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‘Shakedown at Elysian Park’ Article: More Tabloid Trivialism than Factual Journalism

CROSS TALK - Mr. Humphreville's article "Shakedown at Elysian Park" makes us wonder, for  what office is Mr. Humphreville's running?  We all know he wants to be our "Ratepayer Advocate", but with such attention to tabloid trivialism, rather than well documented journalism, "we" the "ratepayers," think no.
His arguments for the cheaper floating cover on Elysian Reservoir pass the test of a political position in flying colors:  They sound Good and Right, but when you look a little deeper the facts point in a different direction altogether: the more expensive buried tanks project for Elysian Reservoir may in fact be the ONLY DWP Reservoir project that is NOT a “Pet Project.”

The Elysian Park constituents are the poor and the voiceless.  Right now they enjoy beautiful views of the city beyond several acres of fenced water.  With buried tanks, they get 14 more acres of active and passive recreational open space – something our city is notoriously deficient in.  With the floating cover, they get a park with views that are now spoiled by an industrial gash – several acres of fenced plastic from which to see their city.  So please explain to us:  Who’s “Pet Project” is this exactly?

On the other-hand, in every other Coalition to Preserve Open Reservoirs (CPOR) mediated DWP Reservoir project, where view-shed mitigation took place, the neighborhoods consisted of wealthy and politically connected residents who did not want their view ruined. THESE were the “Pet Projects” of the wealthy and the politically connected.  Here’s a basic fact check:

In 1989 when it was determined that DWP intended to cover or build filtration plants for all its open drinking water reservoirs city-wide, homeowner groups across the city banded together to form CPOR.

In June of 1989 the LA City Council passed a motion requiring DWP to conduct a comprehensive Programatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) on the Open Reservoir Water Quality Improvement Program. In 1990, after DWP had held nine unsatisfactory public PEIR scoping meetings, CPOR members complained to their Council members. In June of 1990 the LA City Council rescinded its order for a PEIR and instead ordered DWP to prepare individual EIR's for each reservoir. DWP agreed to enter into mediation with CPOR to find solutions that would both satisfy water quality and the concerns of the surrounding reservoir communities

Over the course of 20 years CPOR met with a mediator to resolve the issues of covering or filtering the following reservoirs.

● Rowena Reservoir, CD 4 completed 2009    N/A
● Upper/Lower Hollywood Reservoir CD 4 completed 2002    $100-$115,000,000
● Lower Stone Canyon    CD 5 2009    $100-$105,000,000
● Silver Lake/Ivanhoe Reservoirs (Headworks) in progress    $192,000,000

Leaving only Upper Stone and Elysian to be resolved.

● Upper Stone Canyon (estimate)  CD 5 pending    $140,000,000
● Elysian Reservoir (estimate)     CD 1 pending    $110,000,000

At the moment, the "Headworks" project is spiraling over budget in the view shed of the economically affluent and high profile areas of Griffith Park, Forest Lawn and adjacent Burbank.  They're submerging the water storage tanks to create a beautifully landscaped front door to Forest Lawn/Mt. Sinai cemeteries and the proposed NBC-Universal Evolution Project (more than 3,000 units of upscale housing on their backlot) which overlooks--you guessed it--The Headworks area of Griffith Park!  

You might call this someone’s “Pet Project.” If class and wealth weren't driving the decisions, the tanks would not have been moved to Griffith Park in the first place - they'd still be in Silver Lake, covered in concrete!!!!

There should be some equity in these decisions.  After a 20-plus year mediation process, last should NOT be least.  The "Ratepayer" as portrayed by Mr. Humphreville has graciously improved the likes of CD 4 and CD 5, but must draw the line when stakeholders of CD 1 rally to receive the same outcome as their more affluent neighbors.  Call it "Pet Projects" or "Shakedowns", but it's starting to sound like discrimination is the call of the day for Mr. H.  

What's good for Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Hollywood Hills and Benedict Canyon, should not be offered to Elysian Park, as last makes us least.

The fact is that the DWP has had free use of parkland for many decades. The underground reservoir alternative can also be viewed as compensation for the free ride the utility has received all these years at the expense of Elysian Park.

Adding insult to injury, in the last two City budgets, and for the first time ever, RAP has been forced to pay the DWP millions for water and power the utility has historically provided free to parks--one presumes because the City's parks provide the DWP with thousands of acres of free real estate on which the DWP places its reservoirs, water storage tanks, transmission towers, and much more. While RAP pays for DWP's product, the DWP will continue to use parkland for free.

Adding greater insult, the utility is capable of "under-grounding" or finding aesthetically pleasing or recreation-friendly solutions in upscale areas such as Silver Lake, Mulholland and the Hollywood Hills, but Elysian is to get the short shrift?

Who's the real victim of a shakedown begs the larger question?

(Christine Peters is the President of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park. Steering Committee and Members contributed to this article.)

Tags: Elysian Park, Elysian Reservoir, DWP, City Council, Los Angeles, water quality, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Hollywood Hills, Benedict Canyon, Griffith Park, Forest Lawn

Vol 9 Issue 96
Pub: Dec 2, 2011