As urbanization continues to change the character of city centers across the United States, the need intensifies for “green” respite from the hectic pace of urban life. Approaches to designing parks and other open spaces are as diverse as the cities they serve.

The Studio City Greenway at Studio City, Calif., was designed in March 2002 by NUVIS Landscape Architecture and Planning of Orange County, Calif. It is one of many parks being created along the Los Angeles River Basin as part of the basin's revitalization master plan. The multipurpose trail and park was constructed within the 7-mile Los Angeles River Greenway Community Enhancement Plan. The design goal was to create an asset that would bring people to the river.

The greenway program is an outgrowth of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan enacted in June 1996 for developing and managing the river along a 32-mile stretch from Canoga Park through downtown Los Angeles. To accomplish this, the city of Los Angeles identified the following objectives to guide the 20-year revitalization process:

  • Establish environmentally sensitive guidelines for urban design, land use, and development that would enhance riverside communities by providing open space, housing, retail space, educational facilities, and other services.
  • Improve the environment, water quality, water resources, and ecological functioning of the river.
  • Provide public access to the river.
  • Provide significant recreation space and open space, establish new trails, and improve natural habitats to support wildlife.
  • Preserve and enhance the flood control features of the river.
  • Foster community awareness and pride in the Los Angeles River.

The Studio City Greenway, which extends ½ mile between Whitsett Avenue and Laurel Canyon Boulevard, was designed and built as the pilot project under the Community Enhancement Plan. The NUVIS team worked closely with the city's Recreation and Parks Department, state DOT, Department of Water and Power, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Los Angeles County Public Works, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Other members of the design and development team were Incledon Kirk Engineers (engineering services and structural calculations for all walls, fences, landings, ramps, street interfacing, and parking structure interfacing); GLPKarjala, electrical engineers; and Sweeney & Associates, irrigation.

The scope of services included facilitating community meetings, collaborating with the volunteer neighborhood oversight committee, developing preliminary plans and construction documents, and monitoring the construction process.

The Studio City Greenway follows the contour of the Los Angeles River along both sides of the concrete river channel and features pedestrian pathways accented by stone walls, decorative paving, and native trees and shrubs. The project also encompasses recreation trails, improved maintenance vehicle access, slope stabilization, native plant refurbishment, and site amenities including seating, fencing, and lighting. Additionally, it includes a pocket park at the corner of Valley Heart Drive and Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

The project initially was funded by California's Proposition K, a state bond landscape issue that provides money for public works projects. However, Proposition K also increases the requirements for stakeholder input into all public works projects. Community outreach was a key element in creating and implementing the greenway plan.

One of the biggest challenges in planning the greenway was meeting the scope of services defined by the city, the county's Department of Public Works, DOT, and the USACE, while also addressing the needs and desires of the community. Each agency had its own specific requirements and jurisdiction. The city wanted a nice park with trees, shrubs, amenities, and access for the public. The DOT wanted a Class A bikeway with signage and a separate path for pedestrians. The county required a 22-foot setback from the channel wall for their large equipment cranes/trucks for access into the channel during a storm.