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Money For Whitnall Gardens Water Conservation Project Dries Up

Now in a new City Council district and with funding cut short, the future of North Hollywood's planned recreational area off Whitnall Highway is uncertain.

In March of last year, Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge held a  in North Hollywood for the Whitnall Gardens Demonstration Project, a plan that would kill two birds with one stone by turning a power line easement into a community area while conserving storm water.

However, funding for the project dried up, and now over a year later, the stretch of Whitnall Highway between Clybourne Avenue and Cahuenga Boulevard has remained a dirt lot. Since the recent redistricting process moved LaBonge's North Hollywood territory into Councilmember Paul Krekorian's jurisdiction, it's now unclear if a garden for the area adjacent to the  is still in sight.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power planned to fund the $800,000 garden and water conservation project, but "due to current city budget constraints, [it does not have the] funds to commit to the project at this time," said Alice Gong, a civil engineer for the city's Department of Public Works Watershed Protection Division, in an email. "Although the project plans are nearly complete, the project has been put on hold."

The site of the proposed project is about one-third of a mile long on Whitnall Highway, and its emptiness is a stark contrast to the green-grassed power line easement in Burbank just on the other side of West Burbank Boulevard. The project would transform the North Hollywood side into a pedestrian-friendly garden with drought-tolerant plants, drinking fountains and a walking path.

"The DWP has decided to focus on its core business," LaBonge told North-Hollywood Toluca Lake Patch. He and Krekorian have a "great working relationship," and they both plan on working together to come up with solutions for projects that will be affected by the transition, LaBonge said.

LaBonge has represented the NoHo Arts District area since 2001.

"I'm sad I won't be the councilmember for North Hollywood," LaBonge said. The new L.A. City Council district boundaries .

Jeremy Oberstein, Krekorian's communications director, said the Council District 2 office is in the process of setting up a meeting with the LADWP to discuss all the CD4 projects that have yet to be completed.  

The city’s Watershed Protection Division, part of the Bureau of Sanitation, was "asked to map out the drainage area flowing to the proposed storm water basin and to design…the related water diversion structures," Gong said. "Sanitation’s role in the project is to provide design plans at no cost to DWP."

Tests in March 2009 had shown the soil was ideal for storm water infiltration, and with the construction of a water runoff basin, any excess water would be diverted to the L.A. River and reduce local flooding.

It’s still too early to determine what will happen with Whitnall Gardens amidst the council district transition and funding cut-off, Oberstein said. Since Krekorian is also the city's Budget and Finance Committee chairman, he'll also have a chance to assess more efficient ways to find funding for outstanding projects, he said. Krekorian is also the vice-chairman of the Public Works Committee.

LABornAndRaised July 06, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I sure hope Krekorian picks up where LaBonge left off on this project. This area is an eye sore and has potential. This project would continue turning this area around in terms of public safety and beautification to boot.
Gerald Elekes July 07, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Good luck with that. My neighbors and I tried to put gardens in there back in the late 1980's, throughout the 90's. At that time, it was really overgrown-- surrounded by Oleanders. It regularly hosted an encampment of non-housed alcoholic and drug addicted males. This was during the Ferraro, Wachs, and Gruell eras. We were basically ridiculed by city officials for our industriousness, and told that a Beautify LA organization (don't remember the exact name) protested/prohibited putting fences up in LA. Apparently, fences are ugly, but trash, graffiti, shopping carts, porn magazines, mattresses, liquor bottles, fecal matter, and men sleeping in the bushes are beautiful. Such is the logic of CC and city leaders. Since gardens would have needed some form of security (a fence), we would not be able to proceed with our project any further than the "my what a good idea, but"...stage. That was 20 + years ago. I even offered to manage the gardens full-time ,and to maintain an orderly, safe, and legal environment. Instead, we were ignored. I constantly trimmed the Oleanders to keep the un-housed at bay-- at night of course, so I wouldn't be arrested for vandalism-- really! Once a homicide victim was dumped in the bushes in front of my house, I quit trimming and started chopping. We also irritated LAPD by requesting service on a daily basis to police the area, removing overnight campers, abandoned vehicles, drunks, pot smokers, prostitutes, etc. But we never got the gardens. I moved.

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