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L.A. River Celebrates a Decade of Change

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When working on long-term challenges, there never seems to be a time to stop and celebrate. On October 12, a breakfast gathering to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the city's Ad Hoc Committee on the Los Angeles River may have been the rare occasion when the city took its time to take stock of how far it has come in saving its historic waterways.

At the beginning, the City Hall rotunda was flanked by booths manned by city and community groups working toward the revitalization of the Los Angeles river. They included the City of Los Angeles Stormwater Program, Friends of the Los Angeles River, Heal the Bay, the River Project, and Save L.A. River Open Space.

Remarks from First District Councilmember Ed Reyes (who heads the ad hoc committee and recently presented with a park named in his honor), Councilmember Tom La Bonge, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and California State Senator Kevin de León gave the audience a glimpse of how much perception and public support around the Los Angeles River has changed.

But perhaps the most telling of all presentations was Reyes' City Council presentation detailing the milestones of each year of the Ad Hoc Committee's existence.

Here's a refresher:


  • Ad Hoc Committee on the Los Angeles River created.
  • Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge Opens. Reyes calls the opening of the bridge "the beginning of what revitalization efforts could be."
  • Los Angeles River trash adopts Total Maximum Daily Load, which outlines the greatest amount of pollutants a water body can receive without violating water quality standards and uses.
The Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge over Los Feliz Boulevard
The Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge over Los Feliz Boulevard. 


  • Interdepartmental River task force established.
  • Los Angeles County adopts L.A. River signage guidelines.


  • Voters pass $500-million Clean Water Bond or Proposition O, funds set aside for public health projects that clean up the city's waterways.
  • First L.A. River appreciation day.
  • LA County approves landscape guidelines for Los Angeles River.


  • City launches L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan.
  • L.A. River Plastics Industry Task Force established, to help identify potential solutions to the problem of plastics littering the river.


  • Los Angeles River Youth Conference held.
  • Studio City greenway opened.
  • L.A. River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study, or ARBOR study, initiated.
  • Construction of Rio de los Angeles State Park begins.
Studio City Greenway
Studio City Greenway. 


  • Council adopts L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan.
  • U.S. Congress authorizes $25 million for the Los Angeles River.
  • Rio de Los Angeles State Park opens.
Rio de Los Angeles State Park in Cypress Park
Rio de Los Angeles State Park in Cypress Park. 


  • Los Angeles River Corps begins work.
  • First L.A. River day on Capitol Hill hosted by Roybal-Allard.


  • L.A. River memorandum of agreement signed by city and county
  • L.A. River Revitalization Corporation Board founded
  • City purchases Albion Dairy site.


Elysian Valley Bike Path by the Glendale Narros section of the river
Elysian Valley Bike Path by the Glendale Narros section of the river. 


  • Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa holds first L.A. River day of service.
  • L.A. River chosen as federal Urban Waters Pilot.
  • Paddle the L.A. River program begins
First ever kayak trip down the L.A. River as part of Paddle the L.A. River
First ever kayak trip down the L.A. River as part of Paddle the L.A. River.   


  • North Atwater Park Expansion completed.
  • Sunnynook River Park, a five-acre land located between the I-5 and the Los Angeles River bike path, breaks ground.
  • Federal Government includes portion of L.A. River trail in National Recreational Trail System.
North Atwater Park Expansion
North Atwater Park Expansion 

As the presentation went on, it gradually became clear that the Los Angeles River has gone beyond being a forgotten concrete-encased waterway. But there's a lot more that still needs to be done. In the coming weeks, as Reyes reminded the audience, City Council will be reviewing the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, which re-zones 660-acres of land within Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park and Chinatown,

In a decade, the Los Angeles River has become a rallying ground for Angelenos looking to reclaim a part of their history and revitalize their ecosystem. The river, once neglected, is now a subject of multiple layers of government partnerships that span from federal down to local government levels.

As various City Council members stood to give their speeches, it became clear that much of the government push came from Councilman Reyes himself. Given his and the Ad Hoc river committee's achievements over the years, one can't help but wonder: what comes after Reyes steps down in his third and final term? Have the issues around the river gained enough momentum that it could survive without government push?

Undoubtedly, there has never been more interest around the Los Angeles river than it has now. One only need look at the fast-selling tickets to kayak the river or the ongoing projects on the riverbanks to know that more good things will surely still come.

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