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DTSC: Going for Olympic Gold with L.A. River Cleanup Project

By Sanford Nax
January 2020

Los Angeles city officials want to have an ambitious riverfront showpiece complete by the 2028 Olympics. The Department of Toxic Substances Control is working to help shape the vision into a project worthy of a gold medal.

City officials paid $60 million for 42 acres of former railroad land north of Dodger Stadium where they hope to create pristine open space near the Los Angeles River.

The Taylor Yard G2 River Park project has been described as the “Crown Jewel” of an ambitious 240-acre river revitalization effort, and was the topic of a panel discussion at a National Brownfields Training Conference in Los Angeles in December 2019. DTSC Project Manager Jessy Fierro was a panelist.

But first the land must be cleaned up before the project can revitalize the area. For over 70 years, the property was used for refueling and maintaining trains moving to and from downtown Los Angeles. Those operations left behind petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, solvent-related compounds and other chemicals.

A U.S. EPA Brownfields Program grant helped fund part of the environmental investigation. The  development effort received a boost when the city signed a California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act agreement with DTSC, which protects it from certain liabilities often associated with the development of blighted properties in urban areas.

DTSC supervised the collection of more than 1,100 soil and soil gas samples in 2018. City officials are finalizing the site investigation report and are preparing a draft cleanup plan for a portion of the property. Fierro, a senior environmental scientist at DTSC, said the proximity of a school, along with the involvement of the city and other entities, makes this a challenging project.

“It is interesting because of the collaboration with multiple parties, and also to be part of a cleanup project that is associated with a riparian design,” she said, referring to the city’s plans to make over a large stretch of the river. City officials are excited, she said, because “they would like to make this a showcase for the Los Angeles Olympics.”

Current design plans call for a more natural vegetated buffer between the property and the concrete river channel in that location.

The city is still deciding on a final design, according to Lyndsay Naish, a Los Angeles civil engineering associate. “We have yet to decide which concept we will be recommending and where we will end up at the site,” she said.

It could take several years to complete the riverfront project, but city officials are planning a phased remediation so they can open parts of it earlier. The city broke ground in June 2019 on a proposed bikeway/pedestrian bridge that will link an eventual Los Angeles River Bike Path to the Taylor Yard G2 site.