Woo Will Push for Reservoir's Historic Status : Plan to Cover Portion of Silver Lake Opposed

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Councilman Michael Woo on Wednesday said he will push for designation of the Silver Lake Reservoir as a cultural-historic monument to prevent damage to its scenic quality by efforts to improve its water quality.

Speaking at a morning news conference beside the reservoir, Woo pledged to muster scientific and political support on behalf of residents who oppose plans by the Department of Water and Power to cover a portion of the spectacular body of water nestled among one of the city's finest collections of domestic architecture.

Although the DWP considers Silver Lake too large to cover, it is investigating a plan to cover the smaller Ivanhoe Reservoir, a continuation of the lake's shoreline to the north, separated only by a slender dam.

'A Terrible Mistake'

"I'm violently opposed to this proposal," Woo said. "I think it's a terrible mistake."

The DWP's plans, being formulated to meet anticipated tightening of state and federal drinking water standards, also include the possible covering of reservoirs in Elysian Park, the Hollywood Hills and Pacific Palisades.

Woo said he would lend his support to residents of all those areas to form a coalition against any moves by the DWP that would damage their scenic values.

However, he stopped short of promising an all-out battle against the DWP, instead focusing on options that he believes the agency has not sufficiently considered.

"I'm not convinced the DWP has pursued all the alternatives to covering these reservoirs, and we're here to see that they do," Woo said.

While promoting no specific alternatives, Woo promised to seek the help of the area's state and federal representatives to prevent the issuance of standards that would make scenic harm inevitable. He also pledged to assemble his own panel of engineers and water experts to counterbalance the DWP's technical opinions.

Woo conceded, however, that the final decision will rest solely with the DWP.

For the moment, his most concrete weapon is the proposal for historic-cultural status "to protect the reservoir the same way we would protect a historic building." Woo said he would present both Silver Lake and Lake Hollywood to the Historic Preservation Commission as man-made structures of greater significance than any single building in the city.

If granted, the status could delay for up to a year any changes to the appearance of the lakes. But it could not permanently block any changes.

"I think it's a way of showing that not only the residents of this area, but also the City Council strongly opposes any effort to cover the reservoirs," Woo said.

The news conference also served as a fence-mending mission for Woo, a resident of Silver Lake, whose absence at a meeting on the DWP's plans last month ago drew jeers from about 300 people.

A small group of residents surrounding Woo on Wednesday cheered his pledge of support. But one privately expressed doubt that the year of grace that would be derived from historic status would be any deterrent to the long-range viewpoint of the DWP.

"We've been fighting the DWP for 3 years already," said Sallie Neubauer, president of the Citizens' Committee to Save Elysian Park.

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