The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works has entered the multi-agency fray over Southern Pacific’s Taylor Yard, announcing that it is considering the undeveloped land in Glassell Park as a site for a flood-control basin.
On another front in the battle over the former railroad switching yard, Los Angeles city officials are investigating whether the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission failed to observe lawful procedures in acquiring 67 acres of the land without public hearings or environmental review.
At the request of City Councilman Mike Hernandez, who represents the district, the city attorney’s office is investigating whether the transportation commission violated state environmental law earlier this year when it snapped up part of the 243-acre Southern Pacific Railroad Co. yard without an environmental impact report.
Transportation commission officials--who plan to use the property as a maintenance center for the proposed five-county commuter rail system--have argued that no environmental report was required because they intend to use the land as it had been used before.
In the meantime, county public works officials have entered the crowded field of government agencies eyeing the land, which stretches along the Los Angeles River from the Pasadena Freeway to Fletcher Drive.
Manuel Quezada of the county Public Works Department’s Planning Division said the site appears to be ideal for a basin that would collect excess water from the river during major storms to prevent flooding.
The basin would remain empty most of the time and would be landscaped for recreational use, providing a much-needed park in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood, Quezada said.
“We want it to be a community resource,” he said.
According to a public notice sent out earlier this month, a preliminary study by the department concluded that the project would be feasible. County public works officials are developing a precise plan for the basin.
Quezada declined to specify how many acres would be involved, saying only that the bigger the area, “the more storage capacity we will have.” A precise plan and cost analysis of the project will take four to six months to complete.
The land being considered by the county Public Works Department is also under consideration by the Los Angeles Police Department as a possible site for a new police academy and high-speed driving school.
In addition, the Department of Water and Power is looking at a 10-acre parcel at the north end of the yard for a filtration plant to serve the nearby Silver Lake and Ivanhoe reservoirs.
But of the proposals on the table, the flood-control basin is likely to have the most support among community planners, who say that whatever is built at Taylor Yard must somehow benefit area neighborhoods.
“I prefer a recreational facility to a train yard,” said John Hisserich, chairman of the Northeast Los Angeles Community Plan Advisory Committee, which is formulating a new community plan for the area. Hisserich said he still hoped that some of the land might be used for businesses that would create jobs.
“I’d probably prefer it to the police academy, but I’m not sure I would prefer it to something that would produce 500 or 600 or 700 jobs,” Hisserich said.
A flood-control basin is also likely to receive the endorsements from environmental groups that advocate the greening of the Los Angeles River as a means of enhancing the entire city.
Lewis MacAdams, a member of Friends of the Los Angeles River, said the project could help prevent the construction of more concrete walls along the river, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed as a flood-control measure.
McAdams said he thinks the river has been treated too long as an irritant rather than an important natural resource. Building a park along the river could be the first step toward changing that attitude.
“It’s real important that this thing get a proper hearing,” he said. “It could be the single biggest thing to happen on the river in years.”