“Urban Design at Its Best”: South L.A. Wetland Park Receives Envision™ Platinum Award

February 7, 2014
The South Los Angeles Wetland Park remediated an urban brownfields site. Photo courtesy Psomas

The South Los Angeles Wetland Park in Los Angeles, California, has earned the Envision™ Platinum award – the highest level attainable in the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system. The project is the first in Southern California to receive an Envision award, and is only the second project to receive an Envision Platinum rating.

The South L.A. Wetland Park infrastructure project is located in a historically underserved area of the city. The project is a result of Proposition O, a program supported by a series of general obligation bonds valued at $500 million. The projects are being implemented to protect public health by removing pollution from the City’s watercourses, beaches, and the ocean in order to meet Federal Clean Water Act requirements.

“The South L.A. Wetland Park is a good example of an integrated engineering solution that successfully built consensus, captured and improved local urban runoff, and created a new neighborhood-revitalizing amenity. It represents what is possible when an owner and an engineer collaborate and redefine the paradigm of multi-benefit projects,” said Sean P. Vargas, ENV SP, Principal and Director of Sustainability for Psomas, the engineering consulting company who provided planning, design, and management services for the project.

LA Park Envision

Photo courtesy Psomas

The features that helped the project score highly for sustainability within the Envision framework included remediation of the former brownfield site, creation of new urban green space, and the design of the park to use urban runoff as a treatment-wetland sustaining resource.

The Envision™ sustainable infrastructure rating system is a comprehensive tool for evaluating and rating the community, environmental and economic benefits of all types and sizes of infrastructure projects. Envision™ is the product of a joint collaboration between the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), which ASCE co-founded along with ACEC and APWA as part of its sustainability initiative, and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

The South L.A. Wetland project ranked very highly in many Envision credit areas, including:

  • Quality of Life: The project enhanced public space and restored site accessibility. Being surrounded by homes and schools, the site made an ideal locale for an urban park with restored natural features and green space. The site was previously inaccessible to the public and surrounded by an eight foot high chain link fence. The project team developed informative way-finding signage located near the entrance of the park, and addressed safety and accessibility in and around the park by providing multiple access and egress points, as well as installing security cameras at the site.
  • Leadership: The project improved infrastructure integration of the regional storm drain network using water from the storm drain network to sustain the wetland, using a series of stormwater best management practices to enhance the quality of runoff, treating urban runoff from a 525-acre contributing watershed, and adding beneficial park space in the community.
  • Resource Allocation: The project reduced energy use by installing solar lighting, which reduced energy consumption by 77%. An extensive initial commissioning of the pump stations was conducted to ensure the SCADA system controlling the wetland’s low flow and high flow pump systems operated efficiently.
  • Natural World: The project transformed the previous Brownfield facility into an urban park with amenities including trails, boardwalks, observation decks, picnic areas, and a natural rock garden seating area. A wetland with riparian and emergent marsh habitat was created at the center of a densely-populated urban community, and the land use designation of the site was changed from Light Industrial to Open Space in order to ensure the continued use of the site as a wetlands park. The project incorporates native California plant species, requiring no pesticides or fertilizer. These open water, emergent marsh, riparian and upland plants contribute to wetland habitat restoration and help restore species biodiversity.
  • Climate and Risk: The project was designed to be resilient and adaptive to the consequences of long-term climate change scenarios, such as extreme flood or drought. Flexible operation features were built in so that the wetlands may be operated differently. Substantial efforts were made to address the effects of potential long-term climate change by constructing a wetlands environment with riparian habitat at the center of a densely populated urban community.

“We believe this is urban design at its best,” said Deborah Weintraub, Interim City Engineer for the City of Los Angeles, the project’s owner.

Images are property of Psomas. No reproduction is authorized without expressed written permission.

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