On Friday, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of what Mayor Garcetti has called the “crown jewel” central to the revitalization of the L.A. River, the G2 parcel, a 42-acre post-industrial lot in Cypress Park.
Following nearly four years of negotiations with the riverfront parcel’s owner, Union Pacific Railroad, the land was purchased at $60 million, a deal that was almost lost to rising real estate prices in river-adjacent communities. Twenty-five million of the cost was secured through state funds and the remaining cost will be financed by Municipal Improvement Corporation of Los Angeles (MICLA), allowing the city to borrow the money and pay it back at a cost of $4.2 million annually over 30 years.
City officials expect $25.4 million in federal funding for the property, but that funding may now be at risk following a declaration by President Trump to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, including Los Angeles.
The G2 parcel is the largest piece of undeveloped land along the river and the last piece of land in the 250-acre Taylor Yard railroad complex still owned by Union Pacific Railroad. The purchase would allow surrounding communities direct access to the river and would connect the G2 parcel to the Rio de Los Angeles State Park and the Bowtie Parcel.
“I made the acquisition of this site a top priority, because it will create much-needed public open space in the middle of the city, provide extensive habitat restoration, and serve as a key access point for local communities to connect to the river. I’m grateful to the City Council for their visionary approach and spirit of collaboration in getting this done for the people of Los Angeles.” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement.
Plans outlined in both the city’s Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration project to transform the former railroad complex into a public green space could begin only after a major cleanup of toxic materials, including petroleum hydrocarbon, arsenic and lead found in the soil during groundwater investigations, take place.
The remediation costs to bring the G2 parcel to industrial standards have been estimated at $14.715 million. It would cost the city an additional $252 million, based on earlier estimates, to meet the ecological and recreational standards.
The purchase of the G2 parcel was long awaited by river advocates like Friends of the Los Angeles River, who see the land as an opportunity to maximize habitat restoration, publicly accessible space and recreational opportunities in a community that has long been underserved.
"Acquiring the G2 parcel is the most integral part of the L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan, for it is the only direct access point to the river from the communities I represent. This is a huge win for NELA [Northeast Los Angeles] and the beginning of the future for the L.A. River as we imagine it," said Councilmember Gil Cedillo in a statement released by the mayor’s office.
Plans to transform the G2 parcel into the lush river habitat envisioned by river advocates include restoring some of the river’s natural floodplain and riparian habitat, a widening of the river to expand the soft bottom that is already there and further sloping of the bank, which would allow for aquatic riverine habitats to dominate the new riverbed. The soil that for years has affected groundwater quality from the G2 parcel will be removed and cleaned to improve the quality of groundwater, surface water and reduce flood risk.
The purchase of the G2 parcel has propelled the already fast moving revitalization plans for the upper L.A. River forward, but plans for the lower L.A. River are rapidly catching up with the formation of the Lower L.A. River Working Group in 2016. The Working Group is set to complete a Lower L.A. River Master Plan similar to the City’s masterplan by March 1, 2017.
Correction: The parcel was purchased at $60 million from Union Pacific Railroad, not $60 billion as previously reported.