Sunday, December 5, 2010


In my prior post, I inadvertently left out an important piece of information. The trucks will be taking sediment out of Hahamongna not all year but rather from May until December at the latest, depending on the weather.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hahamongna sediment removal project

The County of Los Angeles is planning a massive earth moving project to be implemented in Hahamongna on an emergency basis. Ryan Butler of the Water Resources Division of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works gave a detailed presentation concerning the Devil's Gate Dam and Reservoir Postfire Sediment Removal Project to the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee at its November 30 meeting.

The project is required because of the Station Fire which burned nearly 100% of the undeveloped Arroyo Seco Watershed. Nearly one million cubic yards of sediment were washed into the basin in last winter's rains and the sediment level rose 15 feet in the basin. Should similar rains occur this coming winter, the sediment level could rise an additional 15 feet, putting the operation of the dam at risk, according to Butler. Devil's Gate Dam protects parts of Pasadena, South Pasadena, and the City of Los Angeles.

The County's plan is to remove 1,671,000 cubic yards of sediment from behind the dam. This amount was chosen because it is an estimate of the amount of sediment which could accumulate behind the dam should a 50 year intensity storm occur when the watershed is entirely burned. The excavation area is planned to be about 50 acres. About 15 acres of willow trees will be permanently removed when the basin behind the dam is widened and deepened. The precise number of trees to be removed has not yet been determined.

The huge amount of debris to be removed will require 300 - 400 truckloads of sediment per day to be removed Monday - Friday for at least three years at a cost of $35 million. The haul route will be along Oak Grove Drive and the 210 Freeway and will not impact the Pasadena neighborhoods adjacent to Hahamongna. The plan is to haul all the sediment away to the Manning Sediment Placement Site and Azusa Land Reclamation although the County is open to working with Pasadena to leave some fill onsite to create the proposed new sports fields. The County is also proposing a paved two land road on the west side of Hahamongna near the dam which could be used for future sediment removal projects. The road will cross the existing trail and could necessitate closing the trail and the Flint Wash Bridge during the work week for the three year duration of the project.

The project, scheduled to begin in September 2011, is proposed to be implemented on an emergency basis with an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act so that no environmental impact report will be required, despite the massive scale of the project and the sensitive nature of the habitats in Hahamongna. The County will, however, be required to obtain all necessary permits from agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Game, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Environmental damage will be mitigated although, as one Committee member pointed out, this mitigation does not have to be done in Hahamongna but could be done elsewhere.

Despite recognizing the necessity of sediment removal, the Advisory Committee and the public at the meeting expressed many concerns. One of the most frequently heard was a concern that other, less draconian, solutions had not been thoroughly explored as would have been required had the normal CEQA process been followed. One audience member referred to the proposal as a "scorched earth" approach which would have a catastrophic impact upon the wildlife in the park. Other issues raised were traffic impacts on an already congested Oak Grove Drive, air pollution and the nearby school children and noise pollution. Committee members questioned the need for a permanent two lane road in the park. The Committee also expressed a strong interest in jobs and contracts being awarded to local residents.

The Committee passed a formal motion which included the following:
Committee notification of when the project comes before the County Board of Supervisors
Posting of the County's project presentation on the Pasadena city website
Strong support for jobs for local residents, especially women and minorities
Request that the County study alternatives which would have less impact upon the natural habitat and which would cause less noise, air pollution and traffic impact
Request that the County study the maintenance road in terms of its surface, permanent nature, and width
Request that the County seek opportunities to reduce the impacts of the project upon park users
Regular quarterly updates to the Committee about the project from city staff and a presentation by County staff after they have their permits from the regulatory agencies

Friday, October 1, 2010

Recap of Hahamongna Committee meeting

At its September 28 meeting, the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee held a discussion about how to proceed with the planning for the Environmental Education Center to be located on the former Forest Service campus in Hahamongna. Rather than forming a subcommittee to formulate recommendations, the Committee decided to hold a public meeting to be led by a facilitator who will solicit input from both the Committee members and the public. This will probably be held at one of the regular upcoming meetings of the Committee which are held every two months on the fourth Tuesday of the month although a date has not yet been finalized.

