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Promenading at Wilmington Waterfront Park

Landscape Architecture by Sasaki Associates
o Editor Stephen Kelly

The Datum Walk at the Wilmington Waterfront Park in Los Angeles runs throughout the grassy areas and by the playground. A 16-ft. raised landform with groves of Mayten and live oaks (right) separates this walk from the Paseo Promenade, creating a sound and visual barrier to the port facilities from the central portion of the park. Both walks incorporate the Faro NQ indirect luminarie pole lighting and the Canos ER recessed wall luminaries.


Most city-waterfront port areas, regardless of their modern-day condition and operating vitality of such ports, are too often characterized by adjacent, underutilized, vacant land; neither welcoming to local residents nor to the public.

The southern portion of the Wilmington district of Los Angeles used to abut the Pacific Ocean, but now the south border is flush to jowl with the expansive industrial facilities of the Port of Los Angeles. To protect those neighborhoods from the busy port noises and activities, a 20-foot high sound wall was proposed. Wilmington residents, not surprisingly, did not want a prison-like wall on their south border.

As an outgrowth of public planning workshops that began in 2004, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners actively sought wide-ranging solutions from port companies, local residents, business people, city officials and even California and Los Angeles tourism officials to better buffer residential neighborhoods from busy port activities.

An environmental impact report called for the "widening of Harry Bridges Boulevard and constructing a new 30-acre buffer area between C Street and Harry Bridges Boulevard."

The pole's upper mounting bracket suspends a formed aluminum reflector.
Light is projected from a conical cast-aluminum parabolic reflector housing a T6 metal halide lamp. Each module facet of the reflector redirects light beams to a uniformly square pattern on the ground.
Photo courtesy of HessAmerica. Professional photography by Mark Dell'Aquila, Eagle-Eye-Images Photography

With an eventual $55 million in funding, Harbor Commissioners and city and state officials began moving forward with a community-supported master plan that ultimately will completely renovate the port.

The San Francisco office of Sasaki Associates was retained to develop and help oversee implementation of a long-range master plan for the Port of Los Angeles and its surrounding waterfront areas. Those land areas closest to the Container Terminal became the literal green zone after the environmental impact report.

In the summer of 2011, the first part of that plan opened to the public: Wilmington Waterfront Park, a 30-acre rectangular park just east of the 101 Harbor Freeway covering nine blocks east to west.

The area's landscape now consists of a 16-ft.-high graded berm that acts as a sound and visual barrier along the southern edge (port side) of the project, with grass, trees, other landscaping and planted material. Paths, walkways, and pedestrian bridges are throughout the park, as are water features, drinking fountains, mounted binoculars, a playground and restrooms. The park is open to the public, for family gatherings, children's play, performance arts, walking, bicycling, recreation and for community events.

El Paseo Promenade and Datum Walk
El Paseo Promenade runs along the top of the 16-foot landform along the southern edge of the park. It measures 3,530 feet long, and provides a pedestrian and bicycle connection from the east to the west end, continuing for approximately nine blocks. Datum Walk, which runs throughout the grassy areas of the park, extends 2,320 feet.

Iconic Bridge at King Avenue
The Iconic Bridge at King Avenue at the west end of the park is a red, cable-stayed pedestrian bridge with two columns and cables supporting the bridge deck. It measures 105 feet tall and extends 157 feet long. It is the first bridge of its kind in Los Angeles.

The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay in Redding, California is the only other cable-stayed pedestrian/bicycle bridge in the state.

The east end plaza and pavilion show some of the recessed wall luminaries ("Canos ER") installed in the seat wall risers. There are 13 amphitheater seat walls, the majority below this location. This low-level lighting is for safety, without detracting from nighttime performances. The lights have single-matte acrylic lenses and cast-aluminum faceplates. The cast-aluminum housings mount to a formed aluminum back-box for interconnecting wiring.
Photos courtesy of HessAmerica.
Professional photography by Mark Dell'Aquila, Eagle-Eye-Images Photography

Pedestrian Bridges
Harry Bridges Boulevard is being widened and realigned in its original location. The roadway will remain a two-lane highway in each direction with a landscaped median strip. With the exception of King Avenue, which remains open to vehicular traffic, all of the north-south streets crossing the park have been closed, with Wilmington Boulevard and Mar Vista, McDonald, and Neptune Avenues remaining accessible to pedestrians. Each of the three pedestrian bridges -- at Wilmington Boulevard, McDonald Avenue, and Neptune Avenue -- measures 17 feet high, 92.5 feet long and are painted red to match the Iconic Bridge.

Main Plaza
Main Plaza, the larger of the performances venues, has a large stage and spectator seating across the entire "Great Lawn," which can accommodate up to 10,000 people. Restrooms are conveniently located adjacent to the Great Lawn at both the West and East Pavilions.

