LA River by 40 enthusiastic planning students, searching for the clues that make each community, including Elysian Valley, unique.

The morning started with coffee and overview presentations by LA River, CRA-LA, and neighborhood leaders at the Frank Romero Frogtown Art Studio on Blake Avenue.

Speakers included LA River Office Director, Dr. Carol Armstrong, CRA-LA liaison to the LA River Revitalization Corporation, Jason Neville, Friends of the LA River Executive Director Shelly Backlar, Dorris Place Elementary Principal Susan Grant, and CRA-LA Northeast Los Angeles River Study Area Planner and Team Leader, Allison Becker. Also in attendance for CRA were Jessica Cowley of the Neighborhood Design Studio, Outreach Coordinator Michael Cortez, and Technical Services Coordinator Alex Holsheimer.  Each short presentation helped orient the students to the neighborhood's history and character as well as opportunities and challenges for river restoration and community revitalization.

Then it was outside to the bicycles and a roving tour of the neighborhood and the river, via the newly opened LA River Bicycle Path, to visit landmarks, ask questions of the presenters who were posted at various stations throughout the community, and take pictures of buildings, green streets, and local color that will help them design an important new gateway community hub that will connect Frogtown, as it is affectionately called, with the LA River and beyond, including an imagined future bridge across the River to connect this neighborhood with Taylor Yard and the Rio de Los Angeles State Park on the East Bank.

Based upon the level of curiosity and energy at the site visit, expectations are high for a terrific final conceptual plan, which will be completed in March.  Check back then to see the final product.

Special thanks to local businesses Antigua Cultural Coffee House for providing coffee and Flying Pigeon LA for providing bicycles.

How about exploring your neighborhood from the seat of a bicycle?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Arroyo Property of the Week

How about this for a view?

One of the great reasons why so many people love to live along the Arroyo Seco in Los Angeles is the terrific viewshed from the rolling hills of the region.

Often I talk about historic properties and Arroyo Culture, but today I want to focus on the great new architectural styling that defines the Arroyo as well.

Sleek and modern yet well-designed for a hillside lot, this inspired architectural home from award-winning John Raymond Byram AIA exhibits a signature presence that exudes a stately confidence.

This 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath open floor plan's interior does not disappoint, either. From the cook's kitchen with state of the art appliances to the high end finishes and materials, including bamboo flooring and custom aluminum windows and doors, this elegant home will please anyone who appreciates modernist architecture.

Byram, a Pasadena-based architect who has designed a number of homes in Northeast Los Angeles, is also a professional watercolorist, and his eye for color and line are evident everywhere in this magnificent property.

Its perch on a quiet cul-de-sac with easy access to freeways and shopping blends the best of the city with an urban nature ambiance.

But why take my word for it? You can check out this amazing property yourself this Sunday, January 23rd, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Details here:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How About Some Geotourism along the Arroyo Seco?

What is geotourism and how is it different from ecotourism?

According to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, geotourism goes beyond ecotourism because its goal is to sustain and enhance the geographic character of a place - its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well being of its residents.

The Conservancy, in a public-private partnership with the National Geographic Society and the Sierra Business Council, has undertaken The Sierra Nevada Geotourism Project, which seeks to celebrate the Sierra Nevada as a world‐class destination, while contributing to the economic health of the region by promoting sustainable tourism.

History buffs and adventurers, backpackers and foodies, birders and sightseers can discover unique destinations based on recommendations from those who know best — residents of the Sierra Nevada.

Nominations for three regions have been completed and this week marks the kick-off for nominations for the Southern Sierra Nevada, which includes my beloved Kern River. This video tells more about the mapping nomination process:

Why am I blogging about the Siera Nevada when my focus is on the Arroyo Seco and Los Angeles Rivers? First, because many Southern Calfornians visit and enjoy the Sierra Nevadas regularly, so why not suggest your favorite places?

You can make your nominations here:

Just as importantly, I'm wondering why don't we have our own Arroyo Seco and Los Angeles River Watershed Geotourism Project? What do you think? How do we set one up? How do we let Southern California visitors know that we have terrific natural wonders and unique local character(s) to behold?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Important Upcoming Los Angeles River Meetings & Outreach

Spring is in the air and there are lots of upcoming public events providing information and updates on the restoration and revitalization of the Los Angeles River.