The Committee also received a letter from the LA County Department of Public Works, Water Resources Division, informing them of a major sediment removal project in Hahamongna necessitated by the Station Fire. As the letter notes, the Station Fire burned over 160,000 acres in the San Gabriels including the Arroyo Seco and deposited 936,000 cubic yards of post fire debris. The sediment removal in Hahamongna will make room for future sedimentation that is expected to occur. Construction is expected to begin as early as next summer. The County will make a formal presentation of this project to the Advisory Committee when the details have been finalized.

The Committee also asked for a report on the Hahamongna Basin Multi-Use Project which includes a sediment removal component as well. The latter is one of the two Upper Los Angeles River Watershed projects selected to be included in a Prop 84 implementation grant application by the Greater Los Angeles County Integrated Regional Water Management region. The initial amount requested was $2.971 million with a total cost of 7.255 million. Should the Prop 84 funds be awarded, the CEQA date is December 2011 and the estimated construction start date is May 2012.

Given the urgency of the County's Station Fire sediment removal project, the Committee asked that the County's presentation be given at their next meeting if possible. The date of the next meeting has not yet been set.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Council to reconsider more fields in Hahamongna

The following is the text of a letter I sent to the Pasadena City Council urging them to take another look at adding the sports fields in the current Hahamongna Master Plan. The Council has been hearing from me for about 12 years now, however. They need to hear from NEW voices about how important it is to Save Hahamongna! Thanks so much to all the bloggers who wrote so passionately about the need to save one of Pasadena's last great places - your comments are eloquent proof that the support for the park is widespread and deeply felt. I hope that you who are reading will add your voice as well because the decisions now being made will shape the park for decades to come.

Mayor Bogaard and City Council,
The Friends of Hahamongna urge the City Council to reconsider the building of additional sports fields in Hahamongna Watershed Park. We agree with the Arroyo Seco Foundation, the Pasadena Audubon Society, the Hahamongna Watch Group and the over 1280 concerned citizens who have signed the Save Hahamongna petition, all of whom have asked that this issue be revisited.

As you know from our many appearances before the Council, Friends believes that Hahamongna is an irreplaceable environmental treasure, a remnant of wild California in the heart of our densely settled urban region which should be preserved for future generations. With some creativity and persistence, sports fields can be built anywhere - even atop a parking garage as is the Maranantha High School sports field in Pasadena. The rare habitats, the trails, the equestrian recreation, the very serenity of Hahamongna cannot be moved elsewhere. Once it is gone, it is gone for good.

And therein lies the heart of what we are asking you, the City Council, to do. We ask you to make the politically difficult choice and take the long view of what will be best for the future rather than continuing on with this ill-advised compromise. Building sports fields in Hahamongna with the attendant noise, lights, car traffic and pollution may help to alleviate the sports field shortage for a few years but at what a cost?

We ask that, with your leadership, the City of Pasadena live up to its own Green City Action Plan which states that "Pasadena values the beautiful Arroyo Seco... and protection of the native animals who live in these habitats." Building sports fields in Hahamongna is the very antithesis of the protection of natural habitats as promised in the Action Plan. The residents of Pasadena and surrounding communities have overwhelmingly demonstrated their support for keeping Hahamongna natural by attending hundreds of meetings over two decades. They have written hundreds, if not thousands, of letters and emails, over 600 during the Arroyo Seco master planning process alone. They have not only signed the Save Hahamongna petition but many have contributed eloquent, thoughtful comments as to why they believe this special place must be preserved.

The time has come to hear these voices, to plan the additional sports fields elsewhere, and to save Hahamongna!

Mary E. Barrie
Friends of Hahamongna

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Prickly enough?

