The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information on the collaborative visit www.mylariver.org
After the originally scheduled date was postponed due to an unusually heavy rainstorm, a perfectly sunny Los Angeles morning greeted the attendees to the press event to kick off the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative.
The event was held at Marsh Park in Elysian Valley, where single family homes, industrial structures, and pocket parks share the only neighborhood that directly abuts the Los Angeles River. Curious local residents, conservationists, and city officials, as well as students from nearby schools who took a field trip to the event as part of our Youth Voices media literacy program, all gathered at the small but well-maintained park to show their support for the potential and future of the river.
"We have this wonderful effort that is transforming this corridor," said CD1 Councilmember Ed P. Reyes who, as Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the L.A. River, has been a strong supporter of the river. He will soon see a river-adjacent park named in his honor.
"This [project] allows us to provide the community to define itself," continued Reyes. "And that's what we've been doing for the last 12 years -- through the L.A. River Master Plan, through the various efforts of parks and services, Santa Monica Conservancy -- it's been the community that's been driving this."
The Northeast L.A. Riverfront Collaborative is a holistic, collaborative urban planning effort that will take advantage of the River as an economic development asset. The collaborative takes up the mantle left behind when the state's Community Redevelopment Agencies were dissolved last year, but with added emphasis on inter-agency cooperation and community-based approaches.
CD4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge added his words of wisdom, mentioning the two things one should need in life: "Water and relationships -- water to nourish your body, to grow your food, to clean your mind. And relationships to give you the real feeling of being human, of being about something. And that's what this is all about - the relationship to this river."
As part of the collaborative, KCET Departures has the task of using multimedia to engage the NELA communities, which include the neighborhoods of Atwater Village, Elysian Valley, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Lincoln Heights.
For our first phase, we decided to approach this with a rather old-school method: a three-sided physical kiosk on which locals can write their responses to the simple prompt, "I Want My L.A. River to be..." So far the kiosk has traveled to the Cypress Park Library, Atwater Village Farmers Market, and Atwater Crossing. After a brief appearance at the kick-off event, it now resides at the Lincoln Heights library.
The responses range from the sincere to the humorous: "A place where families come together and celebrate one of the landmarks of our city," or "More like Jurassic Park!"
At the kick-off event, members of the community were invited to share their thoughts on the L.A. River. Local residents, city workers, and students from the Youth Voices media literacy program all had unique perspectives on how they see the river in the future. Below you can see a slideshow of some of the responses we collected at the event.
Stay tuned for updates on the NELA Riverfront Collaborative as well as on L.A. River-related events in which you can participate and be a part of the future of the river.
Photos by Justin Cram and Yosuke Kitazawa