Ballona Creek Revitalization Project
Ballona Creek connects us all. It has created community throughout history and can be an extraordinary resource for our future. Together, we can advance its revitalization and realize its potential as a multi-jurisdictional asset.
Once a natural stream, Ballona Creek (pronounced "Bah-yo-nuh") attracted the Tongva People, the Machados, Camp Latham, Thomas Ince, Harry Culver, and countless others. Since 1935, it has been a concrete lined flood control channel, extending nine miles and draining approximately 130 square miles of the Los Angeles Basin. It runs through Culver City and features a paved Class I multi-use path along the northern bank from Syd Kronenthal Park to the Santa Monica Bay. The creek is a critical resource for flood control, water quality management, ecological restoration, active mobility, recreation, educational/arts programming, open space, and resilience.
Over the last couple of decades, public agencies, non-profits, businesses, and educational organizations have worked toward revitalizing the creek as both a water and recreational amenity.
In 2016, City Council adopted the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan(PDF, 2MB) to respond to Culver City’s changing environment. One of the goals was to enhance the restoration and use of Ballona Creek and make it a more sustainable, walkable, bikeable and connected recreational attraction. This goal was carried into the current 2018-2023 Strategic Plan(PDF, 556KB) , with a focus on extending the bike path to improve mobility and provide greater access to the Metro E Line stations.
The Ballona Creek Revitalization Project aims to implement that goal and continue to build on successes, such as
- 2020: Public Works Department receives $1.9 million grant from the Baldwin Hill Conservancy, with a local $200,000 local match in Measure M funds for “Greening the Greenway” project.
- 2019: In November, City staff gave a presentation to City Council with updates on the project and sought direction on the development of an action plan and implementation strategy.
- 2019: In October, the City's BCRP CivicSpark Fellows spread awareness of the Ballona Creek Revitalization Project at the 2019 Art Walk & Roll Festival acting as 'River Guides' to support Riveropolis(PDF, 3MB) , a Social Play, Science and Design river installed temporarily at Lindberg Park and Helms Walk.
- 2019: Park to Playa - Ballona Creek Connection Project completed a segment of the Park to Playa Trail - a planned 13-mile regional trail that will connect a network of trails, parks and open spaces from the Baldwin Hills to the Pacific Ocean
- 2019: Ballona Creek Revitalization Project Task Force Meeting #2
- 2018: 2018-2023 Strategic Plan(PDF, 556KB), City Council renewed its commitment to revitalize the creek, improve multi-modal mobility, and identify funding opportunities
- 2018: Mayor Thomas Small began exploring an Environmental Impact Bond (EIB) to fund an eastward extension of the creek's multi-use path in partnership with the City of Los Angeles, LA Metro, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Los Angeles County Flood Control District
- 2018: Public Works/ Environmental Programs & Operations completed its first stormwater diversion project at its Transfer Station Facility located adjacent to the creek
- 2018: Ballona Creek Revitalization Project Task Force Meeting #1
- 2018: CivicSpark Fellowship resulted in progress toward research, a revitalization strategy, and development of a creek-adjacent parcel atlas
- 2017: Culver City adopted a Polystyrene Ban Ordinance to reduced the amount of polystyrene materials found in the creek
- 2016: Culver City residents approved Measure CW, a parcel tax that funds stormwater projects within the City of Culver City to improve regional water quality
- 2016: Five-Year Strategic Plan, FY 2016-17 to 2020-21(PDF, 2MB), City Council committed to revitalize the creek, improve multi-modal mobility, and identify funding opportunities
- 2011: Enhanced Watershed Management Program for the Ballona Creek Watershed(PDF, 29MB) x, Ballona Creek Watershed Management Group
- 2011: Historical Ecology of the Ballona Creek Watershed(PDF, 3MB), Southern California Coastal Water Research Project
- 2011: Park to Playa Trail Feasibility Study and Wayfinding Plan, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
- 2011: Ballona Creek Greenway Projects(PDF, 17MB), The Bay Foundation
- 2010: Ballona Creek Greenway Plan(PDF, 15MB), The Bay Foundation
- 2004: Ballona Creek and Trail Focused Special Study(PDF, 39MB), City of Culver City
- 2003: Ballona Creek Trail and Bikeway Environmental and Recreational Enhancement Study(PDF, 3MB), Baldwin Hills Conservancy
A Bit of History
Ballona Creek has a rich and varied history. For thousands of years, the Tongva People called the Ballona Creek Watershed home and were expertly adapted to the ebb and flow of regional water patterns. During the mid- to late-19th century, the creek attracted the Machados, a Spanish family who built their home near the creek and laid claim to the area encompassing what would later become Culver City.
