THE LYONS AVE / INTERSTATE 5 INTERCHANGE - THE BIOSWALE AS THE DESIGN

Site flow lines were virtually unchanged.

Bio-swales perform a pivotal role in expanding infrastructure development.  The idea is simple and important:  trap pollutants like trash, oil and chemicals on-site before they become concentrated in storm drains and flow into nearby streams, rivers, and eventually the ocean. They also mitigate stormwater runoff flows and contribute to groundwater recharge. They are becomming common features in parking lots, street parkways and along drainages.  Typically, they are low sloping swales with grasses or wetland plants that slow down the flow of water, catch pollutants and recharge groundwater.  As impervious paved surfaces become more prevalent through urban growth, pollution and stormwater runoff management are becomming increasingly important problems; thus, bio-swales are becomming even more desirable.  On the downside bio swales are often developed without much attention to aesthetics.

For the Lyons Avenue/I-5 ramps in Santa Clarita, bio swales are the centerpiece of the landscape. They are modeled after the gently sloping oak woodland/chaparral arroyos that define the native character of Santa Clarita’s west side.  The site has gently meandering swales adjacent to each ramp.

Good site drainage existed prior to landscaping.  However, contour grading resulted in deepened flow lines and mounds on each side of the swales.  Boulder drops allowed creek beds to flow at about 2%

Design tasks included strengthening the existing swales, reducing the swale gradients and drawing from the existing native/naturalized landscape that defines the character of Santa Clarita along its western edge.  Additional mounding soil on each side of the existing flow lines was added to better contain the water flow within the swales.  The biggest problem was that the swales were too steep to allow for good soil percolation – about 10%.  This was addressed with vertical boulder drops, acting as wiers or small dams.  Cobble was added below the drops to absorb erosive energy and to direct the water flow.  The boulder drops reduced slope gradients between the elevation changes to a level that allowed better percolation.

Placing the boulders - Boulder drops improve infiltration by reducing the overland flow gradient

The native grasses are Fescue Rubra ‘Molate’ and Argostis Pallens.  These drought tolerant grasses are naturally dormant during dry months.  During wetter months, and if they are watered, the grasses remain green.   The design intent was to specify a grass that need not ever be watered after establishment, as well as a grass that could remain green if the City felt it was important.  In a couple more years, if the City chooses not to water this landscape, the drought tolerant natives will remain.

As with all Caltrans projects, and with nature itself, it will be several years before the beauty of the project is fully expressed.  But we think this project takes an important step forward in the development of sustainable landscapes that are also beautiful.

When the container plants grow together, the City may let the grasses go dormant in the summer...  Just like the surrounding hills.

A BLUFFS TRAIL FOR VENTURA

About ten years ago two large ocean view parcels - the Triangle Property and the Sunkist Site (Ventura Coastal Lemon) -  were presented to The City for development. Both developers presented plans with community trails & outlooks along Ventura’s scenic bluff just north of US 101.  The Sunkist developer proposed altering Vista Del Mar to link these ocean vista sites & provide beach access to Midtown residents. 
THE BLUFFS follows the Triangle Property, Vista Del Mar and the Sunkist site (Coastal Lemon)The Sunkist site is once again being considered for development, but without beach access or a public walkway along the bluffs. This writer believes that the City should develop a plan for a continuous trail from the Sunkist site to the pier prior to plan approval of parcel development along the bluffs.
The creation of such a trail, with a couple bicycle/pedestrian railroad crossings, will significantly improve the quality of life available to Midtown residents. This modest plan, paid for mainly by land development Improving Midtown Ocean Views & Beach Accessalong the bluffs, would provide Midtown’s 43,00 residents with recreational, non-motorized ocean view and beach access along the 2 mile span of the trail.  Railroad overcrossings would link Midtown’s many bicycle friendly residential streets to the beach as well. Currently, Seaward is the only legal path for bikes, and its dangerous and scary.
 
THE BLUFFS follows the Triangle Property, Vista Del Mar and the Sunkist site (Coastal Lemon)Vista Del Mar is the Key
Careful treatment of Vista Del Mar is key to the creation of a 2 mile bluffs trail that serves the Midtown Community. The triangle and Sunkist sites will offer views and public amenities and Vista Del Mar will provide the access. 
Currently, Midtown surfers, bikers, joggers and walkers, including children and pets, illegally cross the railroad tracks to Vista Del Mar, and thence to the beach.  Periodically, the railroad repairs the chain link fence along the tracks.  Days or weeks thereafter new holes appear in the fence along Vista Del Mar. The number of crossings per month easily exceeds 1,000.  Every ten years or so, someone is injured or killed by a train.
Fixing Vista Del Mar's traffic & recreation use will strengthn Midtown beach linksThis eclectic street character can and should be preserved, but made safer.  The street should be narrowed and restricted to one way, west to east traffic.  As now configured, it will never handle the additional traffic from the proposed Sunkist development.  A recreation path with a landscape panel to separate it from the street should be built. Most important, a couple of railroad overpasses should be built to give Midtown residents safe, legal, non-motorized access  to the beach and the bluffs recreation trail. 
RECREATIONAL BEACH ACCESS & OCEAN VIEWS for Midtown residentsIt's Now or Never
The bluffs are an important community resource.  A bluffs trail from the Sunkist site to the Pier, with a couple of legal railroad crossings would provide a 2 mile recreation path with scenic views to Midtown residents.  As a Vista Del Mar Resident, I love seeing joggers and bicyclists, some with surfboards, come across the tracks without getting into a car.  If we don't act soon, Sunkist and Tirangle properties may be developed without trails.  They love it, too.  Let’s make it legal, safe and highlight the views for all to enjoy.  Let’s focus on Ventura community improvements for Ventura residents.
CLICK HERE to see The Bluff's spectacular ocean views and how Vista Del Mar is used as a recreation trail

GET INVOLVED by attending a meeting on the evening of June 20 to discuss how the blufffs and Vista Del Mar can be made a safer and more beautiful part of our community. Post a comment on the CONTACT ME sidebar to the right and you will be sent the meeting address.