Groundbreaking Held for Potrero Canyon Park, Again.

A Potrero Canyon Ground breaking was held on Tuesday with help from (left to right) Debby Dyner-Harris (former Bonin District Director),  Bonin Field Deputy Lisa Cahill, Councilman Mike Bonin and Norman Kulla (former Bonin Senior Counsel). Photo: Courtesy Mike Bonin

Potrero Park Groundbreaking: Final Take?

Another groundbreaking ceremony was held in Potrero Canyon on the afternoon of January 22. About 20 people, including residents, Community Council board members and L.A. City officials, celebrated the start of the completion of the park, which after 70 years of lawsuits, planning and numerous construction delays, is now officially slated to open in late 2020 or early 2021.

Councilman Mike Bonin spoke to those gathered. In a statement released on January 23, he said, “Finally! After decades of delays, Potrero Canyon Park is moving forward!

“Yesterday, I joined with neighbors and officials from our Bureau of Engineering and Department of Recreation and Parks to break ground on the final phases of work to create a wonderful 46-acre passive park that will connect the Palisades Recreation Center and Palisades neighborhoods with the Pacific Coast Highway overlook near the beach with an ADA-accessible pathway through a beautiful riparian area,” Bonin said.

The park will lie between Huntington Palisades and DePauw/Friends streets and extend from below the Palisades Recreation Center to PCH.

“This project was first discussed in the 1960s and has been hobbled by landslides, funding issues, and soil contamination,” Bonin said. “We are finally moving forward, and I can’t wait to help cut the ribbon on Potrero Canyon Park!”

Final grading in the canyon is projected to be done in the spring 2020, followed by landscaping.

Working as a reporter for the Palisadian-Post, I covered a Potrero groundbreaking ceremony at the bottom of the canyon in February 2011. Then-Councilman Bill Rosendahl (now deceased) vowed a new park would open five years later. At that ceremony, longtime Pacific Palisades resident and Community Council member Ted Mackie (now deceased) quipped: “The people who will attend that park dedication haven’t been born yet.”

Mackie told this reporter in 2014 that he remembers when officials promised in 1984 that the new park would be completed in five years, at a cost of $3 million.

In August 2016, Mary Nemick, director of communications for the Department of Public Works, said the estimated completion cost was $30.5 million. Nemick confirmed by January 23 email that was still the projected cost.

At the 2011 Potrero groundbreaking ceremony, those assisting were Rob Weber, Norman Kulla, former Councilman Bill Rosendahl (deceased), Stuart Muller, David Card and George Wolfberg.
Photo: Juan Carlos Chan, Recreation & Parks Dept.

Brief Recap of Potrero Canyon Park:

* In the 1950s, houses start slipping into Potrero Canyon. The City begins filling the canyon with combustible rubbish, street sweepings, pavement removals and yard trimmings, but this action is opposed by the Huntington Palisades Property Owners Association.  

* 1964: the City acquires the Canyon from Charles and Martha Patterson, using eminent domain.

* 1964-1984: more houses slide into Potrero and neighbors bring a $75-million lawsuit against the City.

* December 1984: the City purchases 14 residential properties (13 on DePauw and one on Alma Real) for $6.8 million to settle an earlier lawsuit and announces a plan to install a drainage system and create a city park. The park will be completed in five years at a cost of $3 million. (An additional 33 lots were later purchased by the City.)

* 1990: drainage is completed, and sub-drains are installed. Grading and compaction starts.

* 2004: only about 35 percent complete, grading stops because of lack of funding. Project is put on hold. The Potrero Canyon Community Advisory Committee is formed.

* 2005: slope failure occurs at 211 and 231 Alma Real. Another lawsuit is brought against the City. Through Bill Rosendahl’s senior deputy Norman Kulla, the City and the Coastal Commission agree that all lots and houses along the canyon, owned by the City, will be sold and the proceeds dedicated towards completion of the park.

* 2011: a ceremony is held, and City officials vow the park will open in 2017 at a cost of $30.5 million.

* 2016-2017: dirt from Caruso’s parking garage construction on Swarthmore is taken to the Canyon to be used for fill.

* 2018: grading resumes, landscaping will go out to bid.

*2019:  another groundbreaking ceremony is held. Park is now scheduled to open in late 2020 or early 2021. Or??


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4 Responses to Groundbreaking Held for Potrero Canyon Park, Again.

  1. David Kidd says:

    When I see an L.A. Politician with a shovel I always assume they’re burying someone or something, or at best just “piling it higher and deeper”.

  2. Paul Glasgall says:

    A glaring in your face example of government incompetence.
    Why sometimes a simple fix and walking away may be the best decision.
    What are the currnt total dollars expended?

  3. Mo McGee says:

    Thanks, Sue, for the comprehensive history. Has the idea of a bridge over PCH been abandoned?

  4. Jack Miles says:

    It would be interesting to hear about the tragic decisions that led to the destruction of the canyon. Eminent domain for the sake of a few landowners who were shortsighted enough to own property too close to a canyon’s rim seems inappropriate.

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