Flooding and Urban Ecology in Los Angeles
Publication Year: 2004
As he traces the flow of water from sky to sea, Orsi brings together many disparate and intriguing pieces of the story, including local and national politics, the little-known San Gabriel Dam fiasco, the phenomenal growth of Los Angeles, and, finally, the influence of environmentalism. Orsi provocatively widens his vision toward other cities for which Los Angeles may offer a lesson—both of things gone wrong and a glimpse of how they might be improved.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Illustrations
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In the course of researching and writing this book, I have been blessed with abundant help. Arthur McEvoy has been a personal and scholarly model for more than a decade, and it is to him that I owe the greatest thanks for anything that is creative in this project. Whenever recom- mending one of his favorite books or his foolproof model for writing, he ...
Prologue. Water in Los Angeles: A Portrait of an Urban Ecosystem
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A winter storm rolled onshore at Los Angeles on 13 February 1980. A second storm followed a day later, then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. A sixth storm brought the heaviest rains yet, swelling the Los Angeles River to its levee tops. Meanwhile, weather forecasters spotted a seventh storm brewing out on the Pacific. As water rose in the dark that night, ...
1. City of a Thousand Rivers: The Emergence of an Urban Ecosystem, 1884–1914
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In the winter of 18 84, the Los Angeles Express complained that the usu- ally trickling Los Angeles River had turned into a "terrible and grand old river." ' By early February, three months of rain had so moistened the ground that it could absorb little more. The Express wondered on 7 Feb- ruary if the rain would ever stop, but the downpours continued almost ...
2. A Centralized Authority and a Comprehensive Plan: Response to the Floods, 1914–1917
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The flood impelled southern Californians to try to control water. In July 1914, 250 representatives from municipalities, civic organizations, and businesses gathered downtown at Blanchard Hall in response to an in- vitation from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. One dele- gate calculated the average interval between floods over the previous ...
3. A Weir to Do Man's Bidding: The Great San Gabriel Dam Fiasco, 1917–1929
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In its T~I j majority report, the Board of Engineers estimated that it would take only five years and $16.5 million to construct a network of check dams, diversion channels, and other devices to tame the county's waters. These structures, they predicted, would "permanently relieve the people of Los Angeles county from the menace of future floods." ' By ...
4. A More Effective Scouring Agent: The New Year's Eve Debris Flood and the Collapse of Local Flood Control, 1930–1934
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In late December 1933, a wet warm front advanced from its tropical ori- gins northeastward to the California coast. Cyclonic weather patterns in December are not uncommon in the area, and at first nothing distin- guished this one as it showered coastal southern California with mod- erate rains beginning on the afternoon of the thirtieth. But cold winds ...
5. The Sun is Shining over Southern California: The Politics of Federal Flood Control in Los Angeles, 1935–1969
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It was an austere landscape. Standing 111 the bed of the Los Angeles R~ver In the late I~~OS, you would ha~e found yourself In a field of concrete. h smooth Leneer of pavement covered the trapezo~dal channel for mlles stra~ght up- and downstream and from s~de to slde, hundreds of feet across the bed. Also confined In pavement were the levee s~des that ...
6. Necessary but Not Sufficient: Storms, Environmentalism, and New Visions for Flood Control, 1969–2001
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In 1969, LACDA lived up to John Dillard's promise. Between 18 and 26 January, rain fell almost continuously. The dams overflowed; streets and buildings flooded; debris rumbled out of the mountains and buried seven people alive in their beds. Damages totaled thirty million dollars; the death toll, seventy-three. When it was all over, nearly thirteen and ...
Epilogue. The Historical Structure of Disorder: Urban Ecology in Los Angeles and Beyond
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Strange things have been happening in cities lately. In 1996, power lines sagging against tree branches outside Portland, Oregon, combined with other small power failures to trigger a cascade of blackouts that shut down law firms in Los Angeles, the airport in San Francisco, and casi- nos in Las Vegas. Before the lights went on again, four million people ...
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Figure I. Rubio Wash, northeast of Los Angeles, 1914. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, riverbeds were ill-defined. Streams spilled from San Gabriel Mountain canyons into gravelly washes that were filled with vegetation and constantly shifting channels. (Photo courtesy of Water Resources Center Archives, University of Figure 2. La Caiiada Valley, after 1887. By the late nineteenth century, farms and ...
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Page Count: 289
Publication Year: 2004