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An Approved Update to the L.A. River County Master Plan

A lot can change in two decades and it seems the county has realized this, especially when it comes to the fate of the Los Angeles River and the county that hosts it.

In a Board meeting held October 18, the county supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl that calls for a creation of a committee that would revamp the current 20-year old County Master Plan.

“It’s been 20 years since the L.A. River Master Plan has been updated,” said Supervisor Solis in a statement, “Our hope is that we can combine the many individual efforts along the 51 miles of River into a single, comprehensive and effective plan that will benefit both our community and environment.”

The motion would bring regional agencies, city leaders, nonprofit and community groups, and other stakeholders together to hammer out the specifics of the update. 

“So many people are excited about the 51 miles of the L.A. River,” said Supervisor Kuehl in a statement. “We want to avoid ‘plan-demonium.’”

The cement-confined Los Angeles River, right, slides past open industrial lots in Los Angeles, CA
The cement-confined Los Angeles River, right, slides past open industrial lots in Los Angeles. | Photo: David McNew/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Kuehl wouldn’t be too far off the mark. As of this writing, many masterplans, visions, and plans are already in place with varying degrees of completion.

Alternative 20, the $1.3 billion plan to revitalize 11 miles of the river (formally called the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Report) put the historic waterway back in the headlines, and since then other ‘plans’ and ‘visions’ have been dusted off and saved from anonymity. 

There is, of course, the city’s Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, which was adopted in 2007. Then, there is the Los Angeles River Valley Greenway and Bikeway project, the City of Long Beach’s RiverLink, the Watershed Conservation Authority's Gateway Cities and Rivers Urban Greening Master Plan, and the Metro’s I-710 Corridor project, to name a few. There’s also an ongoing effort to develop a plan for the Lower Los Angeles River, which is a bill introduced by Anthony Rendon, 63rd District Assemblymember.

The number and breadth of these plans indicate just how wide ranging the river’s effect is on the County of Los Angeles.

Solis said the update would create a more comprehensive vision of the river. “The original plan only looked at public rights of ways. The work that was done by the City of L.A. with the Revitalization Master Plan and the work that is currently being done by the Lower L.A. River Working Group will expand the opportunities for development of parks, cultural center and public enjoyment.”

Both supervisors are keen on creating a committee that would allow a diversity of voices to express their thoughts on the future of the river.

“This time around, we want to update the L.A. River Master Plan to reflect the diversity of Los Angeles. We have such a rich and variant population along the River and we want to protect the resources that we have,” said Solis.

A great blue heron keeps company with shopping carts in the Los Angeles River
A great blue heron keeps company with shopping carts in the Los Angeles River. | Photo: David McNew/Newsmakers/Getty Images

It would seem this is the beginning of an effort to create a super master plan for all 51-miles of the river. A feat of coordination that is already challenging, even at the city level.

The motion is just a first step, however, and many things are still in question. So far, there has been no final list of participants in the steering committee and no timelines set for this undertaking. Previously, it took five years for the county to start the process and adopt a County Master Plan. The Board directed the development of the Los Angeles River Master Plan in 1991 and adopted it in 1996.

The motion only indicated that there will be collaboration with the Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee, which includes the Flood Control District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as River L.A., which has published the River Index, a compilation of data from 25 years of work on the river done by various groups. Quarterly reports will also be expected.

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Top photo: Citizen of the Planet/Education Images/UIG/Getty Images

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