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Fight Over Fate of Historic North Spring Street Viaduct Heads to Council

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, June 02, 2010, at 04:14PM
LA River Bridges - N. Spring Street KCET Departures

The 1928 North Spring Street viaduct

Despite an outcry from preservationists, the city's Board of Public Works today recommended approval of an environmental document needed to allow the North Spring Street Viaduct to be replaced with a wider design intended to add room for bicycles and pedestrians.

Doing so would destroy most of the historic elements that make up the 1928 viaduct, one of eleven river spans to officially be declared a Historic Cultural Monument in January of 2008. The North Spring Street structure connects the Los Angeles State Historic Park with Lincoln Heights.

Speakers from the Los Angeles Conservancy and nearby neighborhoods asked the board to instead hold the project while more effort is put into studying preservation options and the possibility of constructing a parallel structure for non-vehicular travel.

Bureau of Engineering staff told the board that option had been rejected because the seismic retrofit funding planned for use on the $48 million project would not pay for a separate structure.

The North Spring Street Viaduct is currently 50 feet wide. Under the city's preferred alternative, it would be widened to 90 feet, with striped bike lanes, wider sidewalks and a hardscaped median.

Though the viaduct project has been around for nearly four years, the board was under pressure to act quickly because of a June 20 deadline to present the approved Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to the state and receive a $5 million grant. That money would then be used as the local match for the federal money that would fund the bulk of the project.

Speakers from the Conservancy and the Cultural Heritage Commission expressed their concern that the project's timeline had limited public participation. Early outreach took place in late 2006, but the project stood dormant until the Draft EIR was published in March.

The final EIR was published last month, and is "deeply flawed," according to Mike Buhler, Director of Advocacy for the Conservancy. He told the board that the lack of a historic preservation option in the document is a "glaring and inexcusable omission."

The potential loss of a historic monument was also troubling to Ken Bernstein, head of the city's Office of Historic Resources. "It's actually been quite a long time since we've lost any Historic Cultural Monuments in this city," he told the board.

The document must be certified by the City Council before it is considered official.

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