LA Approves “Green” Alleys That Will Capture Rainwater

Look down an urban alley, and most eyes see blight.

Advocates of transforming alleys into green space see the potential for urban gardens, community pride, and not incidentally in this time of drought, a way to capture rainfall runoff.

A green light to proceed with greening an alley in South Los Angeles -- making 100 feet of it off-limits to vehicles -- was approved Tuesday by the City Council.

"The goal here is to show what is possible when we think outside the box about open space," said Laura Ballock, project manager for the Trust for Public Land, which proposed the project.

The first project will tackle an alley west of Avalon Boulevard between 51st and 52nd streets, along with a second stretch of alley east of Main and below 52nd streets.

The design features permeable paving to allow runoff to percolate to the soil below, where the water will be captured in undergrounddry wells and released to replenish groundwater. 

"The greenest part of the project is underground," Ballock said.

The Trust has been working with neighborhood residents and advocates who have coalesced into a "Green Team" -- "Equipo Verde" --  among the many Spanish speakers in this part of South LA near Maya Angelou High and Main Street Elementary schools.

They appreciate the water conservation benefits.  But for them, the biggest attraction is the chance to reclaim what at night often becomes a no man's land populated by trash dumpers and others involved in illegal activity.

Many Green Team members are parents who said the project will benefit their children.

"They're going to feel safer and have a green environment," said Sonia Rodriguez, a mother of two.

It has been seven years since the project was first proposed.  First year City Councilman Curren Price shepherded it to the vote Tuesday that enables it finally to go forward.

"I'm so happy to have this key hurdle behind us," Price said.  "Green alleys are a perfect way to reinvent blighted and underutilized space into safe and green pathways for residents, promoting a healthier lifestyle and buildibg a sense of community."

Funding will come from a variety of sources at local and state levels, including an allocation from the California Water Resources Control Board, Proposition 84 urban greening money, and water quality money from Proposition O,  which Los Angeles voters approved in 2004.  The Trust's community outreach, Ballock said, was funded by private donations.

The LA City Sanitation Bureau will oversee construction, planned for the first two alleyways to begin next year, and Ballock expects they will be transformed by the end of 2015.

"This is a demonstation," Ballock said, noting the city of Los Angeles alone has more than 900 miles of alleyways.  "Hopefully we will go on from here."

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