Ryan McDonald

Plans to renovate Manhattan Beach’s Peck Reservoir okayed

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Manhattan Beach City Hall. Photo by Caroline Anderson

Manhattan Beach City Hall. Photo by Caroline Anderson

by Ryan McDonald


The Manhattan Beach City council unanimously agreed Tuesday night on a plan to replace the aging Peck Reservoir, stabilizing the city’s largest water storage facility and rejecting proposed  plans to add recreational facilities to the area.

The 5-0 vote approves a plan to drain and tear down the existing structure, located at the intersection of 18th Street and Peck Avenue, and erect a new, slightly large reservoir in its place. The project is expected to cost $21 million, and construction will last between 18 and 24 months.

The chosen plan was the most affordable of three presented to council by staff. A $23 million proposal would have added recreational facilities, such as tennis or basketball courts, to the roof of the reservoir. For $28 million the city could have buried the structure, which is now partially submerged, and also included recreational facilities.

Although “dual-use” plans for public facilities have become increasingly popular in urban design — plans for the replacement of the iconic Sixth Street Viaduct in Los Angeles call for parks on, next to and below the bridge — an outpouring of opposition during public comment made clear that residents had little appetite for more bouncing balls in their neighborhood.

Stephanie Robbins, who lives near the reservoir, said the area already had ample recreational opportunities, with Polliwog Park and Manhattan Beach Middle School close by. Adding more of them, she said, would only serve to add to traffic in an already congested area.

“I can’t help but wonder if the people who concoct these ideas have ever been to the neighborhood they would be building in,” Robbins said.

Council members explained that staff was merely trying to provide options to a council that has previously made a priority of providing open space in the city.

Replacement is necessary because of ongoing issues with the Peck Reservoir. It has a capacity to hold about 7.5 million gallons, but is currently limited to about 75 percent of that, according to Gilbert Gamboa, an engineer with the city. Although the concrete structure has a height of 20 feet, leaks prevent it from being filled above the 15-foot mark.

The reservoir was built in 1957, and such structures typically have a useful life of about 70 years, Gamboa said. The city has performed ongoing maintenance on the structure, including replacing the metal roof and patching leaks.

“It’s going to be a messy construction project, there’s no way around it,” Gamboa said. “It will be a massive reservoir.”

Although not as visible as the city’s water tower on Rowell Avenue and 8th Street, the Peck Reservoir is more important to the city’s water supply. Along with the Block 35 Reservoir near the tower, it stores the vast majority of the city’s water, while the Rowell Avenue tower, located at one of the city’s highest points, is primarily used for distribution.

The reservoir also serves as a blending point for the city’s two principal water sources: groundwater and imported water. According to a city staff report, about 85 percent of the city’s water is imported from the Metropolitan water district, with the remaining 15 percent coming from city wells. During the construction, the city will rely on the smaller Block 35, and will be even more heavily dependent on imported water.

The share of imported water is due in part to relatively high concentrations of manganese in groundwater from city wells, requiring it to be diluted with MWD flow to meet state standards. The council also approved funds to analyze groundwater quality and to eventually provide enhanced groundwater treatment at the Peck Reservoir.

Council members noted that this could save the city millions of dollars in the future because drawing and treating groundwater is less expensive than importing water.

“This has the potential to decrease our dependence on imported water,” said Public Works Director Stephanie Katsouleas.


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