Responding to community protests and a pending lawsuit, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is considering reversing a previous decision and conducting an environmental impact study on its plan to build an aluminum roof over Elysian Reservoir, officials said.
They stressed, however, that no decision has been made on whether to authorize such a study.
The DWP previously said that the roof, which is designed to protect drinking water from pollutants, should be exempt from such a lengthy and costly impact study. But, in recent weeks, a Superior Court lawsuit challenging that exemption has attracted several new and prominent supporters concerned that the roof might destroy the beauty of the 7.1-acre reservoir and of surrounding areas in Elysian Park. Even the Department of Recreation and Parks, while not joining the lawsuit, has asked that a full environmental impact report be prepared.
"There has been some discussion" about conducting the study, according to Judith Davison, secretary of the DWP's Board of Commissioners. She said no decision will be made until at least next month.
"Obviously, there is a certain amount of community pressure on us to do an EIR," DWP commissioner Walter Zelman said. But, he added, there is also strong pressure from other people and state government to take steps, such as building the roof, to ensure the quality of water.
The DWP had been scheduled to award a contract this month for construction of the roof in hopes that work could begin next fall. But commissioners agreed last week to postpone any such vote until after the now vacant 1st District seat on City Council is filled. A special 1st District election is scheduled for Feb. 3 and, if no candidate wins a majority, a run-off will be held in April.
Board president Rick J. Caruso said he wanted to delay a contract decision so he can get an opinion from the new council member--even if that takes until spring. "I think it would be wrong to do anything when there is a vacant seat," he said.
Special Hearing Set
The DWP also announced Wednesday that its public affairs committee will hold a special hearing on the reservoir controversy at 7 p.m. Feb. 4, in the 15th floor board room at its downtown headquarters, 111 N. Hope St.
Paula MacArthur, a member of the caretaker staff temporarily handing 1st District matters, said she welcomes the delay. " I think it's a good-faith gesture," she said.
However, Sallie Neubauer, secretary of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park and one of the strongest opponents of a roof, said the DWP should not have to wait for a new councilman to decide about an impact study. "They don't have the guts to get an EIR," she said after a commission meeting last week.
Would Delay Project
DWP staffers say that it could take up to eight months to conduct an impact study of the roof. That would postpone construction for a year because the DWP does not want to interrupt water supplies there during summer, when demand for water is high.
All four candidates in the 1st District race say they want the DWP to conduct the study. One of them, Paul D. Y. Moore, said he intends to join the lawsuit filed last month by the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park and the Center for Law in the Public Interest. The suit charges that state law requires an EIR.
The Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns., a citywide coalition of neighborhood organizations, voted recently to file a brief in support of the suit.