Koretz Pushes Expo for a Little Collaboration on the Expo Greenway

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Tomorrow, the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors will hear a motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz requiring “the CEO and staff to work collaboratively with the City of Los Angeles to ensure that the landscaping of the two projects (the Expo Greenway and the landscaping for the Expo Line) compliment each other…”

The Expo Greenway project would transform the area between Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue adjacent to the future bikeway and rail project into a sustainable urban greenway that would provide a corridor of native species, a stretch of open space, and a place where rainwater is sustainably moved back to the ground. Original plans called for a large parking lot in the area now slated for a greenway and botanical garden.

For those following the progress of the Expo Greenway for the past six years, this might seem a ho-hum motion. But for those working on the project, it’s big news. For the first time, Expo staff will be compelled to truly work with the City of Los Angeles on this project. While the two projects are still separate, coordination between the City and Expo hasn’t always been smooth. Advocates for the fully-funded bicycle path and other projects have long-complained that staff seems concerned with building a railroad and nothing else.

Koretz’s motion makes it clear that the Greenway is a part of the greater Expo vision, even if it’s not officially part of the Expo Line.

“Our office wants to make sure there is a seamless transition between the two projects,” says Jay Greenstein, the transportation deputy for Paul Koretz. “One day in the future people will visit these projects when they’re completed. Other than the sound wall, we don’t want them to be able to tell the difference between the Los Angeles project and the Expo Line project.”

Jonathan Weiss, a Cheviot Hills resident and long-time advocate for Expo rail and bicycle projects, is considered by many the driving force behind the Greenway.

“Expo was envisioned as multimodal green corridor promoting sustainability of natural resources;  it adapted for the 21st Century a 1930s plan to use parkways to connect recreational open spaces to the beaches.  Paul Koretz motion seeks to create the context for that to happen,”writes Weiss, who represents Koretz on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“We will now have a multi-benefit greenway to provide urban runoff treatment, a simulated stream, green space, native landscaping, a tree-lined vegetative buffer, a bikeway, access to public transit, and educational and recreational opportunities.”

Rendering of the Greenway from the Bureau of Sanitation’s Watershed Protection Division’s Concept Document

While Koretz has been something of a villain in the Livable Streets Community since his decision to pull the plug on a study of bicycle lanes on Westwood Boulevard; he is a champion of the Expo Greenway. It was Koretz who helped secure funding for last summer’s ground breaking, and Koretz who “prevailed upon Expo staff” to consider the Greenway instead of a parking lot for the land that will be the Greenway.

But that’s one of the things that makes covering the greenway so much fun. There is no real opposition to the project: LADOT, Bureau of Street Services, local schools, Expo supporters, Expo opponents (some of the same Neighborhood Councils backing this project sued to stop both Expo Rail and Expo bike path), the Mayor’s Office, Paul Koretz’s office and the Board of Public Works all back it.

In the Greenway’s case the issue isn’t whether or not people believe the project is a good idea, everyone agrees on that. Instead, it’s about priorities. While Weiss received support from the previous mayoral administration, since Eric Garcetti took office he’s seen greater coordination between city departments to make the greenway a reality. Increased buy-in from top level staff,  the head of the Bureau of Sanitation (which oversees the wastewater portion of the project) is just one of the high level staff that has called Weiss for a tour of the project area.

“It is wonderful and gratifying to see the Mayor’s office, CD-5, and the Board of Public Works working with Expo to more efficiently build both projects and to build them both better,” Weiss continues.

So will the Greenway project happen as envisioned? It’s not a guarantee. The funding isn’t assured. It seems that every couple of months there’s new news that makes the project seem more and more likely. A motion requiring Expo and the City to truly coordinate their efforts may not seem as though it’s a big deal on its own.

But in the larger picture, it may be the beginning of the end.