The Tale of Two Green Streets

All across America, the idea of “going green” has taken off. Everywhere people are beginning to understand that our day-to-day actions have had a cumulative impact on Earth. And, with that understanding comes the desire to reduce that effect with a greener lifestyle. “Green” has become the new gold standard for how we live our lives to ensure the future health and sustainability of our world.

It won’t be too long before the term “green streets” will join the ranks of household ideas promoting environmental consciousness. When we speak of “green streets,” some may think that we’re talking about ripping up streets and reverting back to the days of dusty country roads. Here in LA, the second largest city in the US, we’ll never be able to go back to those days of yesteryear. Instead, the term “green streets” refers to a new way of thinking, a new and sustainable way of constructing streets to promote the management of polluted stormwater runoff.

Two streets in the Elysian Valley community are paving the way towards creating a new green streets standard here in LA. Three years ago, the City of Los Angeles and community group North East Trees partnered together to build the Oros Green Street Project with funding from the California Water Quality Control Board and Proposition O, LA’s Clean Water Bond. Using cutting edge technology, this model project constructed five stormwater gardens in Oros Street’s parkway to capture and infiltrate storm water runoff. Today, this project continues to demonstrate that green streets will help Los Angeles reach its goal of reducing pollutants in our local rivers, creeks, lakes and beaches.

The Oros Green Street Project proved that stormwater management within our city streets was possible. The next project – the Riverdale Avenue Green Street Project – works towards establishing the City standard.
The Riverdale Avenue Green Street pilot project, initiated by the City of Los Angeles and whose major funding source is the California Coastal Conservancy, utilizes stormwater parkway planters to treat and infiltrate polluted urban runoff. Completed in early August 2010, the primary goal of this project is to create a model for a new standard of residential street design. The project retrofits the existing parkways on both sides of Riverdale Avenue, between Crystal Street and its terminus at the south side of the Los Angeles River, with infiltration units that will capture and treat stormwater runoff from 14 acres of residential land. Parkway landscaping featuring drought-tolerant natives will be planted above these buried devices.

This new way of constructing city streets and parkways will serve the dual purpose of treating contaminated urban runoff and simultaneously irrigate the parkway vegetation. Lauded by the environmental community and residents alike, this project will provide improved water quality in the Los Angeles River and, ultimately, San Pedro Bay. The City plans to monitor the quality of water flowing into the LA River from this project with the hope that this demonstration project will provide a very real model in developing sustainable standards for future street design.

Since the beginning of time, roads have provided humanity with a means to get to a new destination. It’s appropriate then that green streets are providing Angelenos with cleaner communities and water ways – paving the way towards a more sustainable future for all of Los Angeles.

*Riverdale Ave. photo courtesy of LA Creek Freak

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