Angry Silver Lake residents gathered beneath a 50-year-old sycamore tree Thursday to protest plans to chop it and six others down to make way for a $3-million water pressure regulator station beneath a park that homeowners call "the Grassy Knoll."
Many of the 75 residents in attendance complained to Department of Water and Power engineers and City Councilman Tom LaBonge that they learned of the project only after workers spray-painted red slashes on the targeted trees.
"This is a sneak attack by the DWP," complained Caren Singer, who has lived for 13 years across the street from the tree-shaded site at the southwest edge of the Silver Lake Reservoir.
The underground station will help control the flow in a 66-inch pipe being constructed from the San Fernando Valley to carry drinking water to downtown Los Angeles.
Glenn Singley, director of water engineering for the DWP, told homeowners the pipeline is part of a $40-million project undertaken to avoid having to cover the large Silver Lake Reservoir and the smaller Ivanhoe Reservoir. State and federal regulations now require that drinking water reservoirs be enclosed for health reasons.
Singley said the mature sycamores have to be removed so workers can dig a deep pit to run tunneling equipment beneath West Silver Lake Drive for the pipe. Other trees on the DWP-owned knoll are also in the way of the underground pressure regulator station.
He said the project has been planned for 25 years and environmental studies were completed in 2006. "If I had to do it over, I'd have never marked the trees," Singley added.
"You're saying you've made up your minds. So we're wasting our time here?" asked homeowner Frederick Young. Added former City Controller Rick Tuttle, who has family members who live in Silver Lake: "This is one of the loveliest spots in Los Angeles."
LaBonge, who represents the nearby neighborhood, sought to defuse residents' anger by asking Singley to investigate alternatives to cutting down the trees. He promised that a public meeting to discuss options will be held within a month.
One such option may be to dig the tunnel pit at the lower intersection of West Silver Lake Drive and Redesdale Avenue. But that could shut down the busy corner for up to a year, officials cautioned.