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Activists Eye ‘Crown Jewel’ for L.A.’s Urban Renewal

It’s contaminated, but they want it. The activists who fought back developers for the creation of the Rio de Los Ángeles State Park and the Los Angeles Historic State Park have their eyes set on a “crown jewel” of the LA River which a developer is currently interested in purchasing.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Activistas Fijan su Mirada en la ‘Joya’ para la Renovación Urbana de Los Ángeles [1]

Anahuak Youth Sports Association and The City Project, long-time members of the Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard, and others want the parcel of land, which needs millions of dollars in remediation, to become part of the open space along the Los Angeles River.

It’s called Parcel G2 and is comprised of 44 acres currently owned by Union Pacific Railroad, and is located on the other side of the train tracks immediately adjacent to the Rio de Los Ángeles, not far from the new Sonia Sotomayor high school in Glassell Park.

The G-2 parcel is located west of the train tracks just on the other side of the Rio de Los Ángeles State Park in Glassell Park. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The site on Kerr Street was a former rail operating facility and the soil and groundwater are contaminated from decades of rail use. The land is part of an ongoing Coastal Conservancy feasibility study for future habitat restoration, water quality remediation, flood hazard mitigation, wetlands restoration, and passive recreation uses, according to The LA River Project.

The developer, however, has entered a purchase option agreement with Union Pacific Railroad, with the intention of developing the land zoned for industrial use, The LA River Project states on their website.

“Given that the site’s severe access constraints and its proximity to the park, the school, and the river would make developing anything other than open space very difficult, some have speculated that they plan to purchase the land, then sell it to the state in order to realize a substantial, unearned profit. This purchase option expires at the end of June 2012,” the website states.


Aerial view of Taylor Yard (Google Maps)

Sean Woods, California State Parks Superintendent for the Los Angeles Sector, sees the parcel as fertile land for urban renewal.

“This piece is now up for sale, its in contention right now. It’s 44 acres known as Parcel G 2 and many of us consider this the crown jewel in the acquisition of the future development of the river,” Woods told a group touring the Rio de Los Angeles Park on Feb. 25.

The parcel would contribute to a 100-acre riverfront park in a community that is park-poor, income poor and disproportionately Latino, according to Robert Garcia, founding director and counsel of The City Project.

Garcia recently submitted a comment on the draft Feasibility Study for the Taylor Yard G2 Parcel on behalf of Anahuak Youth Sports Association and The City Project.

According to Jeanne M. Garcia, public information officer with California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control, the “Feasibility Study is an evaluation of the alternatives for remediating any identified contamination (soil, groundwater, gas soil, etc),” which, when complete, would become “part of the Remedial Action Plan. At that point it would be “subject to notifications and public review and comments,” Garcia told EGP in an e-mail,

However, in his comment submitted Feb. 24, The City Project’s Robert Garcia said the Feasibility Study fails to provide a complete and accurate accounting of the extensive planning process to restore and revitalize the Los Angeles River, or the community’s consistent vision for G 2 for open space and recreation along the Los Angeles River.

“[The] Feasibility Study fails to take into consideration the full impact of the site’s contamination on human health and the environment and the various planning efforts for this important section of the River,” Garcia wrote.

Woods and Garcia admit the odds don’t look good but they, and community members, are not deterred.

“We don’t get involved unless it looks hopeless,” Garcia said, noting they got involved in the fight for Los Angeles Historic State Park when there was only 30-days left in its escrow to a developer. “We don’t start with the question ‘what’s the odds of winning?’ Loosing is not an option.”

“We’re going to put up a fight. The work we’ve done to date, for this to go to industrial development would just be a travesty,” Woods said.

However, remediation of Parcel G2 would cost upwards of $70 million, Woods said.

A current market value analysis taking into account accessing the location and contamination has been completed, and stakeholders and interested agencies are trying to cobble together money, like the Water Quality Bond money, to try to purchase the land, Woods said.

“My hope would be that the railroad would just give the contaminated land to the state and just walk away, take a huge tax break and we’ll figure it out later,” Woods said. Garcia added a land swap could also be a possibility.

The City of Los Angeles is park poor. It has just a little more than 30,000 acres of parks and open space and with a population of almost 4 million people, there is an average of 6.1 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents, according to The Los Angeles Revitalization Master Plan.

To submit a comment on the Feasability Study, email Yvette LaDuke at yladuke@dtsc.ca.gov or miskarou@dtsc.ca.gov. Letters can be sent to Michel Iskarous, Project Manager, Department of Toxic Substances Control, 9211 Oakdale Ave., Chatsworth, California 91311. Or fax your comment to (818) 717-6557. The draft and revised studies are available on the DTSC website: www.dtsc.ca.gov or http://www.envirostor.dtsc.ca.gov/public/profile_report.asp?global_id=19470006