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Taylor Yard in LA Times 3/31/01

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    http://www.latimes.com/news/state/20010331/t000027594.html Plan Would Raze Part of L.A. River s Concrete Bank Environment: New proposal for rail yard calls for
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2001
      Taylor Yard in LA Times 3/31/01
      http://www.latimes.com/news/state/2001033 >1/t000027594.html
      Plan Would Raze Part of L.A. River's Concrete Bank
      Environment: New proposal for rail yard calls for natural pools, soccer fields, amphitheater and gardens.

      >              By JOE MOZINGO, Times Staff Writer
      >                  A new proposal for a state park at a Union Pacific railroad yard near downtown Los Angeles calls for tearing out a 2,000-foot-long stretch of concrete riverbank to create a meandering side stream, pools and a nature habitat for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians.
      >                   The park, which would range from 62 to 103 acres along the east side of the Los Angeles River at the Taylor Yard, would also include seven soccer fields, an amphitheater, a dog park and gardens, according to a conceptual design unveiled this week.
      >                   The proposal was the work of a city planner's UCLA Extension class, in conjunction with Friends of the Los Angeles River and other groups advocating a park at the river bend east of Dodger Stadium.
      >                   Currently the river is encased in concrete, and there is no easy access to the water itself. The proposal calls for an earthen bank, featuring trails and native vegetation, sloping down to the river.
      >                   "This would be the only place on the Los Angeles River where you could go down to the river itself," said Michael O'Brien, the instructor and city planner.
      >                   Activists hope to use the plan to generate further public support and funding for the site. Gov. Gray Davis enthusiastically backs the idea of a Taylor Yard state park and has allocated $45 million for the project, although negotiations have barely begun with Union Pacific to acquire the land.
      >                   "The governor supports the purchase of these properties as part of his urban parks strategy," said Roy Stearns, spokesman for the state Department of Parks and Recreation. "We have a lot of parks in rural areas. He wants to put parks where people are."
      >                   The push for a Taylor Yard greenbelt is also part of a movement to clean up so-called brownfields--vacant land polluted by historical industrial use--for parks, schools and other public facilities needed in the city. The riverfront soil at the rail yard is riddled with diesel gasoline, heavy metals and other toxic substances associated with cleaning trains there for decades.
      >                   Much like the nearby Cornfield rail yard on the opposite bank of the river to the south, Taylor Yard has become a flash point in the battle between conservationists and developers who want to use the property for widely divergent purposes.
      >                   In both cases, conservationists have sued to stop warehouses from being built in areas they say are overcrowded and in need of recreational space.
      >                   The Cornfield dispute reached a tentative resolution earlier this month when the nonprofit Trust for Public Land signed an option to purchase the 40-acre parcel, between Broadway and North Spring Street near Chinatown, from Union Pacific and Majestic Realty, and then sell it to the state for parkland.
      >                   In their pending lawsuit over Taylor Yard, environmentalists are trying to halt plans for other industrial space on 41 acres along San Fernando Road. They say the city of Los Angeles approved that project, by developer Lennar Partners, without an adequate environmental review.
      >                   The future of the remaining 62 acres of adjacent riverfront property is not in dispute.
      >                   But the Lennar parcel is key to the vision of conservationists, who hope it would hold the more active recreation facilities--the soccer fields and dog park--plus some retail space, because it is farther from the river and closer to the  Cypress Park neighborhood. The parcel would also allow easier access to the park from San Fernando Road.
      >                   Groups such as Friends of the Los Angeles River, the River Project and the Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard have held meetings with local residents, who have expressed a need for soccer fields and other facilities, as well as a place to relax and enjoy nature.
      >                   Those suggestions were conveyed to O'Brien, who thought plans for the site would make a good project for his landscape architecture class at UCLA Extension. This is not a pie-in-the-sky idea, he said. Another recent park design by his students for a canyon in the Mount Washington area is being implemented.
      >                   The idea of diverting the river water into a more natural riparian habitat has been around for at least seven years. But the students' design, unveiled at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens on Wednesday, was the most detailed look at what could be done there.
      >                   Essentially, where the river bows to the west, the eastern concrete wall would be removed so the water could flow into  a low area where it would pool and people could swim and relax on the bank. The diverted water and the river would be separated by an island, with willows and cottonwoods, but no concrete. The students said 2.3 million cubic yards of soil would need to be removed to create the river diversion.
      >                   During times of flood danger, gates would close off the diversionary stream and water would stay in the river's main channel as it heads to Long Beach Harbor.
      >                   An old train turntable would be used as a vista point above the river, and a pedestrian bridge would cross the watercourse to connect to the commuter bike path and neighborhoods on the western side.
      >                   A working train track would still bisect the property, with gradings to allow for pedestrian and bike traffic.
      >                   Under each soccer field would be parking structures with 121 spaces. Along one part of San Fernando Road, some restaurants and theaters would be built to draw people at night and liven up the area.
      >                   For Melanie Winter, director of the River Project and a member of the Friends of the Los Angeles River board, Taylor Yard offers the best opportunity for a river park at a symbolic spot in the region.
      >                   "This is the center of the Los Angeles River geographically," she said. "This is where the [Gaspar de] Portola  expedition camped and named the area Los Angeles."
      >              Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times
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