We are committed to thoughtful and far-sighted planning within a public, transparent, and open process. This must be the foundation of a successful Silver Lake Wildlife Sanctuary that will benefit and unite our community.

Silver Lake is a quiet, open, natural space in the midst of an urban metropolis. That is why it is such a gem. It is also why it is the heart of the neighborhood. To change it from a gathering place for local wildlife and migrating birds would be a crime. The citizens of Silver Lake and the city of Los Angeles have been able to coexist with this space for decades and not disturb it. That should not change. Yes, it originated as a drinking water reservoir but that was only one of it’s functions in the ecosystem of Los Angeles. Just because it will be coming off line as a reservoir does not mean it will stop fulfilling its other functions. People need to respect that they are only one of the many species living in this neighborhood we call Silver Lake, in this city we call home.
— Gregg Baxter, Los Angeles, CA (online comment)

General Questions

1. What Would the Silver Lake Wildlife Sanctuary be, exaCtly?

  • It would be the land and water areas enclosed within the current Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power’s fence.
  • This area would be protected and maintained for the benefit of the migratory and resident birds and wildlife that use it.
  • The needs of the wildlife and the habitat that supports them would be a high priority for all future decisions regarding this area.
  • All current community activities and access outside the fence would remain as they are.
  • The Master Plan specifically states, any future human activity would be passive recreation only.

2. What is the benefit to people of having the Silver Lake Wildlife Sanctuary?

  • Above all, creating the Silver Lake Wildlife Sanctuary is a legacy for our children, both now and for decades to come. Not a video game or virtual reality, but the real deal - wild creatures living their natural lives in their own homes, a gift given to us to safeguard.
  • With federal wild lands under threat, it is imperative to save our local wild habitats - for us and for our wildlife.
  • Within the Los Angeles community, preserving this open, serene environment as a Sanctuary provides a much-needed respite in the midst of urban crowding and stress. Hundreds of drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians will continue to experience this peace and tranquility on a daily basis.
  • Noise and light pollution have become increasingly problematic even to people. By having the foresight to preserve our Reservoir as a Sanctuary, our city has the hope of limiting these problems in this area.
  • Those using the Reservoir paths would still be able to hear the splash of a bird in water, the trill of their songs, the rustle of leaves. The softness of the dark over the water is a balm to the soul.
  • For children, having the Silver Lake Wildlife Sanctuary provides an invaluable link to the world of nature. The Sanctuary could offer many educational experiences, possibly with volunteer docents, such as a series of nature film nights at the Rec Center and introduction to birding walks.
  • We believe we are currently at the tipping point of permanent loss of this treasure, due to piecemeal development attempts. The pressure for human access and potential activity here is exponentially stronger today than in the pre-WWII era.
  • Once diminished or gone, this oasis of quiet nature and calm could never be restored on this scale.

3. Why would removing the fence harm the birds, the wildlife, and people?

  • A strong perimeter fence protects birds and animals from humans and pets. It protects children and adults from drowning.
  • LA Audubon Society: Statement on the Future Management of Silver Lake Reservoir, March 2017: "The presence and maintenance of the fence, keeping people away from the water and water's edge, maximizes the value of the site as a wildlife refuge. Humans and pets disturb birds, such that birds can abandon a site, and the fence is the single most important conservation management tool at the site after the presence of water.”
  • The LA Dept. of Water and Power has expressly specified that a fence must remain, as last stated on May 22, 2017, Silver Lake Neighborhood Council town hall meeting.

4. Since we need a fence, does it have to be this one?

  • The current fence allows for maximum visibility of the Reservoir waters and the birds, and maximum safety for all.
  • However, there may be other aesthetically pleasing fence designs that could provide visibility and safety, in addition to being wildlife-permeable.
  • Such a fence selection should be made in a public and transparent process between the DWP and the community.

