Irresponsible Progress and the Empty Silver Lake Reservoir

Dan Gordon

*updates posted at the bottom

  1. Why is it empty?

New pipes had to be laid down to transport drinking water from —

2. — No, but why is it empty?

Post-9/11 rules require all drinking water reservoirs be underground plus it had already been determined —

3. — Seriously, why is it still empty now? It’s gross.

It’s getting refilled in May primarily from a sustainable groundwater source that is not suitable for drinking.

4. K. Can’t they make it cool like the Echo Park Lake?

The restored Echo Park Lake with boat rentals and (not pictured) delicious expensive coffeeshop and unaffordable rent.

Two organizations have formed to address the future of the Silver Lake Reservoir. Refill Silver Lake Now wants to refill Silver Lake. Now. They also are unofficially evolving in to the group advocating for it to stay exactly as is.

Silver Lake Reservoir with moms, water, and prison-like fence aesthetics. Barely visible: the barbed wire at the top.

They argue making it a destination park will ruin the neighborhood’s tranquil vibe and make traffic and parking way worse. Silver Lake Forward advocates to “restore and beautify the 31 acres of land within the fences through a plan that values access, beauty and conservation, with minimal impact to the local neighborhood” and get a feasibility study done to see what’s possible and realistic.

Even in an idealistic rendering, the Silver Lake Forward’s own concept art is crowded, and filled with only white people.
Silver Lake Forward Concept Rendering
SIlver Lake Forward Ideas

5. Who makes the decision?

City Council Reps David Ryu and Mitch O’Farrell (who organized and attended three town hall forums with the community and LADWP, btw) are hiring a consultant to moderate and facilitate future community input, consensus building, and ultimately how to determine the path forward (i.e. entire neighborhood votes, random community survey, etc.) Bonus! The room was split but a community survey shows roughly 75% align with Silver Lake Forward’s restore and beautify agenda.

6. K. What do you think, Dan?

Progress sucks sometimes. We hear how great and exciting it is but people inevitably get left behind. And that’s one reason why people voted for Trump. But voting for Trump is what I call “Irresponsible Progress.” Electing someone who has never publicly released his tax returns, medical records, and who benefits from the fears that divide us, and is clearly a narcissist who is dangerously hypocritical either by choice or self-delusion and repeatedly promises change by making America great again is irresponsible progress. Where was I? Silver Lake. Both groups want a lot of the same things: refill the reservoir, protect and support the wildlife, and ensure any future plan aim for minimal impact on the neighborhood. That’s “Responsible Progress.”

Long-time residents probably hate that their neighborhood is more densely populated now versus what it was even five years ago. Traffic is definitely worse. And it’ll get even worse. That’s change. It’s inevitable. And so we have to look to the future, beyond ourselves and the next five years, and think about the greater good. A park that honors the current tranquil environment while looking less prison-like (let’s take the barbed wire fences down) and has a more nature-centric aesthetic would be so great. But, at the same time, maybe we don’t need another $7 coffee shop here, either.

Update 12/20/16: Happy Ending Maybe!

Silver Lake Forward and Refill Silver Lake Now issued a joint statement, and consequently renewed my faith in community groups’ ability to find common ground and work together. You can read the full statement here. Here is my favorite part.

Whatever our differences regarding the potential future uses of the Reservoir, we agree on the following…

Update 4/20/17: Refilled Silver Lake Now

The water is back. The prison fences are still there. #progress