Vision Hyperion: Advocates Sue City Claiming Inadequate Study of Bridge Redesign

Don Ward at today's press conference. Photo: Damien Newton
Don Ward at today’s press conference. Photo: Damien Newton

Flanked by community and safe streets advocates holding signs reading “Save Our Sidewalk” and “Safe Streets 4 All,” Don Ward leaned into a microphone to announce the battle over the redesign of the Glendale-Hyperion series of bridges was not over just because the City Council has given the project a green light.

“This morning, we are announcing legal action to defend the community against the City’s rushed and ill-conceived approval of an unsafe design for the Hyperion Avenue Viaduct,” Ward stated.

“The project approved by the City Council last month fails to provide safe access to everyone who uses the bridge and falls short of the City’s vision of promoting safe, walkable, and bikeable neighborhoods.”

The lawsuit, which will be formally filed on Thursday, challenges the city’s approval of a “Negative Declaration” for the project. Basically, based on studies performed by the City Bureau of Engineering, the City Council stated that the design of the bridge has no impact on the environment or public safety. The approved design of the bridge removes a sidewalk on the south side of the bridge in favor of a pair of bicycle lanes.

The lawsuit, to be filed by the firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, challenges the assertion that a sidewalk can be removed without impacting local circulation under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Here the city, despite the size and complexity of the project, issued a Negative Declaration. That’s only allowed when there are no significant impacts or all impacts have been completely mitigated,” explains Michelle Black, an associate with Chatten-Brown & Carstens. “With the current design, there will be significant impacts to circulation that have not been studied.”

If successful, the lawsuit will force a full environmental study by the city and a serious consideration of several options. Chatten-Brown & Carstens is filing the suit on behalf of Ward and “Angelenos for a Great Hyperion.”

The City Council approved the environmental documents  for the project on June 9 over the objections of community advocates and incoming Councilman David Ryu, who now represents the communities on one side of the bridge.

The rejection was rushed, in part, because of a questionable city staff claim that funding from the state would expire were the city to take the time to complete a full environmental study.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the demolishing of that claim by Caltrans staff in committee would have taken a beat to evaluate the concerns residents and an incoming Councilmember have for the project. Instead, the Council barreled forward. Due to the rush to judgment, the opportunity to lead on this project is now out of the Council’s hands and in those of attorneys and judges.

“We hope that with more time and another chance to evaluate the options with open minds, thought and reason will prevail,” Ward concluded. “Our communities deserve a historic bridge that is safe and accessible for people walking and biking and [for] people with disabilities.”

The Glendale-Hyperion Bridge is a concrete arch bridge viaduct in Atwater Village that spans the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5. It was constructed in 1927 by vote of the citizens that lived in Atwater Village at the time and was completed in February 1929. The bridge spans 400 feet over the Atwater section of the Los Angeles River and has four car lanes. Because of its age, the complex of bridges will be soon retro-fitted to be more seismically sound, including a new road configuration.

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