5. What about naturalization of the banks? Wouldn’t that benefit wildlife and provide a lovelier view?

  • While these changes may be pleasing, they are an option that the DWP’s engineering staff would have to evaluate very carefully to make sure any changes would not weaken the structural integrity of the Reservoir basin and its fill soil support.
  • It is the responsibility of the DWP’s engineers to ensure earthquake safety for the community.

6. Wouldn’t it be good to have more lighting, particularly in the Meadow area?

  • Not necessarily. The Meadow area closes at dusk, so no lighting is needed.
  • Animals require the natural cycle of day and night in order to thrive. Generally, artificial lighting negatively impacts all wildlife species. Specifically, inappropriate artificial lighting on and near the reservoir would destroy habitat for wildlife.
  • Along the walking/jogging paths, wildlife-friendly lighting might be installed. Such lighting would preserve human night vision necessary for safety. It would also preserve our pleasure at seeing a few evening stars in the dark skies.
Artificial Night Lighting and Protected Lands Ecological Effects and Management Approaches Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/NSNS/NRR—2016/1213

Artificial Night Lighting and Protected Lands
Ecological Effects and Management Approaches
Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/NSNS/NRR—2016/1213


Questions About Migratory & Resident Birds and Wildlife

1. Isn't Silver Lake just one of other similar bird locations, such as Echo Park Lake, and the LA River? Why does it deserve protection?

  • Silver Lake Reservoir is the only open deep-water roosting place in our area that can host thousands of migratory birds at one time as they make their astounding, exhausting journeys annually from one end of the Americas (Alaska) to the other (Patagonia in South America) -- and back. They are truly one of Nature’s wonders.
  • This large, deep-water location provides safety from predators and human activities. However, increased human activity along the banks can affect the species on the water.
  • Over 140 species of birds have been identified at the Reservoir, which is why it is a designated "birding hotspot"and a recognized national resource. It hosts not only common species such as Mallards and Canada Geese, but also more vulnerable ones such as the Horned Grebe and the Long-Tailed Duck.
  • Silver Lake’s iconic bird is the Great Blue Heron. These herons may feed in the LA River, but they nest and raise their young in the tall eucalyptus trees on the Reservoir shore. Neither Echo Park Lake nor the LA River can boast such hospitable nesting areas. These Silver Lake nesting areas deserve protection.
  • The access allowed to people at Echo Park Lake affects the number and composition of the birds seen there. Simply because you see some birds does not mean that you are seeing the numbers and varieties of birds that would be there without human-caused disturbance.
  • On the other hand, Silver Lake Reservoir has protected birds by offering limited disturbance over decades. Given safety and peace, birds can flourish, with patterns such as the Great Blue Heron rookery. This beneficial situation needs to be continued.
  • While changes such as wetlands creation could be engineered, the planning of any such changes needs to recognize that the resulting human disturbance (construction, filling, etc.) would undermine the value of such improvements.

2. Doesn't Griffith Park provide plenty of space for wildlife and resident birds? Why do we need to protect the land around the Reservoir?

  • Griffith Park is considered an "island habitat", which, like national parks, used to be thought sufficient for species preservation.
  • Now, naturalists understand that it is imperative for these "island habitats" to be connected with wildlife corridors for long-term species survival. They link different animal populations in different areas to ensure genetic diversity.
  • Moreover, native resident birds need corridors of connected habitats to provide a variety of locations for eating, nesting, and roosting. These birds are often rarer than migratory birds due to their year-round needs.
  • Silver Lake's land currently provides such a corridor within an urban environment.
  • For very shy creatures such as the bobcat, patterns of their movements are beginning to emerge which reveal the value of previously overlooked habitats such as the Reservoir area. (https://nhm.org/nature/blog/backyard-bobcats-la)
  • Urban wildlife in general, and Silver Lake's special treasure of birds and animals in specific, are in dire need of safe green habitat.
  • Preserving the Reservoir as a sanctuary, at almost no additional cost to the LA Dept. of Water and Power, is essential to the continued existence of this unique wildlife habitat.

