Back in 2014, the South Los Angeles Wetland Park in Los Angeles, California, earned the Envision Platinum award—the highest level attainable in the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system. This video shows how the park has progressed.
The South Los Angeles Wetland Park was the first project in Southern California to receive an ISI Envision award and the second project to receive an Envision Platinum rating.
The South L.A. Wetland Park infrastructure project is located in a historically undeveloped area of Los Angeles County, formerly known as South Central Los Angeles. The project is a result of Proposition O, a program supported by a series of general obligation bonds valued at $500 million, whose projects were conceived to protect public health by removing pollution from the City’s watercourses, beaches, and the ocean 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 Psomas Principal, Director of Sustainability, and Envision Sustainability Professional and Envision Verifier, Sean P. Vargas.
The features of the project 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 engineers’ design of the park to use urban runoff as a treatment-wetland sustaining resource. The South L.A. Wetlands 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 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 wetland 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 wetland may be operated differently. Substantial efforts were made to restore and rehabilitate effects of long-term change by constructing a wetland environment with riparian habitat at the center of a densely populated urban community.
“The City of Los Angeles and Psomas partnered to deliver a multi-benefit infrastructure project and neighborhood amenity to the residents of South Los Angeles,” said Deborah Weintraub, Acting City Engineer. “This project is transcendent in that it redefines the archetype of what is possible in a highly-urbanized public works environment,” she said.
“ISI’s Envision is a standard providing how new horizontal infrastructure should be planned, designed, and built to incorporate sustainability. In today’s environment, the conditions and constraints under which infrastructure must perform are increasingly challenging,” said ISI Executive Director Bill Bertera.
“Communities are facing new challenges arising from environmental regulations, ever more scarce financial resources, and pressures associated with climate change and global warming. We need to respond to these conflicting priorities in ways that speak to broad public and societal interests,” Bertera said. “The Envision rating system is a part of the answer…to help us not only do the projects right, but to do the right projects,” he continued.