The creek also attracted other uses - from a Civil War army base in 1820 (Camp Latham) to a backdrop for western films produced by Thomas Ince in the early 1900s. Shortly thereafter, it became a key piece in Harry Culver’s vision for a city where the movie industry could thrive. Throughout this time, the Ballona Creek Watershed supported 14,000 acres of wetlands and served as a surface hydrologic linkage between the La Cienega and Ballona Lagoon complexes.
Six CivicSpark Fellows supported the Ballona Creek Revitalization Project over three service cycles. Administered by the Local Government Commission (LGC) in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), CivicSpark is an AmeriCorps program that aims to build local capacity to respond to climate change. CivicSpark Fellows served for 11 months and enjoyed hands-on training related to a water project while the City benefitted from added staffing resources.
The City's first CivicSpark Fellows, Jonathan Dolan and Jose Torres, served from September 2017 through August 2018. The second round of Fellows, Morgan Kaplan and Priya Macwan, served from September 2018 to August 2019. The third round of Fellows, Casandra Cortez and Sunny Zhao, served from September 2019 to August 2020.
In 2019, City Council considered how to move forward with an action strategy to implement revitalization projects along Ballona Creek. This strategy could identify short-, mid-, and long-term improvements including associated funding requirements, permitting, technical reviews, and multi-agency coordination.
Staff also looked into short-term improvements like art installations, interpretive and wayfinding signage, lighting, homeless assistance, repaving, gate openings, safety patrols, and/or education campaigns. Mid- to long-term “audacious goal” improvements could include pocket parks, path extension, terracing/reconfiguration, water capture, and/or mobility hubs.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted staffing capacity and project funding across all of the City’s departments. BCRP project funding and efforts were put on hold for the 2020/2021 fiscal year. For the 2021/2022 fiscal year, Community Development staff will be shifting the focus to supporting the Public Works Department’s “Greening the Greenway” project, for which they received a $1.9 million grant from the Baldwin Hill Conservancy, with a local $200,000 local match in Measure M funds.
The project will make improvements along a 1.1 mile stretch of the bike path (From National Blvd to Duquesne Ave) including adding to the tree canopy, replacing concrete with permeable pavement, new fencing, solar lights, cameras under the bridges, signage and some ADA improvement at the trailheads. CDD staff will support Public Works in the consultant hiring process, community engagement, and other efforts as needed.
In the future, City Council may chose to reinitiate the development of a cohesive action plan for the entire length of the creek in Culver City.
Key Task Force Stakeholders
- (PDF, 700KB)
- Path to Revitalizing Ballona Creek Handout in Spanish(PDF, 692KB)
- Mapping Indigenous LA, UCLA American Indian Studies Center Story Map Project
- January 16, 2019 Ballona Creek Task Force Meeting
- May 2, 2018 Ballona Creek Task Force Meeting
- Ballona Creek Trail and Bikeway Environmental and Recreational Enhancement Study(PDF, 3MB), Baldwin Hills Conservancy
- Ballona Creek and Trail Focused Special Study(PDF, 39MB), City of Culver City
- Ballona Creek Greenway Plan(PDF, 15MB), The Bay Foundation
- Enhanced Watershed Management Program for the Ballona Creek Watershed(PDF, 29MB), Ballona Creek Watershed Management Group
- Five-Year Strategic Plan, FY 2016-17 to 2020-21(PDF, 2MB), City of Culver City
- Historical Ecology of the Ballona Creek Watershed, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project
- Short History of Ballona Creek, Ballona Creek Renaissance