L.A. River revitalization: Plan to connect Verdugo Mountains, San Rafael Hills unveiled

Upper LA River revitalization project
Water resource engineer Gina Palino, left, sourced feedback from a proposed project to connect the Verdugo Mountains and San Rafael Hills in Glendale. It was one of six projects recommended to revitalize the upper Los Angeles River and its tributaries.
(Lila Seidman / Glendale News-Press)

A plan to connect two ecologically rich areas in Glendale’s Verdugo Wash has been endorsed by officials tasked with revitalizing the upper part of the Los Angeles River.

“This could be a space obviously where the bobcats and the mountain lions can go through, but also where people could potentially hike and move in between these two areas,” said Jean Yang, of design firm Studio-MLA, during a public meeting held at DreamWorks Animation studio last Thursday.

What exactly will physically connect the Verdugo Mountains and the San Rafael Hills is still up in the air, according to members of the Upper Los Angeles River and Tributaries working group, known by its acronym ULART.

More than 100 community members showed up at the meeting to provide feedback on the Verdugo Wash project, in addition to five other tributary projects in other areas recommended by the working group.

“We want to hear … what they want to see in their neighborhoods — before someone comes in and just says, ‘Here, we’re going to put a trail in,’ but no one asks the community what its wants first,” said Gina Palino, of engineer firm Tetra Tech.

Palino said the mountains and hills could be connected with elevated paths or tunnels; the space could potentially house a community garden or urban wetland. It will depend on suggestions and what’s feasible, Palino said.

Glendale resident Peter Faud said the plan presented was too vague.

“Everybody wants bike paths, everybody wants hiking trails, everybody wants more green space. Duh,” Faud said at the meeting. “So why don’t they show us what they’re proposing, and we can react to it?”

Montrose resident Roberta Medford said connecting the two areas “didn’t seem like much of a project.” Still, she said she wanted to learn more.

State Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) said the projects, collectively, “will transform Los Angeles.”

The local efforts are being coordinated with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works as part of a 51-mile master plan for the river.

It will allow people, particularly in disadvantaged communities, “to reclaim that waterfront into recreational space,” she said, adding that the river has long been seen as a “backwater.”

There were two other possible projects the working group was exploring in the Verdugo Wash. One would have increased access to the Verdugo Mountains’ trail systems, with an emphasis on the areas near Glendale Community College and the Civic Auditorium. Another would have repaired the habitat around the confluence of the river.

ULART working group members, which include elected officials and community leaders, will vote on whether to support the recommended design areas on Thursday. Other sites flagged for projects were the Arroyo Seco, Burbank Western Channel, Tujunga Wash, Pacioma Wash and Aliso Canyon Wash.

A separate task group is focused on revitalizing the lower Los Angeles River.

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