Seventy-six recessed in-ground red LEDIA LL LED illuminating strips accent the walkways. The tempered glass lenses, bonded and sealed to a stainless-steel housing, have a translucent internal white coating. The units mount into a recessed stainless subframe, which functions as a cable vault for electrical connections. Photos courtesy of HessAmerica.
Professional photography by Mark Dell'Aquila, Eagle-Eye-Images Photography

East Pavilion and West Pavilion
The East Pavilion is the smaller performance venue with a canopy, seat walls and lawn areas that could accommodate up to 1,500 people. The East Pavilion has a small dry concession area comprised of sliding screens opening onto the shaded plaza and the Datum Walk. The concession area is envisioned for light catering, event information and ticketing, recreation program administration, small community arts and youth projects, plus other recreation and community uses. One wing of the East Pavilion offers accessible restrooms.

The West Pavilion is a medium-sized performance venue with room for up to 2,000 people. It has a plaza for performances and sloped-lawn amphitheater with seatwalls. An accessible observation or balcony-level viewing area on the roof of the West Pavilion offers spectators additional gathering area. A storage/maintenance/staging area is located in the south end of the West Pavilion.

Here at the West Ampitheater Plaza there are also custom "Angel" lights (Cole Lighting), a theme begun several years ago on the San Pedro Promenade, Port of Los Angeles (LASN June 2010 issue) to recreate the historic lights at the 1950's Hawaiian cruise facility.

Splash Fountain

The "liquid plaza" is a high-energy social gathering place for families. The splash pad has 40 water jets synchronized for dynamic interactive water shapes.

West End Fountain
Emerging from a field of decomposed granite and creating a park threshold, the West End Fountain offers a refreshing spatial experience paired with strong geometric landscape. The water ebbs from the top of a cast stone plinth and spills over its body and laps in a low trough. The fountain, groves of Mayten and live oaks to picnic under make for impromptu gatherings.

NQ indirect luminaires (HessAmerica) with 150-watt ceramic metal halide lamps frame the El Paseo Promenade. The Paseo makes a nine-block pedestrian/bicycle connection from the east to the west end. The inclined 16.4-ft.-high steel light poles, luminaire housings and a secondary reflector brackets were hot-dip galvanized prior to finishing in finely textured red paint to match the pedestrian bridges. The King Ave. Bridge is a two-column cable-stayed pedestrian bridge measuring 105 ft. tall and 157 ft. long. It's the first bridge of its kind in L.A. The pole light reflectors contain plastic modules "vacuum-metalized for specularity," i.e., heating metal until it starts to evaporate, leaving a thin film on the workpiece. "Specularity" refers to the mirror-like reflection of light.

Sustainable Design
Sasaki reports it integrated sustainable design practices and innovative engineering technologies. Stormwater is directed to primary landscape zones to promote infiltration rather than municipal treatment. Demolished paving was recycled for paving subbases. All plant materials were selected as ecologically adapted, indigenous, or salt tolerant, and are irrigated by reclaimed water. Site lighting was chosen in part based on reducing energy demands and light pollution through high optical efficacy.

Along the port's industrial edge, the terrace walls are coated with titanium oxide, which transforms harmful air pollutants to inert organic compounds, a application of photocatalytic technology.

A key to the clear vision evident on this multifaceted project, and the "purity" of its implementation, rested in large part on unwavering decisions by port and city officials and their project managers. It's reported the Port of Los Angeles plans to triple in size over the next 15-20 years. Note: We'll need more buffers!


Project Team

  • Landscape Architect of Record: Sasaki Associates, Inc.
  • Lead Designer: Melissa McCann - Landscape Architect, Tim Stevens - Architect, Principal-in-Charge: Steve Hamwey
  • Architecture: Grace Leung, Tomer Maymon, Scott Odom, Vitas Viskanta, Angel Cantu
  • Civil: Zach Chrisco, Chuck Coronis, Michelle Gauvin, Oswaldo Palencia, Jose Miranda
  • Technical Specifications: Vince Rico Specifications
  • Ahbe Landscape Architects: Planting Consultant
  • Earth Mechanics: Geotechnical Engineer
  • Arul Arulmoli, Partner
  • ARUP: Bridge Structural Engineering
  • John Worley, Principal
  • Moffat and Nichol: Civil | Structural | Site Electrical Engineering
  • Michael McCarthy, Principal in Charge:
  • TMAD: Structural / MEP Engineering
  • Sunil Patel, John Poon, Principals
  • STO Design Group: Water Feature Engineering
  • Desmond Stevens, Principal
  • Brookwater Irrigation Design: Irrigation
  • Dudek: Methane Design | Engineering
  • Solar Design Associates, LLC: Solar Design
  • Fine Art Services: Art Consultant
  • PSOMAS: Planning and Entitlements | Permit Expeditor
  • Wagner Engineering and Survey, Inc.: Survey & Zoning
  • Tech/Knowledge: Security
  • Katherine Padilla & Associates: Community Liaison
  • Ken Melendez: Wilmington Waterfront Community Leader

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November 18, 2019, 11:48 am PDT

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