Update:  July 19, 2017

Silver Lake Forward's Recommendations on the Master Planning Process

At the end of June, Silver Lake Forward's Executive and Policy Committees shared the following with our Councilmembers O'Farrell and Ryu, as well as the Mayor's Office and key departmental leaders within the City and the Department of Water and Power. We wanted to share the thoughts of our organization's leadership as the City begins the process of developing a new master plan for the Silver Lake Reservoir Complex. We can't wait to engage the community as part of a new master plan! Share your thoughts and feedback on our social media platforms!


June 30, 2017

Dear Councilmembers O'Farrell and Ryu,

We have created this document to share our recommendations for the forthcoming master planning process for the Silver Lake Reservoirs Complex. We deeply appreciate your leadership in bringing about the master plan, and look forward to working with you and all participants to inspire robust community participation, creativity, and collaboration to create a transformative public space and sustainable water future for Los Angeles.


Silver Lake Reservoirs have the potential for a truly transformative future. More than an esthetic or recreational amenity, the repurposed reservoir complex should be conceived as integral to the city and region's emerging sustainable and resilient water infrastructure system.

This vision combines world-class reimagining of the Reservoirs' water infrastructure, along with quality public space that serves the community's needs for vibrant healthy enjoyment of nature.

Potential benefits include greatly enhanced wildlife habitat, connectivity to the Los Angeles River Revitalization, with capture and use of stormwater and other wasted water sources, support of Vision Zero transportation objectives, and above all significant contribution towards One Water goals for the City's progressive water future.

By proceeding in an open, fully engaged, multi-disciplinary and multi-agency comprehensive process, the project's scope must be crafted to access necessary funding sources, solve environmental needs, and answer public enjoyment goals.

As the City prepares to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the LA Department of Water and Power (LA DWP) and Bureau of Engineering (BOE), the resulting Request for Proposals on a forthcoming Master Planning Process should encompass key values and aspirations:


Silver Lake Forward's core values prioritize access, beauty and conservation. We share these as central to the City's obligation to our lake, land and community.

ACCESS to public space is a right of citizenship. Thus, planning for public use of the former Reservoirs' land and water features must address the broad community of Los Angeles, with multi-modal access for bike, transit, pedestrian, safe routes to school, ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliance, as well as traditional auto modes. Community concerns about traffic, parking and safety must be assessed and addressed, and the plan must include recommendations on mitigating potential impacts on local residents. Thousands of people from across the eastern part of Los Angeles already access the Reservoirs, dog parks, and walking trails, and we firmly believe that a comprehensive plan can provide meaningful new access with manageable impact.

When we create public space, we change people's lives. Access is connectivity and integration of linked neighborhood villages in this Los Angeles region. It includes expansion of public lands and recreational usage where possible, imaginative reuse of legacy LA DWP facilities for community and environmental benefit, with ongoing programming and management worthy of this exceptional project. It must address social justice and diversity issues, and engage local schools in its features and programming.

BEAUTY imagines the existing crown jewel of the Reservoirs enhanced with repurposed banks that both beautify and enhance wildlife habitat. It means well-designed recreational and landscape features to address the diverse needs of the community for healthy exercise and enjoyment, with additional public open space.

CONSERVATION means responding to climate change, conserving water and creating improved habitat for wildlife. The repurposed Reservoir infrastructure and its conveyance system would connect the Reservoir with sources of non-potable water, including wasted stormwater and excess recycled water, for storage, treatment and reuse. These include constructed wetlands (which would create extensive habitat for avian and other wildlife), progressive Best Management Practices (BMPs) to mitigate pollution, and creative reuse of water that's now wasted. A recent neighborhood presentation on urban wildlife included presentations from experts encouraged planning for co-existence with urban wildlife, and emphasized that public access and wildlife habitat are not necessarily in conflict. Professional wildlife expertise can ensure that planning for both public access and viable wildlife habitat can coexist successfully.



We strongly encourage the DWP and BOE to develop a scope that provides the broadest possible opportunity for public community planning and outcomes. We request that DWP limit, to the greatest extent possible, the amount of land and water area that must remain off-limits to access and modification. We request that the master planning process be as open-ended as possible, with the least possible prescriptions on potential uses and configurations of the space, allowing the community and master planning team the broadest possible field of access to the space.


