Reimagining the LA River with residents’ input

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The LA River running through downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Daniel Postaer.

The 51-mile LA River meanders from Canoga Park, through the San Fernando Valley and downtown LA, and out to sea in Long Beach.

After devastating floods in the 1800s and early 1900s, the Army Corps of Engineers turned most of it into a concrete channel. In some northern sections, it’s barely more than a trickle most of the year, but it picks up water as it moves south. Efforts have been growing to revitalize stretches of it by reintroducing rocks, trees, river banks, and living organisms.

“You have a river that's been encased in cement,” says Ed Reyes, Executive Director of River LA, a nonprofit dedicated to the future of the river. “There's been a lot of activity as to how we could rejuvenate this corridor.”

He and other organizers have synthesized their ideas into the LA River Master Plan, a list of actionable items that LA County residents can comment on until March 14.

“The master plan is providing the guide rails,” he says. That’s to tackle environmental social justice issues like climate change, stormwater harvesting, and recreation opportunities for underserved communities. 

“We're seeing institutional decisions that have had very negative impacts on communities of color,” says Reyes. “This process is allowing us to rethink how we look at this corridor and how we create new opportunities. It's like the new frontier.”

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