1. Los Angeles has released a Notice of Intent to issue a Negative Declaration for the Albion Dairy and Remediation for the Albion Riverside Park Project. Comments can be submitted until February 4, 2011, to

The Initial Study is available for review at the Lincoln Heights Branch Library, 2530 Workman Street; Council District 1 - District Office, 163 South Avenue 24, Room 202, Lincoln Heights 90031; Bureau of Engineering, Environmental Management Group (EMG), 1149 S. Broadway (contact Maria Martin at (213) 485-5753); or online at

2. CRA/LA is seeking community members for its Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) River Corridor Study Area Steering Committee. This one-year term volunteer board is open to residents and business owners in the communities of Atwater Village, Cypress Park, Elysian Valley and Glassell Park. The deadline for application is January 28, 2011. Detailed information and the application are available at

3. CRA/LA is also seeking members for its Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan & Redevelopment Project Area Community Advisory Committee.This one-year term volunteer board is open to residents and business owners in the communities covered by the CASP. The deadline for application is February 11, 2011. Detailed information on qualifications to sit on this committee and application are available at:

4. The 2011 Los Angeles River Update Meeting, A Confluence of Communities and Ideas,  will be held on Thursday, February 10, 2011, from 6-8:30pm at the Office of City Councilmember Dennis Zine (District 3), 19040 Vanowen Street, Reseda, near the recently approved LA River - Aliso Creek Confluence Project. Current San Fernando Valley LA River Projects can be accessed here:

5. SAVE THE DATE! Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's 2011 'Day of Service' will focus solely on LA River-related projects this year. The Day of Service will be held on Saturday, April 30, 2011, to coincide with the Friends of the Los Angeles River annual La Gran Limpieza River Cleanup. Details are forthcoming at and

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arroyo Property of the Week

Yes, I know that Eagle Rock is not within the Arroyo Seco watershed (it's in the Verdugo). But as someone who once lived in this community, I can fairly state that most Eagle Rock residents consider themselves Arroyo lovers, due to the community's close physical and emotional proximity to the Arroyo Seco and Pasadena.

Regardless, there are no doubts about why Hill Drive (originally Hill Avenue) is one of the prettiest streets in all of Los Angeles. Even residents who do not live on Hill  Drive love to make the trip up the hill to walk their dog or take a romantic stroll with their loved one.

Among the stately homes that grace this tucked-away street is this newly listed 1925 Mediterranean Revival which has recently undergone a complete interior make-over, resulting in a beautiful mix of elegant grandeur with all the modern luxury one could want, including an inspired cook's kitchen, spa-like master bath, and playful backyard with dramatic pool and treetop views.

The main house features almost 2500 square feet of living space, including an exquisite master suite, two additional bedrooms and a total of 2.5 baths. The 800 square foot guest house boasts both a loft-style game room and a bedroom and bath.

The multi-tiered backyard with pool and spa is perfect for entertaining and the property also includes a 2-car garage on a 10,000 square foot lot.

Of course, there is multi-zone central heat and air conditioning, too.

What would you pay to live in this beauty on the best street in Eagle Rock?

Come check out this terrific property on Thursday, January 27th from 10am to 2 pm and Sunday, January 30th from 1-4pm. More details at:
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee Chooses First Project

Monday January 10th marked the first meeting of the newly reorganized Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee, comprised of representatives from the City of Los Angeles Engineering Office/LA River Office, Bureau of Sanitation, Recreation & Parks Dept as well as the Watershed Management and Water Resources Divisions of the LA County Flood Control District. The US Army Corps of Engineers participates as a non-voting member.

Committee Co-Chair Gary Lee Moore, of the LA Engineering Office, presided over a full agenda and a packed house, including community representatives from Friends of the Los Angeles River, Northeast Trees, Silver Lake Conservancy, Native Plant Society, and the LA Fire Department Search and Rescue Division.

Two major topics dominated this meeting: First, regional representatives of the California High Speed Rail Authority (HSR) gave an informative update on HSR alignment crossing the Los Angeles River along three vital segments: Los Angeles Union Station to Palmdale (which also affects the Los Angeles River-Arroyo Seco Confluence), Los Angeles Union Station to Anaheim, and Los Angeles Union Station to San Diego. The southern route designs currently look at trestle bridging over the LA River, but of the 4 designs proposed through downtown northward through the Taylor Yard right of way, three now are tunneling options, where the trains would run 70 feet under the Los Angeles River. Design 4 which tunnels under the River and exits at the surface near the 2 Freeway and Fletcher Drive was a new proposal and finally one from HSR that seeks to complement rather than compete with LA River restoration activities in Cypress Park near the Rio de Los Angeles State Park and the new LAUSD high school.

The second top item was the presentation by Tori Kjer of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) on the LA River and Aliso Creek Confluence Project in the west San Fernando Valley, which creates a riverside greenway on a Los Angeles Department of Water & Power easement and a portion of a vacated street east of Wilbur Avenue and Kittridge Street. This project, which has already received partial grant funding, was unanimously approved by the Committee as its first project.  This project also includes the Rivers & Mountain Conservation Authority (RMCA) as a partner.

Other river projects underway incudes the Headwaters Project on Owensmouth Avenue in the West San Fernando Valley and the North Valleyheart Riverwalk in Studio City.

