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County Public Works Releases Final L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan
By Jennifer Bihm, Contributing Writer
Published May 30, 2022

The LA River Master Plan provides specific tools and guidance for a reimagined LA River. The plan is supported by two appendixes. (LA River Master Plan 2021)

Los Angeles County Public Works and Ethnic Media Services held a news conference on May 17, in Los Angeles, to release the final Los Angeles River master plan to the public.

If approved, said EMS Associate Editor Pilar Marerro, it “will launch a historic effort to reimagine the Los Angeles River and mark a major step in equity for the diverse river communities.” The release, she said, follows a four-year process commissioned by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and community members and marked by a broad public outreach effort.

“This plan,” Marrero ensured, “addresses long standing issued of infrastructure inequity. Its goal is to both improve the health of the river’s eco system for current and future generations of L.A. residents and to allow them to thrive and not be displaced by gentrification”

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A variety of reporters representing communities throughout the region, were invited to the conference as liaisons between master plan developers and residents. Through them, concerns were presented, the biggest being displacement adding to the county’s growing homeless problem.

For instance, “Many people don’t know that Chinatown is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles,” said Sissy Trinh, executive director of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance.

“Many of our residents are one rent increase away from becoming homeless. We are a river adjacent community. We’ve been working on river advocacy for about 10 years.”

One of the issues, she said, is that real estate developers and brokers are touting improvements outlined in the master plan as a buying and selling opportunity and that people should take advantage.

“We started talking to other river adjacent communities and what we were finding is that people were actually fighting against parks and green and improvements, not because they didn’t’ want it but because they were afraid of losing their housing and their homes.

“We were in this place where [the dilemma] was do we fight having nicer neighborhoods or do we just accept that it’s going to happen and that we would just get pushed out,”

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This is the first infrastructure plan that even acknowledges the issue, she said.

Deep research of the LA River watershed and river-adjacent community needs is the foundation of the LA River Master Plan, which takes a multi-benefit approach to the three themes of water, people, and environment. (LA River Master Plan 2021)

Some of the highlights of the plan include flood risk reduction, improved parks and trails access, addressing housing affordability, better community engagement efforts, highlighting arts and culture, and addressing water quality and supply.

“We are stewards of this land both the natural and built environment,” said Keith Lilley assistant deputy director of L.A. County Public Works.
“We seek to foster a more positive and equitable foundation for all current and future residents.  There are nearly a million people living within a mile of the river. We reimagine a plan that will encourage   people and environments to commingle and thrive.”

Concerns about where the funding for such improvements would come were also raised. Public Works said they would be working with nonprofits as well as federal and state entities to gather money for the various projects.

According to the plan organizers, healthier, more socially connected communities were the third most important river-related issue for community members. The LA River’s connection to the region’s history, ecology, and culture makes it a prime venue and tool for both community engagement and education. Community members felt it was most important for people to learn how the river benefits and supports the environment (38%); ecology, habitat, and vegetation (33%); and current hydrology and uses of the river (21%).

“Though some adjacent communities currently take advantage of the river, a reimagined river with increased activity could serve as a platform and front door for all surrounding communities,” they said.

“Additionally, a comprehensive and inclusive history of the river and the environmental and social impacts of its development on underserved communities provides a relevant and powerful educational tool for all communities…”

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