How Do You Envision a Riverfront District?: Omar Brownson

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: Omar Brownson
Occupation: Executive Director, L.A. River Revitalization Corporation

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

I have very limited experience with the L.A. RIver before I got involved. It was one of those things -- I grew up in L.A., I certainly enjoyed our beaches and mountains but I didn't really track the L.A. River, except for Ballona Creek, which I used to bike when I was younger.

How has your involvement in the Corporation changed you?

I love the L.A. River. I think that if we want to live in Los Angeles that is cleaner, greener, more connected, the L.A. River is our best chance to make that happen. So to me, I've always loved Los Angeles, and I think the L.A. River is one of the best ways to make even a better L.A.

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

I think that the L.A. River here is special. This is one of my favorite neighborhoods along the L.A. River here in Frogtown, Elysian Valley. So I think part of what makes it special is that it's been historically isolated. You got the 5 Freeway on one side and the L.A. River on the other. And so in some ways it's a little microcosm of Los Angeles. You have residential, you have apartments, you have industrial, you have commercial. And so anything in the future's gotta always reflect the eclectic nature of this neighborhood, that has everything from architects and artists, to auto body mechanic shops. I mean it's so L.A. I think the L.A. River needs to always be something for everybody in Los Angeles, particularly for those that have been here from the beginning.

The base of this Riverfront Collaborative is really the edge. And that edge begins with the bike path. So how do you use the bike path to really enhance the connectivity of the L.A. River? That's the foundation that everything else builds on. So we've been looking at a lot of recreational opportunities. Could that be zip lining, could that be a climbing gym or a wall? How do we activate the space around that recreation?

You got a number of youths: you got L.A. River High School just across the river from here. And so we want to really think about how the cul de sacs that currently dead end into the L.A. River, how can those dead ends really can be new beginnings and green access points. And that's our Rio Vistas project. It's enhancing the safe routes and connectivity and working with the local youth to make that happen.

How do you think these changes in the L.A. River will affect the community?

As you bring more people here, that brings change. And so we wanna make sure that the local community's involved in that change, and that's why the local youth, the projects that we selected are street ends that those youths actually live on. So they're not just changing the community in general, they're actually changing their block. And so that's an important part of what's happening, is to make sure that this is an inclusive process. But we're also making sure that investment is happening to enhance this great place.

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

I want my L.A. River to be a part of the transformation of Los Angeles.

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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