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$3.5 million ‘rusty wall’ OK’d

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Correspondent
Thursday October 26, 2000

Despite much protest among its members late Tuesday night, the City Council narrowly passed a design concept for the Aquatic Park Sound Barrier, which was described by one Councilmember as a “rusty steel wall with flowers on it.” 

Councilmember Polly Armstrong said the council did not have a chance to review the new $3.5 million design and was pressured to make a late-night decision. “It’s 11:30 p.m. and we’re talking about a multimillion dollar project that will either be a work of art or a very expensive disaster,” she said. 

The concept was approved by a vote of 5-3, with Mayor Shirley Dean and Councilmembers Betty Olds and Polly Armstrong voting against the motion. Councilmember Diane Woolley was absent. 

The 3,100-foot sound barrier will consist of a sheet-pile metal wall punctuated approximately every 200 feet by clusters of thick concrete pipes standing on end, filled with compacted dirt and topped with plants and flowers. The wall will run between the east side of Interstate 880 and the 32-acre Aquatic Park, which is part of the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds. 

The City Council wanted something else than the generic California Department of Transportation wall and hired a group of engineers and architects to design a sound barrier that was unique. After going through a difficult approval process with Caltrans, the engineering and architecture firm, The Crosby Group, was able to put together an initial design concept and presented in to the Council late Tuesday night.  

There was pressure on the Council to decide Tuesday because it won’t meet again until Nov. 15 and the design concept had to be approved by Nov. 13 or the city would risk losing state funding.  

Mayor Shirley Dean said she was furious with the last-minute review and vote. She said it was amazing that the project was not presented to the Council sooner. “This is a project that I’ve fought for and been very involved with and to be out of the loop and then have it plucked down on me at 11:30 p.m. at night is outrageous.” 

Dean said that this is an example of a frequent problem of city decision-makers not having enough time to review projects and then having to quickly make a decision. “This has got to stop,” she said. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington complimented Parks and Waterfront Director Lisa Caronna for putting the creative project together. He added Caltrans is not known for being very open to creative new ideas when it comes to sound barriers. “It’s a miracle that we made it this far.”