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    ELB Eyesore To Begin Dropping Out Of Sight: City Hall Plans To Start Covering Atherton Street Ditch

    Atherton Culvert, 3/30/04(March 4, 2007) -- "This is a community meeting about forty years in the making," said 4th district Councilman Patrick O'Donnell, announcing that work will soon begin on covering and landscaping the detested "Atherton ditch," an open drain running from McNab Street (near the CSULB pyramid), under Palo Verde Ave., and eastward to Knoxville Ave. where a pump station sends its contents into the Los Cerritos channel.

    At a February 28 meeting at Mini Gant Elementary School, LB City Engineer Mark Christoffels announced a solution elegant in its simplicity: instead of quarreling about whether the ditch could convey enough water if covered (it probably can't), City Hall will simply lay a new drain pipe underground paralleling the ditch. The underground pipe will carry the water from now on...and the ditch will then be covered and landscaped.

    Atherton Culvert, 3/30/04
    Image source: City of LB

    Here are before and after renderings:

    Image source: City of LB

    Image source: City of LB

    Atherton culvert, 3/30/04Mr. Christoffels indicated that work is first slated for the section east of Palo Verde Ave., likely to begin by late summer, because there's enough money available to finish the section now. The rest of the project will be easier to complete, Mr. Christoffels said candidly, once the first part is started and rolling.

    Residents initially approached "before" and "after" drawings skeptically, then responded with words like "wow" and "home run." After the presentation by Councilman O'Donnell and Mr. Christoffels, we heard "thank you's" from several people in the audience.

    Atherton culvert, 3/30/04For decades, neighborhood residents complained that roughly forty-something years ago, City Hall covered a similar open culvert on Stearns Street which (like the ditch on Atherton St.) dated from the inception of tract homes in the area.

    For reasons that may be lost to history, City Hall didn't cover the ditch on Atherton St...which became home to mosquitoes, trash and odors.

    Sometimes, cars wound up in it (as this one did in October, 2005).
    Atherton culvert
    Photo source: Daryl Supernaw

    In early 2004, the Atherton St. ditch became an issue in the 4th district City Council race...and even bloomed into a federal matter.

    As part of a long-standing City Hall federal wish-list, verbiage was inserted in a federal transportation bill by Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Carson-LB) to "provide landscape enhancement of an existing open culvert on Atherton Street [in] Long Beach."

    Ironically, that good news backfired on the former Council incumbent...when some residents reacted negatively, saying they didn't want the existing culvert landscaped, they wanted it covered. "Landscaping does nothing to deal with the mosquitoes and odors," local resident Daryl Supernaw told in 2004, adding that he'd followed the issue "for about the last twenty years."

    Atherton culvert, 3/30/04Mr. Supernaw was among those attending the March 1, 2007 neighborhood meeting...and he was pleased by what he saw.

    He quipped that after the decades-long struggle with City Hall, he was starting an "Artherton Ditch Adjacent Neighborhood Ass'n."

    Atherton culvert, 3/30/04Veteran LB activist and local realtor Joe Sopo was also pleased about City Hall's plans to cover the ditch...but urged Mr. Supernaw to join him in the Los Altos Neighborhood Ass'n South (LANAS).

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