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Fate of Washington Park reservoirs heads to council

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The City Council will consider approving a proposal from the Water Bureau to demolish the two open reservoirs in Washington Park on Thursday.

Although controversial, the proposal is not as visible as the bureau's plans to disconnect the three open reservoirs in Mt. Tabor. The council is scheduled to consider granting a permit to do that on May 28.

Both proposals are part of the council's plans to remove the open reservoirs from the water distribution system and replace them with closed reservoirs and underground storage tanks. Although the council says it is only complying with relatively new requirements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, neighborhood activists say the council should fight the EPA because the existing water system is safe and replacing it wastes millions of ratepayer dollars.

The Washington Park reservoirs are in a historic district and the proposal was reviewed by the city's Historic Landmarks Commission on March 30. The commission was not required to issue a permit, however, because the proposal is to demolish not preserve the reservoirs.

That is different than the situation in Mt. Tabor, where the water bureau is proposing to maintain the historic appearance of the reservoirs after they are disconnected. In that case, the commission approved the permit with conditions, but both the bureau and neighbors appealed the decision to the council.

According to a water bureau memo to the council, the open Washington Park reservoirs will be replaced with an underground reservoir that will be better designed to survive earthquakes. It will eventually by topped with new landscape and a water feature.

The memo can be read here.

The proposal is opposed by Friends of the Reservoirs, a grassroots group fighting to maintain all of the open reservoirs. Among other things, it believes residents living near the Washington Park reservoirs will be adversely impacted by the demolitions and construction project.

Friends of the Reservoirs sent a letter to the council that can be read here.