Home Leaders seek to unify groups, ideas in updated LA River master plan

Leaders seek to unify groups, ideas in updated LA River master plan

The race to develop parks, paths and housing alongside the Los Angeles River and its tributaries prompted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to approve a motion Tuesday to bring all interested groups and their ideas together under one master plan.


Under the approved motion, a steering committee will be created by the Department of Public Works to assemble a universal guide, of sorts, to bring together ideas from regional agencies, city leaders, nonprofit and community groups and interested stakeholders to update the Los Angeles River Master Plan.

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The last time the Board of Supervisors approved such a plan was in 1996, when one of the main features was to build bike paths along the waterway.

Since then, several groups have shown increased interest in developing open space, parks, housing, more bike paths and other ideas alongside the river. In recent years, some groups and members of the public have felt left out from such proposals.

“The River hasn’t suffered from a lack of attention, but too much attention because everybody has a plan for it,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who introduced the motion for the master plan with Supervisor Hilda Solis. “There hasn’t been a lot of coordination. The virtue of this motion is bringing people together to develop a more concerted plan.”

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The Board agreed that the nonprofit group River LA, will take the lead in compiling data on stakeholders’ opinions and visions for the river with no financial ties. River LA garnered headlines in recent years when the group developed its own vision for the LA River and engaged in talks with architect Frank Gehry.

Omar Brownson, executive director for River LA, told the board he was pleased his group was tapped to coordinate efforts.

“We look forward to working with you as we figure out how to assemble the data, the designs and ultimately the dollars to make this a valuable resource,” he said.

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Speakers from several environmental and nonprofit agencies such as Friends of the Los Angeles River backed the board’s decision. Many said they were pleased to be part of a plan that encourages transparency among all groups and allows the public to have more input.

But Karin Flores, who said she is an independent river advocate, expressed skepticism and told the board she was concerned River LA would take charge of the ultimate design plan, keeping other entities out from offering competing bids.

Flores said she’d like for all agencies who have design ideas for the LA River to be able to present plans to the county directly “so that (all options) are on the table.”

Solis said the Board of Supervisors, acting as the governing body of the LA County Flood Control District, would coordinate with design teams.

Considered to be the centerpiece of Los Angeles County, the once natural, 51-mile river runs from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. It was cemented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after a disastrous flood in 1938. The L.A. River’s headwaters is in Canoga Park, where Arroyo Calabasas and Bell Creek form a concrete abutment behind Canoga Park High School.

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“The LA River is a county gem that connects millions of residents,” Solis said. “Our hope is that we can combine the many individual efforts along the 51 miles of river into a single, comprehensive and effective plan that will benefit both our community and environment.”

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