A pie-in-the-sky idea to turn part of the inaccessible yet visually stunning reservoirs atop Silver Lake into a public, beach-like swimming venue has the community abuzz.
The concept by local resident Catherine Geanuracos and her supporters would actually transform the northern, Ivanhoe Reservoir portion of the venue, which is smaller than the Silver Lake Reservoir portion, into a watering hole with swim lanes, a separate lake, and a sand-covered strip for sunbathing, at least according to an initial rendering (above).
The idea, dubbed “Hipster Beach” by the website Curbed LA, has excited some folks in Silver Lake …
… who have for decades had to stare at fenced-off twin reservoirs and wonder, What if?
Though the project titled “Silver Lake Plunge” would take years to realize, now is actually a good time to start thinking about it:
The reservoirs are being taken offline as water supplies because federal regulations are phasing out “open reservoirs … exposed to contamination from surface runoff, birds, insects, animals and humans,” in the words of the L.A. Department of Water and Power.
The DWP says that, after underground water storage is constructed, the two reservoirs “will be maintained as non-potable water bodies for the continued benefit of the community.”
Many in the area, including the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy, have been dreaming and brainstorming about what could be possible. The Conservancy states it “has no position on this particular idea.”
Geanuracos' concept came from outside that framework, but she's hoping to eventually see support from the Conservancy and from the local neighborhood council.
“We want to start the discussions early,” she told us. “The final decision-making is obviously with the City Council. It's DWP's party, too. They're beginning the process of redoing the reservoirs. Getting the council's and the mayor's support is incredibly important.”
Geanuracos, who works as a digital strategist and CEO of New Economy Campaigns, says she sees Silver Lake Plunge as swim-centric:
Ivanhoe is a better size for what you would need to patrol with lifeguards. It could be unstructured open water with swim lanes. I would hope to see swim classes there. It's a beautiful lake and there's not enough places for kids to learn how to swim in L.A.
We have heard some grumbling about the proposal from neighbors in the top-of-the-hills community of million-dollar-plus properties. Who wants a bunch of down-the-hill, working-class people coming up for a swim?
Neighborhood Council member Amy Clarke says airing any such concerns would be overplaying them: “I haven't heard of rampant NIMBYism or fear” in the community, she told us:
There are a lot of north side people who do not fear the south-of-Sunset Boulevard crowd.
Clarke says she has queried about 30 of her constituents in the area about the Silver Lake Plunge and that most of the respondents have at least been open-minded.
“They have been into the idea of, Let's explore new life, a new vision for the reservoir, instead of having this gated-off, inaccessible place,” she said.
That said, there have been neighbors who think potential traffic impact should be studied, she said. Others are worried that establishing a parking lot for the “beach” would draw too many folks to the neighborhood.
But Neighborhood Council member Charles Herman-Wurmfeld told us one of the ways NIMBYs get their way in the community is by refusing to even acknowledge ideas they don't like:
It hasn't been easy to get this kind of conversation going at the [Neighborhood Council] board level. How can it be that we have no position on this? We have a reservoir complex committee. Why haven't we been talking about this transformation for years?
Dorit Dowler-Guerrero of the Neighborhood Council seems to agree:
I definitely want the Silver Lake reservoir to be turned into a swim stadium. I'm down the hill. I am the unwashed masses. I am unbelievably in favor of this project.
But, she says:
There's gonna be a fight over it. There's a fight about everything. Frankly, I doubt it's going to happen. It's a bit of a dream. It might even be a farce.
Indeed, another Neighborhood Council rep said the plan “doesn't hold water.”
Geanuracos is undeterred:
There's a pretty wide range of opinion as to what kind of public space we should have in Silver Lake. There will be some people who think this is a terrible idea. But part of the reason I'm starting this is I want to make sure we live in a city where our communities interact with each other and that we have access to public space.
In her wildest dreams, Geanuracos says, there will be swimming in the reservoir within five years.