Judge rejects bid to prevent demolition of historic L.A. bridge

Groups seeking to turn old Riverside Drive bridge into 'elevated green space' suffer another blow

Backers of a plan to remake an aging bridge spanning the Los Angeles River into a green space for bicyclists and pedestrians suffered another blow Monday, when a Superior Court judge rejected their bid to prevent the upcoming demolition of the bridge.

The nonprofit EnrichLA and architectural firm RAC Design Build, which have championed the idea of making the old Riverside Drive Bridge into a "land bridge," were seeking a temporary restraining order to forestall its demolition. Their attorneys, Julian Quattlebaum and Jamie Hall, argued that the city could not demolish the bridge without referring the plan to L.A.'s Cultural Heritage Commission.

The concrete and metal truss bridge, originally built in 1927, was designated as a historic monument after city leaders had already voted to demolish and replace it. Quattlebaum and Hall argued that the city needed to give the cultural commission a chance to review those plans before it could press forward.

But Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant turned down the application for a restraining order, saying that the issues had been raised too late.

If the city needed to air out the plan before the cultural heritage commission, Chalfant said, those opposed to the demolition should have made that argument much earlier in the process, since the destruction of the old bridge had long been planned as part of the bridge replacement process.

City officials contend that saving the old bridge would delay their plans to replace it with a new span, because construction crews had anticipated accessing the old, emptied site. Deputy City Atty. Mary Decker estimated that delaying the demolition would cost $18,000 a day starting next Monday.

Quattlebaum and Hall said that although destroying the old bridge had long been planned, architects and community members didn't find out that the replacement bridge was being built farther upstream -- not on the same site as the old one -- until later in the construction process. Only then, they argued, was the idea of saving and repurposing the bridge even imaginable.

The attorneys added that EnrichLA and RAC Design Build had not taken up their legal challenge earlier because they were trying to work with city departments to pursue their vision. Their proposal to convert the bridge was heard and rejected by the Los Angeles Board of Public Works last week, amid concerns that federal funding for the new bridge might be jeopardized by altering the demolition plans.

"We are not done fighting this," Hall said after the judge made his decision Monday. "The [cultural heritage] commission still has jurisdiction -- and we intend on lobbying them to use that jurisdiction."

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