3. Why do coyotes need protection when we see so many of them even when the Reservoir was drained?

  • Impressions based on laypeople’s sightings are not authoritative. Consideration of what is best for birds and wildlife should be influenced by scientific studies.
  • Seeing more coyotes does not mean there actually are more coyotes or other wildlife.
  • For instance, with the draining of the reservoir and the construction, coyotes have had to seek new habitat. To do so, they may have had to travel along open streets instead of the usual backyards, because more homes are being fenced in. As a result, they may become more visible though not necessarily more numerous.
  • However, there are hard data that show the presence of coyotes at an urban site is beneficial to birds and deserving of protection. The coyotes keep the number and activity of predators such as skunks, raccoons, and cats lower than they would be otherwise, benefiting native bird species.
  • Unlike coyotes, dogs and their people are usually active during the same daylight hours as birds.
  • Allowing dog walking in a woodland environment has been shown to lead to a 35% reduction in bird species and a 41% reduction in bird numbers.
  • However, with the walking paths and the south side dog park outside the fence, and carefully protected wild spaces within it, there will be, happily, space for all at Silver Lake Reservoir.

Questions About the Larger Community

1. Doesn't the community need more recreational green space parks?

  • Yes, the people of Los Angeles, as a whole, need more recreational parks.
  • However, the Silver Lake area is one of the few in Los Angeles which is fortunate enough to have a variety of outdoor active recreation green spaces available including: Riverside Park (tennis, soccer), Tommy Lasorda’s Field of Dreams, Bellevue Park and Rec Center, Sunnynook Park, N. Atwater Park, Ferraro Soccer Fields and Dog Park, Elysian Park, Chevy Chase Park and Rec. Center, William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, in addition to Griffith Park, LA River, and Echo Park Lake.
  • Within Silver Lake Reservoir acreage itself: Silver Lake Recreation Center and Park (including kiddie park, basketball court, grassy/picnic area), Silver Lake Dog Park, Tesla Pocket Park, 2.3 miles of walking/jogging paths.
  • According to the LA Countywide Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment of May 2016, our study area of Silver Lake, Echo Park and Elysian Valley has 8.84 acres of recreation park areas per 1000 residents. The county average is only 3.3 acres per 1000.
  • Other neighborhoods need recreational parks far more than Silver Lake does. Any available monies for acquisition of parks should go to those areas.
  • The newly opened LA Historic State Park in downtown is a good example of monies being allocated to areas that need green space.
  • Active recreation parks cost significant amounts of tax dollars to establish and maintain.

2. Isn’t rejecting development of the Reservoir for active recreation use as the Master Plan specifies, both “racist and elitist” or an example of NIMBY-ism?

  • As listed above, most of the DWP land area around the Reservoir is already available for public use at absolutely no cost.
  • There are no parking costs and no admission fees.
  • The hundreds of people who use these areas daily, as well as the Silver Lake community, are as diverse as the birds and wildlife within the Reservoir.
  • Despite the expansive size of the Reservoir, it can only sustain a certain amount of traffic before the noise, numbers, and pollution will kill the very element for which most visitors come - serenity.
  • Any further development for active recreation use comes at an unacceptable price for the birds, the wildlife, and the community.

3. Isn't being able to redefine Silver Lake Reservoir a great opportunity for the larger community rather than just in the Silver Lake neighborhood?

  • Yes, a great opportunity! Not only in the city of Los Angeles, but beyond, in the greater community of California and the entire Pacific Flyway from Alaska to the tip of South America.
  • The Silver Lake Reservoir is part of this great intercontinental natural phenomenon.
  • Within the international community, the United States is a co-signer of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, which facilitates the travel of birds between Canada and the US.
  • Preserving the Silver Lake Reservoir area maintains its position within this international linkage of habitats.
  • Here, these birds can rest and recuperate during their awe-inspiring round-trip journeys that can cover thousands of miles annually.

4. What does the term "sanctuary" mean?

The Oxford Living Dictionaries define 'sanctuary' as:

1. Refuge or safety from pursuit, persecution, or other danger.
2. A nature reserve.

These definitions apply to the Silver Lake Wildlife Sanctuary.