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Revitalization project at Johnny Carson Park nears completion

Despite some unforeseen challenges, the revitalization project at Johnny Carson Park in Burbank is about 80% complete, a public official said.

Construction began April 15 and is on schedule to be done in mid-February, City Engineer Sean Corrigan said at the last City Council meeting.

"Public Works will turn over the revitalized park in the spring to Parks and Recreation," he said.

However, projected construction costs rose 18%, or nearly $500,000, so crews could resolve a beetle infestation affecting sycamore trees, implement late changes required by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and perform work to prevent post-storm erosion of the creek channel's soft bottom.

Roughly half of that added cost was budgeted in a contingency fund, but the council voted 5-0 to approve an additional $255,000 for the remainder.

In a separate unanimous vote, the council approved an additional $29,000 and $32,000, respectively, in additional architectural and project management services.

"We couldn't foresee these things happening," Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy said of the cost overruns.

In January, the City Council awarded a construction contract to GMZ Engineering Inc., which bid it at roughly $2.7 million, or 22.6% below the landscape architect's estimate of nearly $3.5 million.

Once the project is completed, the city will be reimbursed nearly $2.2 million through grants, according to a January city staff report.

Corrigan said crews were installing sprinkler systems last week, after which the park would be graded and prepared for trees, plants and a mixture of sprayed grass seed and mulch.

A total of 154 new trees will be planted. The first shipment arrived earlier this month.

"Play equipment and furniture for the park is on order," Corrigan said. "Finally, after all the planting has been completed, the decomposed granite pathways will be installed."

Creek-spanning pedestrian bridges, one of which had to be lengthened by 15 feet in anticipation of a water tunnel that Los Angeles is expected to add, are already in place.

The new soft bottom creek bed, which replaced a several-decades-old concrete bed, is absorbing runoff before it gets more than a third of the way down the channel.

Additional work needed to redesign the creek bed after rains in mid-September revealed "excessive erosion" in some places.

Rubble, or "armoring rock," was added to the design to help the creek better handle heavy storm water in preparation for El Niño, Corrigan said.

"We were lucky to be able to observe the stream bed in a flooding condition [because] then we could make adjustments," Gabel-Luddy said.

Corrigan said he hopes to implement parts of the project that need to be reworked before El Niño arrives in force.

"We really need to get going before the rains begin in earnest," Corrigan told the council.

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Chad Garland, chad.garland@latimes.com

Twitter: @chadgarland

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