Councilmembers O'Farrell and Cedillo Rally City in Support for Comprehensive Changes to L.A. River

It has taken almost seven years to complete, but a complex study on revitalizing the Los Angeles River, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will soon be available to the public. With it comes the possibility of making real change to the city's historic waterway system, including removal of concrete and restoration of riparian ecosystems in key sections.

"Under the concrete, the river is smiling and it's about to give a victorious laugh," said Lewis MacAdams, co-founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), which has been working behind the scenes to complete the study.

In a rally organized by the offices of Councilman Mitch O'Farrell and Gil Cedillo, the city's water advocates and city officials gathered to show their support for Alternative 20 of the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study or ARBOR study (or "Alternative with Restoration Benefits and Opportunities for Revitalization"). "We want the river to become part of the culture of Los Angeles," said O'Farrell. "We want L.A. to be known as one of the great river cities."

In attendance also was Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, who would take on the task of securing the budgets for the approved alternative. "This may not be as large as the Sacramento Delta or the Mississippi river, but it gave birth to one of the greatest cities in the country," said Gomez.

Alternative 20, priced at $1.06 billion, proposes restoration to Verdugo Wash, Arroyo Seco Confluence, and Taylor Yard Bowtie parcel. It also proposes channel modifications and terracing in multiple locations along the river. The option represents the most ambitious plans for changing the Los Angeles River. It also carries the highest price tag. The projected cost of the proposed projects would be split 50-50 between the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The cost for Alternative 13, the cheapest of available options at $444 million, would be split between the city and USACE 70-30, with the city bearing the bigger brunt.

The price tag is why city officials think Alternative 13 has become the USACE's expected preferred alternative, which shouldn't be the case. "I'm not an ecologist. I'm a people person," said Alexander Robinson, director of the Landscape Morphologies Lab at the University of Southern California in a separate conversation. "But it's clear that we have to change the river itself, and we have to think about how that would affect generations of people who will live with the river and the ecological benefit of changing the river in the long-term. If we don't do this right, the river would continue to be this blight and that would be terrible."

O'Farrell makes a good argument when he points out, "If the federal government can spend $2 billion every day during the Iraq war era, then they should be able to spend $1 billion for the Los Angeles River." A resolution declaring the city's preference for Alternative 20 will be voted upon today by the Los Angeles City Council and is expected to pass unanimously.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has moved the release date of the study further in the calendar year to September 20, said to City Engineer Gary Lee Moore. Its publication would signal the start of the public comment period, where residents could voice their support for the different alternatives.

Photos by Carren Jao.

About the Author

Carren is an art, architecture and design writer and an avid explorer of Los Angeles. Her work has been spotted on Core77, Dwell, Surface Asia, and Fast Co.Design. You can find her online and on Twitter. 
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