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Sorry, L.A. Won't Get Its Own Awesome High-Line Park: Riverside-Figueroa Bridge Slated For Demolition

Riverside-Figueroa Bridge (Photo by Umberto Brayj via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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The historic Riverside-Figueroa Bridge won't be transformed into a super cool green space for pedestrians and bicyclists after all—and is on schedule to get demolished within the week.

The city plans to tear down the 170-foot, L-shaped bridge that connects Elysian Valley to Cypress Park beginning on June 9, according to StreetsBlog LA. The L.A. City Council voted in 2006 to demolish the bridge and replace it with a wider bridge to support more car traffic. They started construction on the new bridge in 2011, which opened last week.

This demolition is a little disappointing since the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge stands above the L.A. River and Mayor Eric Garcetti has been putting a lot of effort into transforming the L.A. River into a destination spot.

Nonprofit group EnrichLA and architectural firm RAC Design Build proposed a plan to convert the old bridge into something much like the High-Line in New York City—with playgrounds and bike paths. They lobbied for a temporary restraining order on the demolition of the bridge that was built in 1927, but yesterday Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant rejected their bid, according to the L.A. Times.

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The preservationists' attorneys, Julian Quattlebaum and Jamie Hall, argued that the bridge was deemed a historical monument by L.A.'s Cultural Heritage Commission in 2008, and the demolition was something that the City Council would need to get approved by the commission first, which they hadn't done.

Chalfant ruled that the groups brought up these issues much too late. However, the preservationist attorneys claimed that they would have brought up the problems sooner had they known earlier that the new bridge was going to be built slightly upstream from the location of the old bridge. They didn't realize they could save the old bridge and convert it into a green space and have it stand alongside the new bridge.

“Now that it’s no longer necessary to remove this bridge, we should preserve it,” Daveed Kapoor, an RAC Design Build architect, told the L.A. Times last week.

Deputy City Attorney Mary Decker claims the bridge is being demolished because it was "seismically vulnerable," but Streetsblog notes that the city never said anything about seismic issues until preservationists spoke up. The city originally said it wanted to tear down the bridge because it would become “functionally obsolete” once cars got redirected onto the new bridge—not because of seismic issues.

First District Councilman Gil Cedillo wrote on his website in April that saving the old bridge would be too costly:

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Changing gears in the middle of a project this size is complicated; the new bridge is a $68 million project, with 88 percent of the funds coming from the federal government that are specifically for bridge replacement. The cost of the new bridge includes the salvage value of the steel that is part of the old bridge, which is why there would be no savings if we leave it where it is. The construction company would also need to put larger cranes into the river so they could build the new bridge over the top of the old one, which is a very expensive proposition. The old bridge is also seismically deficient, meaning it would need extensive bracing or bracketing, even if it was found to be sturdy enough to hold a park, which is not clear. These are just some of the many reasons many of us in the city have concluded that the project is not feasible. Spending more than $10 million on a small park is just not a fiscally sound decision for a City that continues to struggle its way out of the recession. Those funds would have to come from somewhere and we think they can be better spent.

Decker said it would cost the city $18,000 a day starting next Monday if they delayed it because construction crews were already scheduled to assess the old site. Streetsblog LA noted that Chalfant said the estimate was based on "skimpy" evidence, a figure based on just one source—City Bureau of Engineering Bridge Program Manager James Treadaway.

However, the groups who want to convert the old bridge into a green space are vowing to continue their fight. This problem may be discussed at the next Cultural Heritage Commission meeting this Thursday.

Here's a video on the old bridge and the plans behind converting it into a cool land bridge: