Taylor Yard Will Revitalize Los Angeles River

A long-abandoned railroad freight yard along the Los Angeles River will get a new lease on life as a public park, and WSP USA is leading the effort that will make it possible.

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Taylor Yard River Park will provide significant new green space in one of the most heavily urbanized regions in the U.S. The 40-acre park, scheduled for completion in the summer of 2021, will provide public access to the Los Angeles River.

The City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works approved the city’s Bureau of Engineering’s selection of WSP earlier this month to lead the Taylor Yard River Park Project. The firm will be responsible for park design, environmental documentation, contaminated soil remediation and design services during construction.

Taylor Yard River Park is the first major project of the City of Los Angeles’s 2007 Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan. The plan envisions a connected series of green spaces along the river throughout the city. The project is also identified in the U.S. Army Corps' ecosystem restoration feasibility study adopted by Congress in 2016. The plan envisions ecosystem values being restored along an 11-mile corridor of the river just upstream from downtown Los Angeles.

“Our team of urban designers and environmental engineers is eager to assist the city reimagine the Los Angeles River as part of its vision to be the most livable city in the nation,” added Gregory A. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of WSP USA. “This is a transformational project and we are proud to be part of the project team.”


The Taylor Yard River Park will be developed on the site of the former Union Pacific Railroad freight rail transport yard in Los Angeles, which has remained unused since 2006. 

Yard Work

Earlier this year, the City of Los Angeles purchased Parcel G2, a 42-acre portion of the Taylor Yard site, located in the city’s Cypress Park neighborhood, near the intersection of the Golden State Freeway (Interstate 5) and the Glendale Freeway (State Route 2).

“Taylor Yard River Park is considered the ‘crown jewel’ of this revitalization plan,” said Michael Drennan, project manager for WSP. “It will advance the city’s significant habitat restoration goals for the river and help the city meet its health and sustainability goals through increased green space, storm water quality improvement, public access to a bike path along the Los Angeles River and the clean-up of contaminated soil,” said Drennan.

Until 1973, Union Pacific Railroad used the site for rail maintenance and fueling services for nearly all freight rail transport in and out of downtown Los Angeles. The yard was fully closed in 2006, and by 2009, most of the structures on the property were demolished.

Because of the site’s industrial history, WSP is preparing an implementation plan and pre-design report that includes a site remediation strategy and concept designs for phased development.

“The objective of a phased approach is to address required remediation as funding is available, while allowing more immediate public use of portions of the site, along with interim site uses for natural flora and fauna. We will also be considering more passive, natural methods of site remediation, such as phytoremediation,” Drennan said.

The soil at the site is known to be contaminated; therefore, all uses of the site are contingent upon the approval of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

“Significant soil contamination must be addressed before the park can be opened,” Drennan said. “WSP has a long history of working with the California DTSC, which is responsible for oversight of this type of clean-up at this site.”

Michael Drennan

Setting the Standard

The project includes a collaborative multidisciplinary approach that will engage people from the surrounding neighborhoods and greater Los Angeles region with opportunities to share their ideas about how this new park could serve them.

“There is significant interest from a diverse set of stakeholders for this project,” Drennan said. “We proposed a robust approach to stakeholder engagement to address this opportunity and challenge.”

Drennan hopes that Taylor Yard will set the standard for future restoration initiatives along the river banks.

“We are going to be developing an integrated design of park features, habitat restoration, storm water retention for treatment, and river restoration,” Drennan said. “This project is intended to inspire similar projects up and down the Los Angeles River.”

The site development strategy through phased development will involve taking advantage of the cleaner areas and existing site features first, so that, even before its grand opening, Taylor Yard will be able to provide the community with recreational and educational opportunities, including nature programming and events.

“Our team recognized the importance of this site to the city’s vision for the revitalization of the Los Angeles River,” Drennan said.

Over the past two decades, Drennan has served as a thought leader in advancing the city’s vision, serving on the city’s peer review committee for the 2007 revitalization plan. He is thrilled to be able to continue his participation.

“This is the highlight of my career both professionally and personally,” Drennan said. “I have dedicated my career to creating a healthier balance between the built environment and the natural ecosystem, such as creating more green spaces in the gray concrete urban environment of Los Angeles. It’s exciting and an honor to be a part of the Taylor Yard project.”

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