The Friends of Hahamongna were tickled to be awarded the Doo Dah parade's Thorny Rose Award. We appreciated the recognition of our efforts to shine the light on the less publicly acknowledged aspects of Hahamongna planning. Since we are unfailingly polite and generally mild-mannered, we bridled a bit at the adjective "prickly" but accepted it as a reference not to any grumpiness or ill manners on our part but rather to our tenacity and persistence in support of this great open space park - prickly like a foxtail in an Irish Setter's coat!

Imagine my amusement to see Tim Brick ask the following question on the Arroyo Seco Foundation website: "Friends of Hahamongna gets the Doodah Parade's Thorny Rose Award, but are they prickly enough?" At first I just grinned and the old saying came to mind about how you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.

Tim's question lurked in my mind, though, and, as I thought about it more, it seemed like perhaps a very good question indeed. Maybe none of the Hahamongna activists have been prickly enough. After all it was 19 years ago in 1991, that a consultant to the City of Pasadena was quoted in the Star News as saying that "the consensus of opinion that we are hearing is that people really want it left as natural as possible." For 19 years the community has asked for a natural park and we're still fighting off roads and more soccer fields?

Maybe it is time to get prickly.

Monday, March 29, 2010

No more sports fields in Hahamongna

Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about the proposed new sports fields in Hahamongna for the same reason given by one of the Hahamongna Advisory Committee members - it's the nose of the camel under the tent. The fields are incompatible with the natural park now (look how far out into the basin they will built!) but they could become even more so in the future.

How tempting will it be in the future to add lights for night play if the shortage of fields continues or grows worse? Then comes all the attendant noise, auto lights, and traffic - not to mention opening up the park to all kinds of uses (and misuses) after dark. And, if the park no longer closes at dusk, all the parking lots will require security lights and then what is to stop these parking lots from being used for supplemental parking for all kinds of non-park events, further degrading the natural area. Don't forget that exactly this was proposed in earlier versions of the Hahamongna Master Plan. What is now a dark and silent wildlife corridor out in the basin would be severely impacted.

Lest you think my domino theory is far-fetched, here's what the Hahamongna Master Plan Findings of Fact document stated: "The Hahamongna Watershed Park element would also include the expansion or rehabilitation of play fields in the Upper Arroyo Seco. The use of these fields would be expected to create a new source of light ..."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Annex Plan Staff Guidelines Approved!

At its March 8, 2010 meeting the Pasadena City Council approved the final version of the Guidelines for staff to use in implementing the Master Plan for the Hahamongna Annex. The Guidelines were drawn from the recommendations of the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee and other City Commissions and were strongly supported by the community in attendance at the Council's February 1 meeting at which the Annex Plan was adopted.

At the February 1 meeting, the minutes reflect that the Council approved the Annex Plan and included "the advisory bodies' recommendations, as amended." At the March 8 meeting, however, the Guidelines were adopted separately, although the Council did clarify that the Guidelines were Plan "conditions of approval."

One of the most controversial aspect of the Plan was the proposed removal of 70 non-native trees. The Guidelines now state that every effort will be made to minimize tree removal in the Annex. The direction given to staff is reinforced within the language of the Plan itself which has been changed to state that "every effort shall be made to minimize native and non-native tree removal in the Annex. Any replacement trees required as a part of an Annex project should be of a native species. Any tree removals shall be done only on a per-project basis and only as Annex projects are funded and implemented."

The other very controversial aspect of the plan was the northern "corridor" which began life in the Annex conceptual plan as a 50 foot wide road/greenway to the JPL west parking lot. The Guidelines now specify that only a 10 foot wide (maximum) bikeway is to be built along the northern perimeter of the Annex and that it shall be designed in such a way that it "does not lend itself to becoming a road."

Two of the recommendations relate to developing a vision and mission as well as a management and operation plan for the future environmental education center. Staff recommendations will be presented to the Hahamongna Advisory Committee for review and comment.

Other recommendations may appear dry and technical but they are critically important to the future of Hahamongna and the Annex. These include studying the removal of the Planned Development zoning from a portion of the Annex, a study of including Hahamongna within the Arroyo Seco Public Lands Ordinance, the review of Conditional Use Permits by the Hahamonga Advisory Committee, and a requirement for further project-level environmental review as projects are implemented on the Annex.

