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Padilla Seeks Monument Status for Spillway

L.A. council is expected to consider designation for the 89-year-old 'Cascades' this week.

October 14, 2002|Stephanie Stassel | Times Staff Writer

Eighty-nine years after a torrent of water first flowed into the area, eventually enabling Los Angeles to become the nation's second-largest city, Councilman Alex Padilla believes it's time to pay homage to the 900-foot-long spillway that made it possible.

Named the "Cascades" by L.A. water czar William Mulholland, the concrete spillway in Sylmar is the terminus of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which brings water from the Owens Valley. The abundance of water made it possible for the city to build housing, prompting a population boom.

"As an [MIT-trained] engineer, I've marveled at the engineering accomplishment the Cascades represents," Padilla said. "L.A. wouldn't be what it is and the Valley wouldn't be what it is without the Cascades."

He had long considered the idea to make it a monument but didn't act until redistricting this summer put the Cascades in his district.

Padilla's proposal to add the Cascades to the city's list of historical and cultural monuments was approved this month by the council's Arts, Health and Humanity Committee and is expected to be considered by the City Council this week.

If the proposal is approved, Padilla, who is also council president, wants to plan a dedication Nov. 5, the date in 1913 when Mulholland gave the signal to let the water flow.

November 5 also is when city voters will decide whether to allow the San Fernando Valley to secede from the rest of Los Angeles. While the designation of the Cascades as a monument wasn't planned as an anti-secession ploy, Padilla admitted he was pleased when he recognized the connection.

"It was a coincidence that brought a big smile to my face," he said.

But before anything happens, it must be determined that the designation would not interfere with the Department of Water and Power's operation of the Cascades, which can be seen off the Golden State Freeway. Padilla said a historical monument designation cannot hamper either daily operations or any upgrading that might be necessary in the future.

DWP spokeswoman Carol Tucker said the department is discussing the issue with Padilla's staff. "It's a very critical facility to our operation," Tucker said. "We're working closely with the councilman's office to come to a resolution."

David Gershwin, a spokesman for Padilla, said he doesn't think talks with the DWP will delay a council vote this week.

If the Cascades is designated a monument, perhaps no one will be prouder than Catherine Mulholland, whose book about her grandfather, "William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles," was published in 2000.

"If I was on a quiz show, I would have figured it had already been designated because it is so much a part of the city's evolution," she said. "I think it's most appropriate."

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