Los Angeles, California, USA
The 2021 plan is an update to the county’s initial L.A. River Master Plan approved in 1996. That plan led to the county opening up fenced-off portions of the river, fostering new parks, walk and bike paths, and greater community access. Cities along the river – including Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Glendale– stepped up efforts to revitalize areas along the river.
People from all corners of the region have access to the river: more than 1 million live within one mile of the river and 10 million, nearly a quarter of the state’s population, can access it within an hour’s drive.
The new plan was developed by the County Department of Public Works in collaboration with architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin sets out to transform the Los Angeles River from a concrete-lined flood control channel into a natural feature of a thriving ecosystem.
The revised draft of the River Master Plan–the first update in 25 years and the only plan encompassing all 51 miles of the L.A. River–doesn’t propose specific projects, but instead uses research and data to signify community needs.
The plan includes a tool kit with for six different strategies for river revitalization: trails and access gateways, channel modifications, crossings and platforms, diversions, floodplain reclamation, and off-channel land assets.
The plan includes:
• a 100-mile (both sides of the ~50-mile river) trail system for walking and bicycling
•78 significant projects – 56 from previously published plans and 22 newly-proposed project sites
•strategies for addressing adverse impacts to housing affordability and people experiencing
•strategies for enhancing water quality, water supply, and water safety
•financing strategies for constructing and maintaining river projects
Enhanced wayfinding, additional opportunities for education, expansive plans for stormwater capture and purification in the surrounding areas before runoff hits the river channel, and enhanced aquifer management are just a few of the targets for the plan’s 78 significant projects, although critically, a price hasn’t been released yet.
Gehry stated that the plan builds upon decades of work by those “committed to a holistic view of all 51 miles of the river. The river has long created a dividing line down the county, acting as a barrier to equity and opportunity for those who live along it.”
One of the 2021 plan’s biggest goals, Gehry said, is “to reconnect, revitalize, and strengthen these communities using the river as the conduit.”
Gehry, in emphasizing bringing improvements to underserved communities, has focused on a platform proposal at the confluence of the L.A. River and the Rio Hondo in the cities of South Gate and Lynwood. The design would include lids over the two waterways, and building a new cultural center on the County maintenance yard on the east side of the river at Imperial Highway.
Several environmental and environmental justice groups have criticized the “ecological harm” that could be done by proposed platform structures encasing the waterway. While advocates have been supportive of new walk/bike bridges that connect communities divided by the river, platforms over the river– already happening on river tributaries in Glendale, San Gabriel, and Rosemead– have served to erase the river, to hide it from communities.
Architects: Gehry Partners, LLP. and Olin Partnership
Client: Los Angeles County Department of Public Works