North of Griffith Park, construction is underway on a $230-million underground water storage facility.  The 110-million-gallon Headworks reservoir, billed as the largest facility of its type in the Western United States, will consist of two large concrete tanks buried under public green space along the banks of the L.A. River.

Nearly five miles south, questions loom over the future of the underground reservoir's above-ground predecessors: the Silver Lake and Ivanhoe reservoirs.  Both have been rendered functionally obsolete by a 2006 federal mandate to phase out open-air water storage facilities.  The larger Silver Lake reservoir, which lent its name to the surrounding community, has been completely drained while the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) installs a new pipeline along its floor.

Given their combined 96-acre footprint and uncertain future, the century-old reservoirs have long been viewed as a chance for extra green space in park-starved Los Angeles.  Now, a group of community stakeholders have begun working to make this "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," a reality.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by members of the nonprofit organization Silver Lake Forward (SLF), announcing an ambitious proposal to convert the Silver Lake and Ivanhoe reservoirs into a public park.

Although SLF's plan is non-binding, they suggest a number of potential amenities for the hypothetical park, including promenades, docks, walking paths and landscaping.  Additionally, the group broaches the possbility of linking the reservoirs to the L.A. River through existing pipes, creating a a storage facility for storm runoff and recycled water.

SLF, which lists landscape architect Mia Lehrer and singer-songwriter Moby as board members, has put forth a three-step plan to open the decommissioned facilities to greater public use.

Phase IA (3-6 months, beginning immediately)

Work with LADWP to enhance the existing Silver Lake Meadow by:

  • adding bathrooms or upgrading existing bathrooms on the property.
  • increasing shade.
  • improving grading.
  • implementing the original concept for the meadow, including mounds to provide views and seating.
  • removing as much of the concrete lining as feasible.


Phase IB (3-6 months, immediately following Phase IA)

Increase public access on the west side of the property at the Eucalyptus Grove by:

  • moving or removing the fence which surrounds the reservoir.
  • adding pathways and furniture.
  • developing a plan to limit access during Great Blue Heron nesting season.


Phase IC (6-12 months, beginning immediately)

Implement a master plan which includes:

  • Opportunties for both the Ivanhoe and Silver Lake Reservoirs.
  • Perimeter treatement and the removal of concrete embankments from both reservoirs.
  • Creating shoreline experiences.
  • Studying the potential of a promenade between the two reservoirs.
  • Studying the Mallard Grove, Caretaker Cottage grounds and the kNoll.
  • Studying active recreation opportunities within the reservoirs.
  • Evaluating parking and traffic impacts, as well as potential solutions.
  • Exploring the creation of a parks assessment district or another funding source.


Phase II (6-12 months following Phase IC)

  • Implement results of Phase IC.


Although no funding mechanism has been identified, SLF suggests the creation of a parks assessment district which could provide ongoing support for the proposal via a supplement to existing property taxes.