Cities are Made by People Too: Activists Gain Access to River and Beach

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A smartphone solution to beach access

Reminding DnA that people shape cities as much as the magic wand of design, two recent LA Times reports demonstrated the power of activism over public space — in gaining access to public waters that had long been out of reach.

Martha Groves reported on Venice-based Jenny Price (pictured above, photo courtesy of Los Angeles Times), who has “made it her mission to show people how to enjoy Malibu’s 27 miles of oceanfront, even the beaches hidden by the homes of the well-heeled… Now she has gathered her years of hard-won knowledge into a smartphone app called Our Malibu Beaches. Her goal is to help beachgoers outfox privacy-loving millionaires and open up the coast once and for all.”

The LAT followed up with this editorial, arguing that an App is a great idea in principle but that better accessways to the beaches still need to be constructed, saying, “the local coastal plan for the city of Malibu, which the state Coastal Commission drew up, says as a guideline that there should be an accessway every 1,000 feet. . . But decreeing that in a coastal plan and making it happen are two very different things. . .  County officials have said they are committed to building that access along with a parking lot and a staircase. They should make that a priority. The ocean and much of the beaches belong to all of us. But if we can’t access them, then they’re not really ours.”

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Lisa Girion’s wrote about the opening of the L.A. river, packed with kayakers yesterday as about two and a half miles through the Elysian Valley opened to the public for the first time since the river was covered in concrete decades ago.

27 years ago Friends of the L.A. River embarked on a seemingly quixotic mission to turn the concrete flood channels back into pleasant waterways that would attract birds, animals, and people. After years of pressure (not to mention poetry from FOLAR founder Louis MacAdams), that included campaigning to have the channel be formally recognized as LA River and the gradual creation of bike lanes and hiking trails, efforts paid off in the opening yesterday of a 2.5 mile stretch of the river between Fletcher and Oros Street as a recreation zone for the summer. The designation allows people to boat, kayak (pictured above, photo courtesy of Los Angeles Times), walk or fish from dawn to sundown through Labor Day, Sept. 2.”

Curbed LA also covered the opening of the river, as shown in this picture below. Alissa Walker authored the post from the center of the action; she kayaked the waters and wrote about the experience here.

DnA has extensively covered the 6th Street Bridge competition, part of a larger plan for opening up the downtown and Boyle Heights neighborhoods next to the river (here and here). Hear a Which Way LA show about redefining the river as a river as well as the efforts of George Wolfe and his wife Thea Mercouffer to open up the river to kayakers, documented in the film, “Rock the Boat: Saving America’s Wildest River.”