L.A. River: From Afterthought to Asset

With strong advocates in Washington and in City Hall, planning continues for an ambitious multi-billion dollar effort to overhaul the Los Angeles River and its relationship to the city.

Writing in the January issue of Planning, ahead of the American Planning Association's annual conference to be held in Los Angeles this April, Lorelei Laird provides an overview and update of the status of plans to turn what many consider an oversized drainage ditch into a recreational hub, ecological asset, and an engine for economic development.

Ecological restoration "calls for removing at least some concrete. Compromises include restoring a soft bottom in some areas, creating stepped terraces along the banks, and removal of the concrete sides in a few places where floodplains can be created safely."

In a city that the Trust for Public Land says has 6.2 acres of park space per 1,000 residents currently, "planners envision parkland extending at least 250 feet from each bank, with walkways, a bicycle path, a few equestrian paths, and public art. But the plan doesn't end at the river's edge. In most areas, this 32-mile greenbelt is connected with existing destinations like parks, schools, neighborhoods, and businesses, using dedicated car-free paths and existing streets dressed up with river signage."

"The economic development portion of the plan starts from the belief that all these improvements will increase private development, a lesson drawn from redevelopment projects in many other cities. It expects that riverfront activity would draw businesses catering to park users, such as cafes, hotels, and other entertainment destinations. Overall, planners predict that every public dollar will attract four private redevelopment dollars, creating billions of dollars' worth of new development around the river."

Full Story: Restoring the 'Water Freeway'

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