Carl Blum was among those huddling under umbrellas outside the bungalow. By several accounts, the then-deputy director of public works had a revelation. "Something happened to Carl that day," says Lipkis--though the epiphany may have been more gradual, helped along by the Department of Public Works having been sued by TreePeople and Friends of the L.A. River to prevent the clearing of growth from the Glendale Narrows, and having watched, in his 36-year career, an ever-growing portion of flood-control dollars being given to "nonstructural," non-concrete projects.
"From an engineering standpoint it can all be done," Blum says. "People say the engineers only know how to do concrete, but that's what society wanted at that point." Now he and the county's engineers are collaborating with TreePeople to find an alternative to a long-delayed, $42-million storm drain the county planned to build in Sun Valley. Using an elaborate computer model developed by the group, the drain will be replaced by a combination of detention basins, cisterns, dry wells and tree planting. An additional tens of millions will be shared by other government agencies looking for gains in air quality, energy, parks, water supply and sanitation.
For its $42-million contribution, the county will not only solve the flooding problem in Sun Valley, but can also keep every drop of a storm that lasts up to four days in that watershed and out of the L.A. River.