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LID: Distributed Green Solutions

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The City of Los Angeles has embarked on a comprehensive effort to manage water quality in stormwater and urban runoff. This effort is driven largely by Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) that require City action to address pollutants discharged from City municipal storm sewers. To guide TMDL implementation activities, the City has nearly completed a two part effort to better manage stormwater at its source. These parts include 1) City-wide adoption of a Low Impact Development (LID) Ordinance and other related guidelines, programs, policies, and standards, and 2) the development and implementation of green infrastructure projects. Central to this approach is the implementation of distributed solutions consistent with the City's long-term policy to develop a green sustainable infrastructure. These distributed solutions are being implemented in a manner that provides multiple community benefits, including management of pollutants in stormwater, support of conservation needs, and improvements in quality of life for City residents through establishment of increased open/green space.

The City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works, through the Bureau of Sanitation, recently adopted a City of Los Angeles Ordinance requiring LID methods and practices for nearly all new development within the City. Beginning with the leadership of City officials and strong support from the region's environmental community, a new wave of thinking has occurred at all levels of City government. Intra-City committees comprised of City Bureaus and Departments such as the Bureaus of Sanitation, Engineering, and Street Services, and Departments of Water and Power, City Planning, Building and Safety, and Transportation, reviewed policies and projects to see where changes could be made. This, in turn, led to the coordinated development and/or revision of multiple, inter-related City ordinances including the LID Ordinance, the Green Building Ordinance, the Stream Protection Ordinance, the Landscape Ordinance, and the Hillside Ordinance. The LID ordinance, in particular, was developed to manage stormwater runoff as close to the point of origin as possible to reduce collection and conveyance infrastructure; increase infiltration to recharge local groundwater basins and to provide runoff volume and peak discharge control; treat stormwater contaminants on site to reduce pollutant treatment loading and to improve water quality; and maintain natural features and drainage patterns (where applicable) to minimize disturbances and maximize hydraulic efficiency.

Through the development of policies, guidelines, and projects, it became clear to the City that Green Streets Standard Plans would be the preferred method to implement these practices Citywide. In the summer of 2010, the City of Los Angeles became the first large city, and possibly the first city nationwide, to adopt Green Streets Standard Plans. These Green Street Standard Plans are City approved construction details for Green Street elements that incorporate stormwater “best management practices” (BMPs) into the pre-approved designs. Green Street Standard Plans will be used by City staff when designing new streets or improving existing streets, and can also be used by developers, contractors or other municipal users. They can be incorporated into specific plans, redevelopment areas, private developments, and public works improvement areas.

Although the list of green infrastructure projects in Los Angeles is growing, several public and private projects have led the way. These projects include Oros Street, Riverdale Avenue, Elmer Avenue, and South Park. The first three listed above are different variations of retrofitting and/or completely redoing suburban streetscapes. Oros “Green” Street was retrofitted to capture runoff from private property at the property lines, and to capture excess runoff and street runoff for infiltration at a local pocket park. The Riverdale Avenue Green Street Demonstration Project included a more regional approach accepting run-on from some surrounding streets for infiltration under the sidewalks. Elmer Avenue Green Street Project combined approaches from both of the aforementioned projects with local and regional solutions employed. And all three of these projects added neighborhood aesthetics such as meandering sidewalks, native vegetation, rededication of public open-space (Oros), a community garden (Riverdale), and solar street lighting (Elmer). An example private Green Street project undertaken within the confines of the highly urbanized Downtown Los Angeles was the South Park project. In October 2007, the Elleven and Luma Residences developed by The South Group received the U.S. Green Building Council's Gold designation through their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for their incorporation of sustainable methods and materials such as the green streets techniques implemented within the parkways.
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Keywords: BMP; Distributed Green Solutions; Elmer Avenue; Green Streets; LID Manual; LID Municipal Ordinance; Low Impact Development; Oros Street; Riverdale Avenue; South Park; Standard Plans

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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