Committee member activity reports included the following:

USACE - There will be a federal site visit within the next couple weeks along the Ecosystem Restoration Study area of the LA River. The Corps will also be having a 'sweet spot' workshop with High Speed Rail in the new few weeks to work out final alignments along the River.

LA River Office - North Atwater Park and the Elysian Valley Bikeway both had successful groundbreaking and dedication ceremonies, respectively. Omar Brownson has been named as new Executive Director of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation. There will be a public River Update meeting at 6:30pm on February 10th in Reseda, location to be announced. This year's Mayor's Day of Service on March 12th will focus solely on the LA River and project ideas should be sent to Carol Armstrong.

Bureau of Sanitation - The Low Impact Development Ordinance was approved by the LA City Council and is now at the City Attorney's office for review. The groundbreaking occurred for a new green alley at Vineland Avenue and Burbank Boulevard, which will recapture enough groundwater to serve 60 homes annually. The Avenue 19/Humboldt Pocket Park Stormwater Capture project is underway. A blighted alley in South LA at Manchester and Figueroa is being converted to a green groundwater project in cooperation with Caltrans. All these projects are efforts to comply with the TMDL Implementation Program.

Other updates included:

The proposed LA-Rio (Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay) Ordinance is now out of the City Attorney's office and back in Planning, where significant revisions are likely to comply with other recent ordinances including the Green Streets and LID Ordinances.

There will be no LA River federal advocacy trip to Washington this year. However, the Committee is hoping to hold meetings with local Congressional leaders and perhaps State legislators in March.

Proposed topics for the next meeting, scheduled for Monday, April 4th at 1:00pm include an update from the County on the Sediment Removal Plan and a request from FOLAR on River access. This meeting will be  held at the LA County Dept of Public Works, 900 S. Fremont Avenue, Alhambra, in the conference center there.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Who Needs an Alarm Clock in Pasadena?

Who needs an alarm clock in Pasadena with wild parrots visiting in the early morning hours? Yes, they swooped down onto my neighbor's tree at 7:00am this morning in full grandeur. So much for my beauty sleep!

If you don't live in the Pasadena-Altadena-South Pasadena-Sierra Madre areas, you probably don't know that residents here have a natural alarm clock. The Parrots of Pasadena. as they are generally called, are a flock of hundreds of feral parrots, who migrate along the Arroyo Seco corridor in search of food and adventure. The Parrots are so notorious that they are even mentioned on the City of Pasadena's Wikipedia page as local icons!

According to the Los Angeles Parrot Project (, there are at least five species represented in the flock, although the red lored Amazon Parrot seems to be the most common.  Many theories abound as to how this large flock has come to circle the city on a regular basis. Some say they were brought to the area years ago from Mexico and set loose; the most popular explanation suggests they were set free for their own survival from a large pet emporium on East Colorado Boulevard when the building caught on fire in 1959.

Regardless of their origin, the Parrots of Pasadena are a common sight - welcomed by some as 'local color' - hated by others as a nuisance.

In case you've never seen them in action, take a look and a listen here:

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Arroyo Property of the Week

What a difference a few months make along the Arroyo Seco in Northeast Los Angeles!

On the left, a 1911 Highland Park Craftsman style home, modified and neglected somewhat over the years.  On the right, the same home after ModOp Design's restoration and modern finishes.

This property, a 2 bedroom, 1 bath listed at $479,000, is new to the market and boasts all the features that Arroyo Culture lovers adore: careful attention to historic architectural details including restoration of the original porch, a rainwater friendly landscape, and decorator touches that feature adaptive reuse of original window sill and wood planking, including the custom made picnic table in the Retro Cool backyard entertainment area.

Best of all, while the exterior reclaims its classic 1911 charm, the interior makes the 100 year leap to 2011 upgrades, including double paned wood windows, custom cabinetry, sold walnut floors, new electrical and plumbing systems, and Carrara Marble and Heath Ceramic accents. In addition to the backyard covered entertainment area, the property also boasts an oversized two car garage perfect for a workshop.

Even if you are not in the market to buy a new home, you owe it to yourself to wander over to 1701 N. Avenue 56, north of York Blvd., this Sunday, January 9th, from 1-4pm to see how modern rehab touches that include restoration are done right.  Details here:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Trouble at the Lower Arroyo Seco Corral

The 'new business' item on the January 4, 2011, agenda of the Pasadena Recreation and Parks Commission looks simple enough: 'Reconfiguration of Trails and Introduction of Fencing in the Southern Archery Range Area of the Lower Arroyo Seco.'

Beneath the surface, though, conflict has been brewing between two groups - recreational hikers/runners/dog walkers and the Pasadena Roving Archers Club - who essentially want the same thing: better safety conditions that will stop hikers/runners/dog walkers from wandering into the active use archery range where bow and arrow aficionados have been taking target practice and hosting competitions since 1935.

