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Thoughts on the River: Jan Perry

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From 2001 to 2013 Jan Perry represented the 9th district of the Los Angeles City Council. Over the past decade, Perry supported major redevelopment projects in Downtown Los Angeles that represented more than $15 billion in investment along with $40 million in City tax revenue, and the creation of more than 90,000 full-time jobs. From catalytic developments like LA Live to iconic developments like Our Lady of Angeles Cathedral to major public buildings like the new Police Administrative Building--Perry was at the forefront of ensuring that downtown moved forward to meet its potential as the economic engine for the entire region.

Below are highlights from our conversation with Perry; you can watch the whole interview above.

On the importance of the L.A. River and water to the growth of Los Angeles:

I would go horseback riding along the river, so I've always had an interest in the river [...] If we look back at our history and the development of our ecosystem, we really are tied together. Los Angeles and the creation of Los Angeles is all based on water and the direction, I don't want to say the diversion, so I'll say the direction of water. It's our ecosystem, it's fragile, and we're trying to restore it.

On what the Army Corps' recommendation for the $1 billion river revitalization plan means for Los Angeles:

...that we finally had number one recognition, at the federal level; that this is a viable project [...] Ultimately this will spread out to bring about a balance to create opportunity for work, to support neighborhoods and their future growth, small businesses, to bring tourists to come and have a greater relationship with a community, because of the river. The river is the tie that binds it all together.

On looking to the San Antonio River for inspiration:

I remember the [San Antonio] river with the hotels and the restaurants backing up to it and having a back entrance and of course a street level entrance. What I saw were jobs at so many different levels. I saw jobs in the hotels. Jobs in the restaurants. Vendors with nice kiosks on the walkway, the boat operators, moving people up and down the river. The possibilities for generating jobs and the connectivity are just endless.

On how further river revitalization could be funded:

The one thing that I thought was missing in terms of a funding strategy was not to rely entirely on public money, but to use that as a tool for leveraging philanthropic money and private money. Then, I think you'll see results even faster [...] We are tasked with making sure that we have a funding strategy in place so that we can bring it to fruition. Otherwise, you know, people will get frustrated or they won't believe in it and then they won't reap the benefits of it.

On the potential roadblocks to the vision of a revitalized L.A. River:

The obstacles to realizing this vision are, time, money, and failure to focus, because you must stay focused. I think there has to be an element of bravery, and courage because this is very, very new. It has not been done before. There will be people along the way who will be nervous, or scared. You have to be able to communicate with them and talk about the construction, talk about the redefinition of a community, make sure they're included. Backing off or running away from it is not an option. It's something to be embraced.

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