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Okay, that’s a little girly. But how else to explain why the dwp “forgot” that both Silver Lake and Ivanhoe Reservoirs are cultural landmarks? That before they drained a drop, or made a game out of throwing HDPE bird balls into it, they should have gotten permission from City Planning?

Vintage Silver Lake
No, we don’t have to go back THIS far! 1930s, photo courtesy of Doug Baldwin. Bigger photos at silverlake.org.

Believe me, I would have played this card early on, when dwp drained the lake and then SAT ON IT, if I had known about it. But this applies equally well to the non-preservative plastic balls bobbing around in it right now, of course. It just never occurred to me that a lake could be a protected landmark, but of course, why shouldn’t it be? After all, the lake is 100 years old, and is part of the city’s history, community, and landscape.

This issue came up last week, at a meeting of our PROS cm. Griffith van Griffith, great-grandson of Colonel Griffith, has just started the process of getting historical cultural monument status for gp. In his words:

As you may already know, there is a proposed master plan which promotes further development of gp, and in my opinion would turn it into another Disneyland…The public response to the master plan was 98% negative.

You go, Mr. van Griffith!

You know, I think of myself as one of the higher riff-raff, but I never heard of the Office of Historic Resources. Well, as it turns out, the Office has only been in existence for two years. TWO YEARS. Yes, that’s right, LA finally got some self-esteem and decided parts of it are worth saving. Before this, we did not have a true city historic preservation program. Cultural Affairs oversaw some landmarks, but they themselves didn’t start until 1962!!

1930’s Silver Lake
I love this swath of grass and the elegant houses! And notice: downtown is missing, yet to be built! 1930’s. Photo courtesy of Doug Baldwin and silverlake.org.

A word of advice, people: please, make sure you DON’T ALERT any media back east, like the New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, or Philadelphia Inquirer about this…aren’t we mocked enough as it is? No one’s looking to assign blame (City of Los Angeles) for this tardiness, but geeze Louise, what took you so long to have a little pride and backbone?

Anyhoo, Silver Lake and Ivanhoe have been on the list of protected landmarks since 1988 – under standards set by the Secretary of the Interior! That sounds pretty important! The OHR says Historic-Cultural Monuments means the city:

  • Recognizes the building, structure, site, or plant life as important to the history of the city, state, or nation;
  • Activates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which protects historic buildings from adverse impacts without environmental review (see the State Office of Historic Preservation document on CEQA and historical resources);

Historic monuments also include landscapes and nature, too. I called the Office this week to confirm this designation, and see what they had to say about the draining, leaving slk empty for months, and the bird balls being put into Ivanhoe.

Lambert Giessinger told me that to preserve cultural landmarks, the city has to treat it “with sensitivity,” and that all changes have to go through HR, and they object to “significant change”. For instance, the walkway around the west side of the lake was done properly by DWP, with permits and permission by the HR. (Nice to run on, but I think they were chintzy with the dirt – they really need more cushioning.)

He said dwp did NOT ask permission for the slk draining or the bird balls, and that they should have. He said he wasn’t sure if the bird balls are a “significant change”, however, because they can be reversed. Lambert said he would like more information, and says he can understand why the concern, since this is a potential environmental disaster. He suggested I call CEQUA. But wouldn’t it be too late anyway?

Silver Lake, painting by Dedrick B. Stuber
“Early View of Silver Lake”, by Dedrick B. Stuber (1878-1954) At Silverlake.org, by permission of owner, and Silverlake.org. This definitely goes on my Amazon Wish List.

I told him the bird balls are NOT a done deal, and they have only dumped in a small amount of them. The pictures are dramatic, but they have just begun balling. These plastic balls have not been tested enough. And although the dwp claims they will only be in there for 4 years, leaching into the water, they haven’t even begun to build the new underground reservoir at Headworks, so it will be a lot lot longer than that. Also, I consider changing the landscape and the whole surface of the reservoir to be “significant” change, myself. He said, “Well, it’s the DWP, though…”

Oooh, gotta disagree with you there, Lambert! Not necessary to talk about the dwp with reverence. They’re big, but they have to earn respect, just like the rest of us.

I also talked with Ken Bernstein, Manager of HR, who confirmed that dwp never approached Historic Resources about these significant changes. He said he was definitely concerned, and said they should at least have given the office a presentation and consulted with them.

Historic Resources? You’ve been dissed. Don’t ignore this, or you’ll be on a slippery slope, and I don’t mean in the Reservoirs.

PS. I can’t wait until HR discovers the Corner o’ Rocks the dwp made in slk that I thought was a graveyard!

6 Responses to “DWP says, We’re just not that into you, Historic Resources.”

  1. LKitsch says:

    Another misguided rant by a design junkie who places stuff like how the lake looks over the health needs of hundreds of thousands of people who drink that water—who happen to be primarily low-income people of color living in Southeast and South LA.

    I live in a home with a view of the Reservoir and I walk around it every day. I treasure it as a jewel that merits protection. But, I would see it filled in tomorrow if it meant protecting the health of my fellow citizens.

    The lake needed to be drained and taken off line immediately in order to respond to the contamination.

    I know you are well meaning, and probably agree with you on a lot of stuff, but I find this posting, along with your rant about barbequing in Griffith Park to demonstrate a disturbing lack of sensitivity to the huge population of low-income families, primarily communities of color, that live in our city.

    You need some diversity training.

  2. Smiley says:

    I agree with the last person who left a comment. Why don’t you find a hobby that actually contributes to society instead of badgering the city for deciding to address the physical safety needs of thousands of Angelenos rather than roll over to the squawking of a few elitists that think a working reservoir is their private lake? Get a life.

  3. SL Gal says:

    The PROPERTY is a historic Cultural landmark, not the WATER, which is in fact DIFFERENT water every day!

    It should be noted that the DWP has agreed to keep water in the reservoirs even when they are no longer part of the water supply system, just so we may enjoy the view. Give them some credit, please.

  4. Well, isn’t this a cheerful little group!

    LKitsch, the reservoir was already taken off line and drained. And kept empty for months. Are you aware of that? Or are you saying they should drain it again because of the bird balls? And that’s okay, I like being a design junkie!

    Smiley, I’ve missed you. What would we do without trolls?

    SL Gal, I have a call into HR, but when I look at the CSSLR website it says: The designation is limited to the dams and the bodies of water, which indicates to me that presence of water is part of it. However, HR told me it also covers the land around it, such as the jogging path.

    I guess I’m a little suspicious of the DWP’s agreement – I would get that in writing, if I were you! They kept it empty for 2 months this spring for no reason at all. I hope they do what is planned: turn it into wetlands when it isn’t needed for water.

  5. Gary De Pury says:

    Amazingly the first poster turned this into a racism thing.

    Hey….SHUT UP! Not EVERYTHING is RACIST!!!!!

  6. Glad someone else noticed this, Gary. Typical, selfish Los Angeles ranters above.