The Sepulveda Basin has long been a staple in the San Fernando Valley as a recreational and wildlife reserve for the surrounding communities. At approximately 2,134 acres (that’s just about half the size of Griffith Park for perspective), the land has gone through multiple renovations to best utilize the space since its initial creation in the 40s.
The Sepulveda Basin is currently owned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers who lease the majority of the land to the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks. Currently, the space is home to multiple parks, a wildlife preserve, three golf courses, an 80-acre sports field, an archery range, playgrounds, bike paths, hiking trails, tennis courts, a velodrome, Balboa Lake with boat rentals and fishing, the Balboa Park and Sports Center, a Japanese garden, cricket grounds at Woodley Park, model aircraft field, a dog park and a stretch of the Los Angeles River that flows through the Basin.
In an effort to revitalize the space to make it easier to navigate, enhance the natural habitats and reform underutilized spaces, multiple organizations have come together to craft the Sepulveda Basin Vision Plan.
Since the space is a regional park, the project is being led by the City’s Bureau of Engineering under the Board of Public Works, with input from the Mayor’s Office and from Council Districts 6, 4, 3, and 2 in coordination with the Department of Recreation and Parks, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and the Planning Department. Outside agencies who are involved include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Transportation and others.
The Sepulveda Basin Vision Plan hopes to reimagine the basin as the “Central Park” of the San Fernando Valley with an estimated completion time of summer 2024. During this time, the goals are to enhance the recreational opportunities for locals, while improving the resilience of the ecosystem that is such a critical part of the basin. The objectives that will be undertaken during this time are stated in the Vision Plan as:
1.Study existing land uses, landscape features, habitats, patterns of use, and user groups within the Sepulveda Basin and identify areas that can be enhanced,
2.Provide an understanding of how future investments, such as the proposed 2028 Olympic facilities and River restoration projects, can tie into the overall vision for the Basin,
3.Lay out a plan for improving mobility, access, and wayfinding around and within the Basin for cars, pedestrians, and cyclists,
4.Outline a decision-making framework between the different government agencies with purview over the Basin, including the Army Corps, the County, and City of Los Angeles,
5.Increase recreational opportunities for long term use while preserving and enhancing wildlife and habitat areas,
6.Through a River focused planning process, integrate improved riverbank habitats, recreational River access, River adjacent public safety and connectivity, and restore natural ecosystem functionality to the River and the tributaries within the Basin,
7.Maintain or improve the current flood risk capacity of the Basin.
While still in the beginning stages of research and analysis, the first community meeting was held on February 8 at the Encino Community Center to present these plans to locals and receive critical feedback from the individuals who would be most affected by the Sepulveda Basin Vision Plan.
“More than 150 neighbors came to our first community meeting last week to share their ideas and suggestions with the City team, and to learn more about this historic planning process,” said Vahid Khorsand, Commissioner of the Board of Public Works. “As a central park for the San Fernando Valley, this project will allow the community to come together in a highly collaborative process to reimagine the future of the Sepulveda Basin.”
Following each community meeting, various projects will be recommended based on impact, funding and ways to move forward with the plan without causing community disruption. The Plan is funded by a combination of City funds and a grant from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. The idea is that throughout the process, organizers of the plan will host multiple outreach opportunities to engage with local residents and stakeholders to ensure cohesiveness throughout the community.
While productive in theory, those whose mission is to keep the community’s best interests at heart are finding themselves not quite as looped in as they should be.
Alex Garay, President of the Encino Neighborhood Council states, “Although we at the Encino Neighborhood Council (ENC) remain optimistic that the scheduled meetings will allow for community input, we are cautious as meetings seemed to have occurred and plans had been discussed by the former CD6 Councilmember. The ENC had not been part of any of the previous discussions/plans that occurred and possibly executed. The significant issue here is NCs should be the first parties informed of significant projects within their boundaries, not the last (if at all). Keeping NCs in the dark violates the City Charter as it prevents NCs from doing what they are supposed to be doing, which includes monitoring delivery of city services.”
While only time will tell if the community’s input will be part of plans moving forward, the next open house for locals is not anticipated to be held until July.
Those looking for a more detailed breakdown of the Sepulveda Basin Vision Plan can read more about the project at eng.lacity.org/sepulveda-basin-vision-plan, which includes the slides from the first meeting and a survey to share how the basin plays a role in your life. Those looking to keep up-to-date on the project, and future meetings, can also follow updates on social media @LABureauEngineering.