The Master Planning Process should identify and include stakeholders that include elected, technical, non-profit and community entities, including:

Public Agencies:

  • LA DWP
  • Bureau of Engineering
  • Bureau of Sanitation
  • LA Dept. of Recreation and Parks / MRCA/ CA State Parks
  • Public Works
  • US Army Corps of Engineers

Elected Officials:

  • City Council and Mayor's Office
  • LA County Board of Supervisors
  • State Representatives and Senators

Non-Profit, Community and Foundation Support

  • Trust for Public Land
  • TreePeople
  • Urban wildlife experts
  • Additional environmental and conservation non-profits
  • Philanthropic Foundations
  • Academic and other expert leaders
  • Engaged community organizations (Silver Lake Forward, Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy, Silver Lake Now)
  • Key Los Angeles River stakeholder entities


With a senior City BOE or Public Works Commission as central contact, a professional team led by a Civil / Environmental Planning firm and Landscape Architect that reflects the rich design heritage of Los Angeles, with proven design and technical leadership in the field should lead the Master Planning Process. Ancillary support / advisory capacities should include:

  • Hydrology and Water Infrastructure Management
  • Geotechnical and Geostructural Engineering
  • Constructed Wetland Engineering
  • Ecology and Habitat Expertise
  • Environmental Compliance
  • Transportation Planning
  • Art & Culture
  • Community outreach and stakeholder engagement, including engagement of low-income and non-English speaking communities
  • Public funding, public/ private partnerships, and budget expertise



The new Silver Lake water resource must join the larger regional water system.

As climate change results in more expensive and scarce potable water, capture and reuse of all water in the Los Angeles region is essential. Silver Lake will be a performative and effective demonstration of Los Angeles' new relationship with water. Models for such projects can be found locally (Echo Park Lake) and internationally. By repurposing the Reservoirs as water capture, storage, treatment and reuse facilities, the City's 'One Water' goals are advanced, and funding of the civil engineering phase can be secured, including local, regional, state and federal sources.

Connection to sources via legacy pipelines include local stormwater capture and treatment (now in planning at LA DWP), recycled water for storage and non-potable reuse, and capture of LA River stormwater to reduce pollution levels.

Potential uses include non-potable maintenance of other public lakes (Echo Park and MacArthur Park) and the essential riparian zones in the LA River (as other River water sources will likely be reduced), and as a water bank for recycled irrigation.


The public space of the project must join and expand the city-wide network of passive and active green spaces to enhance the daily life of LA's citizens. It will likewise serve as a commons for the diverse community of Silver Lake and adjacent urban villages.

The cultural and architectural significance of Silver Lake and Los Angeles must inform the planning process for this project to create a public space worthy of Silver Lake's inherent scenic beauty. A visionary landscape design is necessary to ensure a successful result.

Features to be studied include, but are not limited to:

  • Expansion of public space, including the Silver Lake Meadow, Eucalyptus Grove, the Knoll adjacent to LA DWP facilities, and pedestrian/bicycle connectivity.
  • Conversion of legacy DWP facilities for best public use (environmental study center, etc.).
  • Maximizing wildlife viability, with appropriate plantings, habitat enhancement, and protection of the Great Blue Heron Rookery.
  • Potential new and enhanced passive and active recreational facilities.


To build public will and engagement, professional best practices for an optimal public process are essential. This includes proactive engagement with local and regional communities, and an effective communications program to present the project's alternatives and potential, while responding to community aspirations. We recommend creating an advisory board for the master plan that includes representation from the organizations listed above.


We look forward to the results of the master planning process, which we are confident will create a comprehensive blueprint for the enhancement and transformation of the Reservoir complex. Undoubtedly, the plan will require significant capital investment and ongoing maintenance support. However, the creation of a sustainable water source can access funding to both aid the region's water sustainability, and provide for the public space components. Thus, the Master Plan scope should anticipate and plan for those funding sources for both capital improvements and ongoing support. As a community nonprofit, we commit to participating in these fundraising plans and leveraging community support for potential costs, assessments, and innovative funding sources from both the private and public sectors.


In part because there has already been a significant number of community meetings, community organizations formed, and public discussion and surveys, we believe that the timeline for completing this master plan should have a goal of completing the process and design within 18 months, providing the opportunity to begin fundraising and the environmental review process as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your support of the community's desire to create a new public space, animated by the values of access, beauty and conservation for our lake, land and community. We will support this process and look forward to participating in it. We suggest a public meeting with key stakeholders to discuss the planned scope of the relationship between DWP, BOE, and the scope of the Master Plan RFP as soon as possible, and/or a response in writing to these requests.


Silver Lake Forward

A neighborhood 501c3


[email protected]