If you would like to read the Guidelines in their entirety, go to and click on March 8. The Guidelines are Item 10 on the Agenda. For more background information, click on the link for the Agenda Report. If you are a well-organized and dedicated Hahamongna fan, you might want to print a copy of the Guidelines and keep them in a safe place for future reference.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The germ (or more) of truth...

The following started out as a letter to the Editor of the Pasadena Weekly a couple of weeks ago but since it hasn't yet seen the light of day, it can be adapted into a good blog entry as well.

Andre Coleman recently wrote an interesting article [Road to Nowhere, 2/4/2010] about the adoption of the Hahamongna Annex Plan. This article mentioned a rumor of long duration about the use of Hahamongna to provide parking for the Rose Bowl and seemed to suggest that there was no basis for this rumor.

For almost twelve years I have followed the Hahamongna planning process closely. I too wondered why this rumor about Rose Bowl parking in the park was so persistent if it was all just a figment of someone's fevered imagination. Several years ago when I was doing some research on Hahamongna history, I found a document on the subject that I had not seen before the Hahamongna Master Plan was approved in 2003. (The full, weighty and cumbersome title is "Assessment of Travel Management Strategies for the Central Arroyo Master Plan", Linscott Law & Greenspan, Engineers, Appendix G to Appendix F, Traffic Impact Study, Arroyo Seco Master Plan, Arroyo Seco Master Environmental Impact Report, Volume II, Hahamongna Off-Site parking.) Whew!

And, lo and behold, in this obscure document there was indeed a proposal to use Hahamongna as off-site parking for the Rose Bowl. The following is a direct quote:
“Parking facilities identified in the Hahamongna Master Plan would be available for use by employees and/or patrons [of the Rose Bowl].
“The Hahamongna Master Plan indicates the availability of parking facilities as part of arrangements with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and/or as part of the development of a ‘West Arroyo’ parking structure adjacent to the Arroyo. A shuttle service originating at JPL and/or the ‘West Arroyo’ parking facility would reduce the demand for event related parking and vehicular travel in the Central Arroyo.” The report even included an exhibit of the “Hahamongna Off-Site Parking Route.”

The idea never made it into the Hahamongna Master Plan itself as is the case with many recommendations made during the course of a planning process. As far as the rumor is concerned, my guess is that someone on the inside saw this document early on, became alarmed at the idea, and started spreading what turned out to be not such an unfounded rumor after all.

If you are interested in learning more about recent Hahamongna history, there is a brief two page summary on the Friends of Hahamongna website,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Annex Plan at Last!

The Annex Plan and Initial Study were approved by the Pasadena City Council at its Feb. 2nd meeting -- with the very important addition of recommendations of the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee. One of the most significant was that every effort should be made to minimize all tree removal on the Annex, native and non-native. The Committee also responded to the community's concern about a future road across the property by specifying that only a 10 feet wide bikeway be built in the northern corridor where a road had formerly been proposed. A new equestrian/hiking trail was approved at the southern edge of the Annex. The Committee and the Council agreed that the Planned Development zoning should be removed from the Annex and that the Annex and all of Hahamongna should be included under the Arroyo Seco Public Lands Ordinance. Other recommendations concerned the implementation of the long-awaited Environmental Education Center.

A diverse group of over 30 community members addressed the Council. There was a great deal of concern expressed over the possible removal of the 70 non-native trees. A large contingent of MACH 1 supporters spoke to the Council about their desire to move into the area promised on the Annex for a new therapeutic riding center. Other speakers expressed concern over the designation of the existing trail on the property in the Plan as for "bikes only" even though the trail is the only access which JPL employees have out into the park.

The Council directed that staff fine tune the motion and return in several weeks with the final version. Then work on the long-awaited Annex projects can begin!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hahamongna Annex Plan

First posted on January 15, 2010:

At long last it looks like the Hahamongna Annex Plan is finally going to the Pasadena City Council. The hearing is scheduled for Monday, February 1, 2010 at 7:30 pm in the City Council Chambers in City Hall, 100 N. Garfield St.

