Reservoirs and Revenue: How Silver Lake Could Make a Profit

Residents of Silver Lake, California navigated their way through construction zones around the Silver Lake Reservoirs Saturday, March 28, 2015. Construction began on the reservoirs last week and will continue for the next two years.

Residents of Silver Lake may see a recreational lake or even a wetlands area replace the neighborhood’s two well-known reservoirs in the next two years.

Construction began this week on Silver Lake’s two reservoirs, installing large pipes that will bypass the city’s water to a new and safer storage facility near Griffith Park. Once construction is finished, the reservoirs will no longer be used by the city’s water and power department. It will mainly be up to the residents of Silver Lake to determine the future use of the reservoirs.

“Whatever possibilities or future plans would be something that we would be apart of but we wouldn’t take the lead on that,” said Stephanie Spicer, a liaison for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). “It’s community based in the sense that… the department has no plans for turning the reservoirs into something else.”

The project, entitled the Silver Lake Reservoir Complex (SLRC) Bypass Project, is in response to two new United States Environmental Protection Agency water quality regulations. The regulations are enforcing stricter guidelines on open-air water sources, deeming Silver Lake’s two reservoirs no longer safe to use as potable water sources.

As a solution, the city’s water and power department must build a new storage system a couple miles away near Griffith Park. The water that would normally be stored in the reservoirs must now be bypassed to the new storage facility. In order to do so, two large underground pipelines must be installed underneath and around the reservoir in order to bypass and connect the water to the new storage tank. This is a complicated and lengthy process that will span over the next couple of years.

“It’s definitely a large operation but it is one that is absolutely necessary going forward,” continued Spicer.

Yet even though there are major changes occurring to the area below the surface, there will be very few changes above ground.

“Once [we] are done, the reservoir will look exactly as it does now — just with different plumbing essentially,” said Spicer.

There are at least two years until the project is completed but community members are already bringing forth ideas for future reservoir uses.

“There are ideas of making a wet lands area, there are ideas of making access to the reservoirs, something like Echo Park Lake where you can walk around,” said John Wringler, Co-Chair of the Reservoir Committee on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. “People could even fish and have paddleboats on the water.”

Some of the proposals have the potential to make the defunct reservoirs a source of revenue for the neighborhood. For example, turning the reservoirs into a lake could bring profit through things like boat rentals or entrance fees.

If not a lake, turning the reservoirs into a space that can be used by the community could raise local real estate prices. In neighboring Echo Park, real estate agents were able to increase home prices by the thousands when the renovation on Echo Park Lake was completed, according to a report in The East Sider L.A.

But some locals are wary of adding another recreational space in Silver Lake as it could add to congestion to an already congested area.

“A lot of people are very opposed to this idea,” said Wringler. “They are worried that [another attraction] brings more people in and makes traffic and parking even worse.”

Michael Pettle, a 36-year-old resident of Silver Lake, is among the concerned group described by Wringler. “This [neighborhood] is already getting so much attention as it is,” Pettle said. “It just doesn’t make sense for us to add something that will make our lives more difficult… by bringing in more traffic and things like that.”

Mothers like Carrie Wendell say that adding another recreational space in Silver Lake would give her children another nearby place to play.

“I guess it’s a give and take,” said Wendell. “You would enjoy having a lake or something where you can take your kids to, but with that comes more traffic and people from the outside.”

As for Jon Felix, a resident of Silver Lake as well as an employee of the local ice cream shop MILK, he can understand both sides of the argument.

“I wouldn’t want more people coming [to Silver Lake] there’s more than enough people as it is,” Felix said. “But I do know that we would probably get more business since we’re so close to the reservoir.”

The final decision in regards to the future of the reservoirs is ultimately up to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy. With so many ideas already coming in, both groups say that they will have to make sure that the most people are content with their decision.

“There is still a long way to go and obviously no decision has been made yet,” said Wringler, “but we will try to satisfy as many voices as we can when the time comes.”