January 30, 1998 - From the January, 1998 issue

The Taylor Yard Fiasco: FoLAR’s Lewis MacAdams’ Protest

According to Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) Cofounder Lewis MacAdams, development proposals and the selling-off of portions of Taylor Yard, near Elysian Park, threaten to disrupt the L.A. River’s last remaining natural habitats. Though Councilman Mike Hernandez, in whose district Taylor Yard lies, says he is working with developers to preserve the River’s Taylor Yard segment, FoLAR continues its push for a two-year building moratorium in the area. The Planning Report is pleased to present the following piece from FoLAR’s MacAdams.


Lewis MacAdams

“With complete disregard for public opinion, the Union Pacific Railroad… is quietly selling off the Taylor Yard’s 180 acres in 50-acre chunks to a shadowy set of investors from the Midwest."

The City of Los Angeles is in grave danger of losing a once-in-a generation land-use opportunity in the now almost deserted Taylor Railroad Yard, while the officials responsible for protecting the public interest look the other way. 

Three separate planning efforts—one initiated by the L.A. chapter of the American Institute of Architects, one by Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Works, and one by the MTA and Councilman Mike Hernandez—including dozens of meetings in the surrounding communities of Cypress Park, Glassell Park, and Elysian Valley called for redeveloping the Taylor Yard. All proposals for the Taylor Yard—which boasts almost three miles of unpaved river front and some of the richest riparian habitat left in L.A. County—call for parkland creation, economic revitalization, wetlands restoration, toxic cleanup and flood protection for Downtown Los Angeles. 

With complete disregard for public opinion, the Union Pacific Railroad, which is based in Denver and San Francisco and owned by Philip Anschutz, the same reclusive billionaire developing the new Sports Arena, is quietly selling off the Taylor Yard's 180 acres in 50-acre chunks to a shadowy set of investors from the Midwest. 

Where does the Mayor's office stand on all this? It depends who you ask. The chief of Mayor Riordan's business office, Rocky Delgadillo, has refused to even meet with river advocates or the Taylor Yard's neighbors, and is working full-tilt to help the railroad sell off the Taylor Yard as fast as possible. In a meeting with a group of river advocates last Fall, Mayor Riordan's Senior Advisor Steve Soboroff urged them to ask Bob Starzell, the Western Regional Vice President of the Union Pacific Rail Road, for a two year moratorium on development in the Taylor Yard to allow for a public planning process. 

The Federal Emergency Man­agement Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Coastal Conservancy are all interested in funding a multiuse parkland facility in the Taylor Yard. The State Dept. of Water Resources has already sponsored an engineering study that confirmed the feasibility of using land between the river and the mainline tracks that run down the center of the yard for parks, riparian restoration and a flood detention basin that would protect the Downtown and East side lowlands from a 100 year flood. Efforts to begin a dialogue with the Union Pacific's Western regional office in San Francisco have so far been ignored. 

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What about Councilman Mike Hernandez, whose District includes the Taylor Yard? In a 1992 letter to the American Institute of Architects he wrote "The voice that is now being heard from the community will shape the future of Taylor Yard." Last year, at his request, the MTA put out an RFP for a "Raging Waters" -style water park on 20 acres of MTA land bordering the Union Pacific parcel and the river. No proposals were submitted since Union Pacific began selling off what is probably the largest single land parcel we'll ever see in Los Angeles. And, until very recently, Hernandez had not until uttered a public word, and he still does not support a moratorium on development.

Starting this month, Friends of the Los Angeles River, the Sierra Club, and the Urban Resources Partnership, along with the Downtown News, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Central Library, and KMEX-TV have initiated a planning process for the River Through Downtown. A series of four neighborhood focus groups, at Aragon Avenue Elementary School in Cypress Park, Castelar Elementary School in Chinatown, the Maryknoll Center in the Little Tokyo/ Artists Loft District, and at Hollenbeck Youth Center in Boyle Heights, followed by a three-day planning workshop from February 13-15 at Union Station in collaboration with the American Society of Landscape Architects and the American Institute of Architects will look at the Taylor Yard and several other central Los Angeles River issues.

Issues being looked at include:

  • Taylor yard recommendations;
  • A plan for bringing the Arroyo Seco and L.A. River bikeways together at an historic confluence park, then into Union Station from the north and out of the station heading south to Vernon;
  • A "San Antonio River-like" L.A. River extension through Chinatown's old Cornfield and Bullring railroad yard;
  • Ways to move the East side river front railroad tracks to the west side and create a great East Side metropolitan park that would connect the redeveloped Pico-Aliso public housing to the river.

Plans will be presented to the public at the free, all-day River Through Downtown Conference at the Central Library's Mark Taper Auditorium on Feb. 28, 1998.

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