The cause of this dispute? A recommendation by Pasadena City staff to erect split natural rail fencing on a temporary basis to establish two separate areas within the archery area of the always popular Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park.

To understand the current seemingly hikers/runners/dog walkers vs archers situation, it's necessary to start with the Lower Arroyo Seco Master Plan, which was adopted in 2003 by the Pasadena City Council. That plan includes provisions to address potential conflicts between archery and other uses by calling for improvements to signage, trails, shooting lanes and habitat restoration.

In 2005, a new hiking trail was established between the archery range and the multi-use trail immediately adjacent to the channelized Arroyo Seco stream. Per the City's staff report, boulders, native plantings, and natural wooden posts were used to delineate the new trail and discourage trail users from leaving the new path.

But here's the rub: many hikers/runners/dog walkers still continue to use the OLD 'abandoned' trail segments, which traverses the archery shooting line. Obviously, everyone is concerned about human (and hopefully dog) safety with pedestrians in that area during archery events.

To provide a temporary solution because it does not currently have the funding necessary to complete its original trail plan, the City is proposing the construction of fencing that will divide the archery area into two sections: Targets 1 through 14, which will be dedicated solely to archery on a full-time basis, and Targets 15-28 which will be used for archery only on designated days and by special permit. The City will also construct temporary signage.

It appears that the archers are not too happy with the City's plan, judging by their website and Facebook postings.  They are concerned that a new requirement to obtain permits for archery events, coupled with reduce usage on Targets 15-28 will negatively impact their long-standing archery program (see my blog of December 27th on the popularity of Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park).

Some hikers/runners/dog walkers, on the other hand, either mistakenly take the old trail or do so intentionally because they 'like this hike better' than the new trail segment. My personal observation is that there is not nearly enough signage to alert hikers/runners/dog walkers of the archery range's location and possible imminent danger.  Since so many hikers/runners/dog walkers traverse the Lower Arroyo Seco from connecting trails, it is possible that they are not aware of archery activity without such signage. (Thankfully, no hikers or dogs have been injured by arrows yet but that risk is always apparent.)

Can hikers/runners/dog walkers and archers get along in an area where the classic film, The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn was filmed? Will temporary fencing really solve this safety issue? And what about the dogs that run around off-leash in that area, even though their owners should know better? Will the dogs understand to stop at the fencing? If you use the Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park as part of your outdoor recreation/nature activities, you might want to voice your opinion at the January 4th R&P meeting, starting at 6:00pm at the Pasadena Senior Center.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Visioning the Future: The Arroyo Seco-Highland Park LA-RIO Design Plan

Imagine what is possible if the Arroyo Seco became a designated
 LA-RIO (Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay)
Special District under the City of Los Angeles  proposed ordinance.

That's just what a team of Cal Poly Pomona Urban & Regional Planning graduate students did, under the direction of my humble tutelage in the fall of 2009, when they created the Arroyo Seco Highland Park LA-RIO Conceptual Design Plan.

The LA-RIO Ordinance is designed to bring watershed principles to real estate development and redevelopment along one-half mile on each side of the Los Angeles River Corridor.  Here's the LA-RIO Ordinance factsheet:

The Ordinance also provides the major tributaries, including the Arroyo Seco, the opportunity to participate as an LA-RIO district.  The Ordinance was approved in principle by the LA City Council last year and is currently under legal review and amendment to comply with municipal law. River lovers hope that this ordinance, along with the recently passed Low Impact Development (LID) Ordinance, will be formally enacted in 2011.

Follow this link to view the entire Arroyo Seco Highland Park LA-RIO Conceptual Design Plan:

What do YOU think? Should the Arroyo Seco become an LA-RIO District?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Here's to a Happy New Year Along the Arroyo Seco

As we enter a new year and a new decade, I want to take a moment to focus on why I write this blog: to teach us all how to love, respect and restore our fresh river waterways.

Since the 97th Rose Bowl Game is being played today, it seems appropriate to spend a moment talking about the historic Arroyo Seco whose waters flow through Brookside Golf Course and just to the west of the 'granddaddy of them all' football stadium.  Pictures speak louder than words, so here's the video I produced and directed which showcases the important urban river restoration work that the City of Pasadena and Arroyo Seco Foundation project team completed along the Arroyo Seco in 2008. The next time you visit the Rose Bowl/Brookside Park, take a walk along the Arroyo just south of Parking Lot I and discover nature in the city.

Our work is never done, so please make one of your New Year's Resolutions the commitment to come join us for the 22nd Great River Cleanup on Saturday, April 30, 2011. Details here:

Enjoy...and may all your dreams come true!

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