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Plan To Reimagine LA River Leads To Discussion On What Is Best For Surrounding Communities

A homeless man walks along the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River during the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic in Los Angeles California on May 25, 2020.
A homeless man walks along the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River during the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic in Los Angeles California on May 25, 2020.
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

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Los Angeles County recently released a long-awaited draft of its LA River Master Plan, which includes the implementation of an open parkland and improved flood protection.

This draft represents a yearslong river revitalization effort resurrected in 2016 by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who looked to build upon the original plan developed in 1996.

The master plan was meant to assist with the development of projects near the river bank, such as parks and bikeways. After the 1938 Los Angeles flood devastated much of the area’s surrounding communities, millions of barrels of concrete were used to make the 51-mile long river channel that we see today. 

The river lost much of its natural elements over time through flood control measures, rendering it more of a dry concrete channel than a free-flowing waterway. This led to the Los Angeles County of Public Works to commission famous architect Frank Gehry and create something beautiful out of the space that’s left. Gehry plans to take advantage of the empty space the river currently provides, constructing raised platform parks and cultural centers that offer a scenic place to build community.

The direction has been critiqued by some local environmental groups, citing its potential negative impact on not only the environment but also the communities surrounding it. A coalition of groups led by Friends of the L.A. River looks to improve the surrounding environment not by building more structures but instead restoring the natural ecosystem that once existed, while also protecting residents from the potential of gentrification and indirect misplacement.

The 494-page draft is open for public comment on the LA River Master Plan website through March 14. The County aims to have a finalized version released by this summer.

Are you someone who lives near the Los Angeles River? How do you feel about the plans set forth by the Los Angeles County Public Works? We want to hear from you, call us at 866-893-5722. 


Mark Pestrella, director of public works for Los Angeles County; he tweets @mp_LACountyDPW

Ed P. Reyes, executive director for River LA, a nonprofit working on the revitalization of the Los Angeles River

Jessica Prieto, community stability policy organizer for East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a non-profit organization that advocates for safe and healthy environments  for disproportionately impacted communities

Marissa Christiansen, president and CEO of Friends of the LA River (FoLAR), an organization advocating for an equitable, publicly accessible, and ecologically sustainable Los Angeles River