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L.A. River Plan Slowly Moving Forward
April 11, 2006

Images of L.A. River courtesy L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan Team

The not-so-mighty Los Angeles River meanders 51 miles through the middle of the L.A. basin. It has been largely ignored since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers channeled it in the 1930s, but is finally being recognized as an important natural and economic resource.

Last June, a team was chosen by the L.A. City Council to create a master plan focused on a 32-mile stretch of the waterway that runs between the San Fernando Valley community of Canoga Park and the East L.A. community of Boyle Heights. [RECORD, June, 2005, p. 30]. The technical and engineering consultants are Tetra Tech, the urban design firms Civitas, Wenk Associates and HNTB Architecture, and the landscape architects are Mia Lehrer + Associates. Several community outreach organizations, including The Robert Group, Transportation and Land Use Collaborative of Southern California, and consultant Adan Ortega, Jr. are helping engage the public, and Urban Partners LLC and Asset Strategies are providing implementation services for the team.

The designers say the $3 million master plan, scheduled to be complete by next January, has several goals. One is developing an interconnected park system, including sports fields, parks, trails, greening along the banks, and enhanced areas for wildlife to thrive. Another goal is to reduce the volume and improve the quality of storm water entering the channel through natural filtration and retention systems. Finally, the plan aims to stimulate private and public reinvestment in the communities adjacent to the river. By the end of the planning process, the consulting team will hand the city a 20-year blueprint for the river’s management and development.

The team, along with the city’s Department of Public Works, has been inviting residents, activists, and others to public workshops to discuss the development and help hone design ideas. Seven have been held since October. “This master plan process really helps us to see what people see now, what they want to see, and what they don’t want to see,” says city councilmember Ed P. Reyes, who is chair of the council’s L.A. River Ad Hoc Committee. Based on input from the community, the team has identified five quarter-mile “nodes,” which will receive more focused efforts. The next community meetings are scheduled for June 2006, when the planning team will present its node concepts.

Support from local officials and residents for the team’s work has been positive. But, once completed, the fate of their master plan will be determined by the city, which will need to secure funding from state and federal sources as well as private investors.

“We hope that the city will be bold and jump-start this process with public investment,” says Mark Johnson, an urban planner with Civitas. Deborah Weintraub, AIA, the chief architect and deputy city engineer on the project, notes that besides design ideas, the master plan must also develop a framework for governance, zoning, and financing mechanisms for river development.

The designers have high hopes, but are aware of huge challenges. Weintraub points out that existing infrastructure near the river, like highways and rail lines, may have to be moved. Mia Lehrer of Mia Lehrer + Associates points to the ways a revitalized river might act as a symbolic conduit, connecting L.A.’s diverse communities with shared spaces and a series of foot and bike paths. “This is a chance to bring the city together,” she says. “It’s also an alternative way to commute. Can you imagine people being able to ride to work along the river?”

Allison Milionis

4,117 Posts
more good news...
$80 million sought for L.A. River
Boxer bill may lead to future restoration

A plan to turn the barren Los Angeles River into a bucolic waterway got a potential boost Thursday with a request for millions of dollars in federal funds.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., announced pending legislation to authorize $80 million to restore the Los Angeles River.

If authorized, the federal funding would provide valuable seed money for a developing plan to clean up and return portions of the the concrete flood channel to a natural state, at a potential cost of $1 billion.

"I'm going to introduce legislation to revitalize the L.A. River," the senator said during a news conference with city officials at Rio de Los Angeles State Park, a $43.5 million city-state park slated to open next year along the waterway at Taylor Yard in Cypress Park.

"This revitalization plan will benefit the community in diverse ways - it will link diverse neighborhoods, maintain open space, protect wildlife, promote economic development, provide low-income housing and more schools."

Boxer said her bill would help pay for river projects now being developed according to a Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan.

The $3 million plan aims to add paths, parks, restaurants and housing along 32 miles of Los Angeles riverfront.

If approved, Boxer's bill would pay:

$4 million to the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan to restore water flow and re-create wetlands and river habitat to provide recreational and economic opportunities along its banks.

$35 million for flood control systems, graffiti removal, wetlands restoration


and other river enhancements.

$40 million for water re-use to increase water flow and habitat renewal.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, council President Eric Garcetti, and Councilman Ed Reyes joined state parks Director Ruth Coleman to endorse the plan.

The $80 million is vital because it serves as seed money for further grants, said Coleman.

"It'll be the big push to create more gems along the emerald necklace" known as the Los Angeles River, she said.

"I think it can give legs to the city planning efforts," added Joe Linton of Friends of the Los Angeles River. "If we can get money behind this project, it won't be another (river) plan that sits on a shelf."

[email protected]

(818) 713-3730


Friends of the Los Angeles River will host the nation's largest river cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon May 6 between the Tujunga Wash and Long Beach. For more information, call (323) 223-0585, or go to

Silver Lake
5,451 Posts
Ahh, this city is a wonderful mess! Sometimes it feels like its being held together by scotch tape.

Silver Lake
5,451 Posts
I hope that even a little bit of this happens sometime this century.

Gosh! What huge projects face the city!! From school building, to downtown revitalization, to the port, to mass transit, to homelessness, to lack of affordable housing, to greener spaces and now the LA river. Who in the **** has been running this city for the last 100 years???

OK, we all know the answer, right? NIMBY's and corporate gangsters. Anymore?

Shaken, never Stirred
8,013 Posts
Hey wait a minute I have a question. Wasn't the LA river supposed to be turn into freeways during none raining season. What ever happened to that wonderful Idea??????
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