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25 Miles Yet to Be Developed Along L.A. River

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With the new year comes renewed vigor as Omar Brownson, Executive Director of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (LARRC), delivers a report on what to expect next from Greenway 2020, the LARRC campaign to green all the 51 miles of the Los Angeles River, along with a well-timed challenge.

"There are still 25 miles to be transformed [into pedestrian and bike-friendly paths] to close the gap," reports Brownson at the latest meeting of the Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee. That's 25 miles to go out of 51-mile trail.

Based on the LARRC's accounting, it seems segments in the San Fernando Valley need the most help of all (see figure below) with the segment between Coldwater Canyon and Riverside Drive hardly touched. The rest of the existing 26 miles of bike paths also need to be improved.

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If successful, Greenway 2020 hopes to "fundamentally change how Los Angeles moves." According to Brownson, there is a bicycle that passes by every minute on the L.A. River Bikeway. Add to that, 30 percent of the Metro stops in Los Angeles are within a mile of the Los Angeles River. If developed properly, "we can have Ciclavia every day on 51 miles of the river," said Brownson.

As inspiration for Greenway 2020, Brownson pegs the success of the High Line in New York City, which has generated $2 billion in private investments and 12,000 new jobs in the area, while giving property values a boost, all for just a $115-million investment. That's just on 1.45 miles of elevated rail way turned park land.

Though the process will undoubtedly take time, Brownson isn't alone in his lofty goals. Mayor Eric Garcetti's Back to Basics Agenda includes miles of L.A. River public access as a key metric for the Bureau of Engineering.

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LARRC has also identified key segments that they will focus on in the next two years. A snippet of the list includes the soft-bottomed segment of the river between North Figueroa to Riverside, and its ongoing project, the La Kretz Bridge, to which LARRC are hoping to add more amenities to attract visitors. Some initial ideas include finding a partner that can operate a café or sports rental shop nearby.

Not only is Greenway 2020 looking to the future, but it's actively pursuing some programs with partners across different disciplines. Slated for the next two months is a move to transform neglected street-ends by the Los Angeles River into attractive places to play (Rio Vista Project), and even a special beer brew from Golden Road that will help increase the visibility of the Los Angeles River to all guzzling Angelenos.

Brownson goes on to emphasize that all these efforts aren't LARRC's sole provenance. The LARRC's role is to harness the capabilities within a large cross section of interest groups. He's asked the members of the Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee not just to be the clearinghouse for river-related projects, but to take a more active role in shepherding each project along the city's tangled bureaucratic channels. How successful his plea is will have to wait a few more months, when Brownson will present a proper proposal on just how the Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee should go about doing that.

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