The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information visit www.mylariver.org
KCET Departures is the media partner of the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative.
On April 27, 2013, the Northeast L.A. Riverfront Collaborative hosted the River Bike + Walk Spectacular at Marsh Park in Elysian Valley. During the festivities, community members and visitors shared their stories and experiences of the river as part of the KCET Departures StoryShare event. Here are their stories.
Name: Christine Rodriguez
Occupation: Branch Manager, Burbank Public Library
What has been your experience with the L.A. River?
I've lived down on the church side and I've lived in the neighborhood since 1981. My husband's family has been here since the '40s so I've heard stories of my husband's family growing up. The boys, on Easter, were playing down in the river and got their Easter clothes all dirty so dad made them run around in their underwear. My son, who is now 22, he'd come down and play on the river and on the river bed further south where there's more of a riverbed; we call it the Elysian Beach. I've walked the dogs here for their five-and-half years.
How would you envision a "Riverfront District" in Northeast L.A.?
I would like more parks and not as much commercial or business development. I like the idea of the art collective with the artists, that's small, not big. Even like a coffee shop would be too much.
The idea of more development on the river is kind of bittersweet for me, since I've been here since 1981. We know it's been a best kept secret, we enjoy the naturalness of it, and if there were to be businesses and more people coming in, there's a fear that we might lose a part of our neighborhood.
In what way?
There's going to be more zoning restriction, there's going to be more traffic coming. Elysian Valley doesn't have a lot of ins and outs for traffic. Not that anyone is doing anything wrong, but people looking at what we can do and what we can't do. The fact that my husband's family have been able to have multi-generations buy houses and be here, and then you have the gentrification aspect of people coming in.
You told me the bitter part, what is the sweet aspect of it?
The sweet aspect of it is that we love the river. My husband retired from Fish and Game, so he has a lot of knowledge about the river and it's wildlife. And it's wonderful to come down and see that type of thing down here in the river, and to be able to get more resources and more understanding for it.
If there were recreation, you would be against it?
I know that at one time the Harvard group thought about floating a dam and filling it up and making a lake in the river over the summer. To me that's a bit too much, and that's turning the river into something that it's not.
How do you think these changes in the L.A. River will affect the community?
We're already seeing some gentrification. Some of it's speculation, some of it is people who have discovered us because of the river, and they've really fallen in love with the neighborhood.
It's more of a lower income area, I think there's some fear there that it's going to push them out. We have a great grandmother, a grandmother, a great aunt, we have three of the four uncles living in the neighborhood. We got down to the next generation to my niece, and she wasn't able to buy in the neighborhood. And I think that there's other families that a part of that history for the Valley would be gone.
Fill in the blank: "I want my L.A. River to be..."
I want my L.A. River to be natural.