How Do You Envision a Riverfront District?: Mitch O'Farrell

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

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: Mitch O'Farrell
Occupation: Councilmember-elect, 13th District

What has been your experience with the L.A. River?

For 10 years I worked on issues here at the river on behalf of Councilmember Garcetti. I was on his staff that time, and I staffed him when he was on the Ad Hoc River Committee. I worked on the Revitalization Master Plan, I worked on the bike and walking trail for seven years and we dedicated that in December of 2010, and several river parks.

How about your personal experiences with the river?

I've lived in the area for 21 years, so when Rattlesnake Park first opened I began walking the river. That was back in the early '90s. So I've been enjoying the river environment just as a constituent for many many years. My personal kind of blends with the professional at this point, in terms of just how I hang out here, I ride my bike, I come here to the parks and enjoy it. And it's a very exciting place to be.

How would you envision a "Riverfront District" in Northeast L.A.?

I would envision a Riverfront District involving the constituents here, in terms of putting the vision together and I know that's what you're doing, and that's a great thing. I would envision that it is a place where people feel really great about coming to because right here at the urban core of Los Angeles they can come to a place and enjoy a natural habitat so it would involve restoration of the riparian habitat and a real gathering spot and a destination place for people to visit but also a wonderful place for people who live here.

How are you going to continue, if you become elected into office, the work with the river?

Well we did the master plan, the Revitalization Masterplan, we adopted it in 2007, and that provides about a 30 year guide, a way forward, well into the future. So there are so many projects that many of us would have worked on, we have a vision and that will continue and you need someone at the helm, someone who has the historical context of all that we've done, to carry that vision forward and that's what I like to do on the Los Angeles City Council.

Are there any plans in the short term and long term?

There are some really incredible short term plans. For example we're gonna get a new pedestrian bridge in Atwater Village just north of here, and it's south of the Hyperion Bridge. The Hyperion Bridge, which connects Silver Lake with Atwater Village, is about to get seismically retrofitted. But as a community benefit of that, we're gonna build a new foot path, so people can safely cross the river at its most beautiful juncture, south of the Hyperion Bridge. So I'm very excited about that. So I envision a place here at the river where we can bring people safely across the river at different points all up and down, so that we can increase circulation on both sides of the river, build more pathways on both sides, and even a horse trail from Griffith Park and North Atwater Village where the equestrian center is. We can really bring the river back to life on its banks, and right inside it with the kayaking and canoeing and really have a destination place for recreation.

How do you think all these changes will affect the community?

For the better. When any community improves, there's always a trade off. And I've been talking to constituents in Elysian Valley for months, and everyone knows that change is coming, but we just have to make sure that it's the right kind of change, and that people who live here and have a stake in the community can help shape. But everyone knows that it's gonna be for the better, we just have to make sure that we plan ahead, that everything we do is in consideration and with sensitivity, towards the residents and businesses here. But I know we're gonna do that, because that's how we've really begun to carry things forward here.

One specific place that I like to see changed...yeah I would like to see all of the trapezoidal channels on both sides eventually become more naturalistic. So I love the long term vision of removing, or let me just say modifying the channel in ways that bring people to the river more safely, but also change the look and feel so we get away from this trapezoidal channel and then the flat part. So I'm looking for infrastructure changes that can accommodate the great floods because they're still gonna come occasionally. But also during the vast majority of the time when it's not flooding, that it gets people here so we can enjoy it to a larger extent.

Fill in the blank: "I want my L.A. River to be..."

I want my L.A. River to be clean, safe, and accessible.

Tell us your vision for a Riverfront District using the form below. Click here to see more interviews.

How would you envision a Riverfront District?


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