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Weighing In on L.A. River ARBOR Study [Part Three]; Public Meeting this Week

A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study, also known as the ARBOR (Alternative with Restoration Benefits and Opportunities for Revitalization) Study, for October 17, between 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles River Center, 570 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles. There will be a formal presentation of the project to interested residents. It will also provide an opportunity to provide comments on the proposal.

To help clarify your stand on the project, we have also asked a few advocates what their thoughts are on the study. We hope these statements could be food for thought as you write down your comments on the study.

The four alternatives that are currently being considered are:

  • Alternative 10, or ART (ARBOR Riparian Transitions), is the minimally acceptable alternative that costs $346 million. It would result in a 93 percent increase in habitat. Work includes: minimal restoration at Taylor Yard, but not at the other confluences, widening of Taylor Yard by 80 feet with a small terraced area by the Bowtie parcel, restoration at Piggyback Yard.

  • Alternative 13, or ACE (ARBOR Corridor Extension) is a $453-million project that include all the features of Alternative 10, and will increase habitat by 104 percent. Work includes adding a side channel behind Ferraro Fields, widening of over 300 feet in Taylor Yard, and tributary restoration on the east side of the Arroyo Seco watershed. The Army Corps currently supports this alternative.

  • Alternative 16, or AND (ARBOR Narrows to Downtown), is a $757-million project that includes the features of both Alternative 10 and 13 with extensive work on the Piggyback Yard. It would increase habitat by 114 percent.

  • Alternative 20, or RIVER (Riparian Integration via Varied Ecological Introduction), includes all the elements of previous alternatives with the restoration of the Verdugo Wash and the wetlands of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. Habitat would increase by 119 percent at the cost of $1.04 billion.

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    This week we hear from Eric Bruins, who works on behalf of cyclists around Los Angeles; Craig Collins, whose organization advocates for better recreation and open space around Silver Lake; and Timothy Brick, whose organization focuses on the Arroyo Seco region north of the Los Angeles River.

    Here's what they had to say:


    Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC)

    [We're supporting] Alternative 20 (the most advanced). The L.A. County Bicycle Coalition isn't shy about dreaming big. Just as we're reimagining how Angelenos get around, we recognize the need to reimagine our relationship with the L.A. River. And just as with our streets, half-measures don't cut it if you want the full benefits of new investments.

    How would the Alternative you've chosen affect the organization?

    LACBC's annual River Ride is one of the signature events that happens along the river. Each June, over 2,000 bicyclists explore the river from Griffith Park to Long Beach, traveling through the lush Glendale Narrows, dystopian industrial zones, beautiful riverfront parks, and the brilliantly restored Dominguez Gap wetlands along the way. Our riders truly see the best and worst of the river and the diversity of communities along the way.

    For this year's 13th Annual River Ride, we partnered with the River Revitalization Corporation to announce Greenway 2020, a campaign to make all 51 miles of the river, from Canoga Park to Long Beach, walkable and bikeable. We look forward to celebrating at our 20th Annual River Ride when our century route will truly include the entire river. Alternative 20 best captures this vision for a different L.A. River, one that connects L.A.'s communities with opportunities to walk, bike, and enjoy nature without leaving the city.

    What would you say to the Army Corps backing Alternative 13 (ACE) option?

    Now is not the time to be timid. We have one chance to get river restoration right, and this is it.

    Is there an issue you think the Army Corps should have focused more on in the study?

    Ecosystems in urban areas have incredibly high value for the services they provide. It's not all about acreage when the acres here can cleanse stormwater, attenuate flooding, and absorb air pollutants, all while providing respite to city dwellers. We can mitigate environmental injustices while meeting the Corps' mandate for habitat restoration. Alternative 20 will restore human habitat for Angelenos.


    Craig Collins, president of Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy (SLRC)

    Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy applauds the completion of the ARBOR study and its conclusions that substantial restoration efforts of the Los Angeles River are needed and worthy of public investment.

    Alternative 20 is the clear correct choice, because it's the only one that can achieve the benefits the entire ARBOR study contemplates.

    Silver Lake Reservoirs are close by the River and offer potential to aid key River restoration objectives, including stormwater management, riparian viability and reduced need for costly imported water in the Los Angeles region. As the Reservoirs are to be removed from the L.A. domestic water system, their future will be closely related to the future of the L.A. River. It is important that the Alternative selected for restoration be sufficient to achieve these objectives.

    Moreover, as shown by many other cities that have seen U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other waterway restoration programs, returning rivers to their cities as life-giving bodies serves as a lever to spur restoration of the urban core. Result: revitalized neighborhoods, economic resurgence and a better quality of life. These restorations pay for themselves in the transformation of their cities.

    Only Alternative 20 provides the comprehensive revitalization sufficient to create the leverage needed to build true transformation of the L.A. River. Alternative 13, while offering important benefits, will not have the results that can sustain the essential purpose of the effort. Half-measures return less than half benefit.

    Alternative 20's initial investment will be returned with interest, as long-neglected communities along the River enjoy its benefits and create new places to work, live and play.

    The Los Angeles River is the vital spine of Los Angeles, as it has been for over two hundred years. Restoring its life will bring not only bring a viable ecosystem back to its waters, but will spur the revitalization of neighborhoods far beyond its banks. This is what we have learned from other cities in the US, China, Korea, Spain, Germany, and many others. It is time for Los Angeles to discover what it can create with its River.


    Timothy Brick, managing director of Arroyo Seco Foundation (ASF)

    We support Alternative 20 because it provides the most comprehensive program, which will have great benefits in the Los Angeles State Historic Park, the Cornfields, as well as the Verdugo Wash, which won't be included in any of other alternatives. It means better interface with the Los Angeles River for Piggyback Yard and environmental improvements along the Los Angeles River.

    How would the Alternative you've chosen affect the neighborhood you work in?

    We're pleased that the Arroyo Seco confluence is contained in Alternative 13, which has a lot of good in it as well, but Alternative 16 and 20 really provide more interconnection between habitats. It is really through the Arroyo Seco that the San Gabriel Mountains connect to the rest of Los Angeles. It is a habitat corridor that's very rich in environmental values. Alternative 20 provides a much better connection in that corridor and benefits the millions living in the area. Improvements along the Los Angeles State Historic Park is really just across the river and Alternative 20 would provide more wetlands and connection benefits to the Arroyo Seco.

    What would you say to the Army Corps backing Alternative 13 (ACE) option?

    I think the Army Corps' system of evaluation projects is largely based on cost benefits. They're strictly looking at habitat benefits coming from the project. For the residents of Los Angeles and those who love the river, there are values that are also important, such as greater access to the river, wetland and recreational benefits. I understand why the Army Corps chose Alternative 13 in terms of cost benefit, but if you look at the big picture, it's clearly Alternative 20.

    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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