And what a plan it is!


Seventy non-native trees are slated to be removed from the Annex in the name of "habitat restoration." Not surprisingly, thirty-three of the trees to be cut down are located in the formerly proposed road corridor. (Remember that road? It was to be cut across the Annex to provide access to a 1200 space JPL parking garage, which was removed from the 2003 Hahamongna Master Plan after strong community opposition.)

The non-natives include majestic Italian stone pines, liquid ambers, Chinese elms, California peppers and others too numerous to mention. These trees will be cut down despite the fact that the Annex is a landscaped area which was planted by the Forest Service, LA County Fire and Rose Bowl Riders many decades ago. The trees are an integral part of the history and uniqueness of the property just as the same species are in the Central Arroyo where no one is trying to cut them down. The trees serve a variety of wildlife. Cooper's hawks, a species of concern, have raised their young in their branches and western gray squirrels, driven from higher elevations by the Station Fire, have taken refuge in them - not to mention the human generations who have enjoyed their beauty and shade.

This drastic proposal wasn't always in the Annex documents. An earlier version says that "it is the city's intent to align the trails in a manner that preserves as many existing trees as reasonably possible... city estimates that the number of trees that would be impacted... in the range of 7 - 19 trees." Why the complete about face - is the plan now to do a Colorado Blvd-style chainsaw massacre on the trees in the corridor and just be done with it?


The latest proposal from staff, put forth only AFTER the documents had been seen by the advisory groups, is that the northern bikeway will be for "bikes only". Obviously that isn't going to work since JPL employees walk on that trail to get from the lab into the park. So staff's answer is a trail/bikeway which is almost 40 feet at its widest!

Now you may have noticed that elsewhere in Hahamongna down by the Flint Wash Bridge, horses, bikes and pedestrians all share a 12 foot hard surface path with a 4 foot shoulder. This is what is also proposed for the three other new segments of the bikeway in Hahamongna - a hard surface path and an immediately adjacent soft surface trail - no buffers or barriers. Why do you think it is only in the formerly proposed roadway corridor that an ultra-deluxe "meandering" greenway with buffers and vegetation is necessary and everywhere else in the park the bikeway/trail is shared use and not more than 20 feet wide?


The Planning Commission, the Design Commission, the Transportation Advisory Commission and the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee all supported nothing wider than a 10 foot path for bicyclists and hikers in the northern corridor . The Transportation Advisory Commission went so far as to say that it should be designed in such a manner that it could never become a road. They all tried their best with what were incredibly confusing documents. There were four different versions of the Plan in the space of seven months and the Plan seen by one Commission wasn't necessarily the same plan seen by the next. The Final Draft even had material that was not seen by any of the advisory groups whose purpose is to advise the City Council. The documents they approved will not be the documents before the Council.

In the final Plan, the trail portion of the greenway seems to have been removed until you take a close look. The trail was taken out of the Exhibits and the Land Use section of the Plan where the casual reader would expect to find it but it is still included in the Mobility section. So is it in the Plan or not? If it is not in the Plan, then why is it being studied in the Initial Study? Questions such as these abound.

Lest you think I am anti-trail, nothing could be further from the truth. What I am anti is a corridor which will be as wide as Foothill Boulevard once the trees are cut down. The Annex, and all of Hahamongna, is a rustic, peaceful place that should remain that way for future generations which is what the community has been saying for over 20 years. I've been accused of being against progress. If "progress" is bulldozing and asphalting over this little green corner of the world that has miraculously escaped it thus far, I'll admit to the charge gladly.

Enough on what has been quite an amazing process which will take much more than an email to document properly (a case study for a class on CEQA perhaps).

I would make one suggestion to those of you who love Hahamongna and have been involved at one time or another in the over 20 year fight to save it. Now is the time to get back in the game before the chainsaws and the bulldozers start firing up. When that happens, there will be howls of protest and disbelief but by then it will be way too late.

It's up to you!