If you go by the Expo Line construction in Rancho Park/West LA you’ll see test trains, new crossing gates, and lots of construction vehicles and workers between Overland Ave. and Westwood Blvd. This wide swath of public land has been a staging area for the Phase 2 construction and is now a dumping ground for extra asphalt, unused catenary poles, and broken-down equipment.
However, a group of dedicated community members has been looking beyond the construction and envisioning the Westwood Greenway: there will be neighborhood-friendly open space with a constructed stream using dry weather flow from the Overland storm drain, low maintenance native plant communities, a walking path and an outdoor learning center on the north side of the tracks, and the Expo bike/ped path on the south side. Throughout it all will be interpretive signs to educate students and the public about watersheds, drought tolerant landscaping, water quality, and reclaimed water use. Students from Overland Elementary and from Expo-adjacent schools like Dorsey High School and Foshay Learning Center will be able to use the Greenway for field trips and research projects in conjunction with groups like LA Audubon. A video showing our vision for the space is on our website.
And the Greenway is not just the vision of a few neighborhood volunteers. The Department of Sanitation and its Watershed Protection Division have developed the Greenway’s conceptual plan for water treatment which will reduce the pollutants entering the Santa Monica Bay. The Greenway is included in their draft Enhanced Watershed Management Plan for the Ballona Creek Watershed, which aims to meet Clean Water Act compliance deadlines coming in 2021. Former Mayor Villaraigosa included the park in his 2012 50 Parks Initiative, and funding for the landscaping of the park is still included in the Recreation and Parks budget. Ground was broken in 2013 when the City spent $100,000 to install culverts under the Expo Line tracks to carry the stream from one side to the other.
Since 2012, Greenway proponents have been encouraging our elected representatives to combine the LA City land and Metro land at the site into one unified park. Using the $750,000 currently set aside for the Greenway in the 50 Parks Initiative, they could have moved ahead to design and landscape the space so that it would be completed at the same time as the Expo Line. This opportunity has been lost, but we are still hopeful that the Greenway will be built in the near future.
Currently, Expo is moving ahead to finish the bike path and landscaping on the Metro land and to remove their construction materials and trailers from the City land by the end of 2015. So, on the 200-foot-wide piece of land between Overland and Westwood there will be 100 feet in the middle with the Expo line, the bike path, and two landscaped beds. North and south of this strip, there will be 50 feet of City land left fallow. Are two long vacant lots what you want to see in the middle of our neighborhood? We have accomplished much in moving the Greenway vision towards reality. We will need broader support to push for its completion. Please join us on our website and like our Facebook page and pass this on to all of your friends and neighbors. Together we can make this great project happen!