LA County Unveils Final LA River Master Plan – Daily News

Los Angeles County unveiled its final master plan for the Los Angeles River on Tuesday, May 17, which the county board of directors will consider for approval on June 14.

The plan aims to improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and provide equitable access to parks. Its specific goals include:

— Creation of 51 miles of contiguous open space along the entire river;

— construction of auxiliary facilities along the river;

— Completion of the LA River Trail to create a continuous path along the entire river;

— Creating inviting approaches to the river and the LA River Trail;

— development of safe transport routes to the river;

— Enhancing habitat and ecosystem function along the river corridor and using it as a living laboratory;

— increasing the biodiversity of plant species with an emphasis on native plants in California; and

— Creation of an interconnected network of habitat patches and corridors to support wildlife.

“The LA River Master Plan outlines important investments along the river’s 51 miles and supports our river-border communities,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis. “When enacted, this plan will ensure every LA County resident has equal access to the river while improving our local water supply and expanding parks and open spaces, hiking trails and more.”

The plan, unveiled on Tuesday, is an update of the original master plan drafted in 1996 with goals for flood control and beautification. In 2016, Solis and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl spearheaded a request to update the plan with a focus on addressing the county’s societal needs. The process included community engagement through a 41-member steering committee, more than a dozen public community gatherings, and 15 events coordinated with 10 community organizations.

“The LA River is an incredible natural resource, but it was never designed to serve the recreational and environmental needs of our river-bordering communities or the county as a whole,” said Kuehl. “This final version of the LA River Masterplan brings the river’s potential up to date by creating a thoughtful, comprehensive roadmap that creates a 51-mile vein of sustainable and healthy habitats for plants, animals and people.”

The LA River begins in Canoga Park, where Bell Creek and Arroyo Calabasas converge, and flows through the city of Los Angeles and over a dozen other cities before emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach. More than half of the river is in the San Fernando Valley, although its tendrils reach the entire region.

The plan update, overseen by LA County Public Works, is designed to ensure improved river access and ecosystem support while aiding the recovery from COVID-19, alleviating housing shortages and addressing concerns about housing unaffordability.

The plan – which has met concerns it will accelerate gentrification along the river – calls for an increase in affordable housing units within a mile of the river and seeks to develop ways to identify areas at risk of displacement in order to accommodate them prioritize projects. The county’s Affordable Housing Coordinating Committee is also advising on stabilization strategies for housing along the river.

“We examined areas of social, cultural, and environmental disparities, including homelessness, gentrification, public open spaces, public health, and community and environmental inequalities in infrastructure,” said Mark Pestrella, the county’s director of public works, who is also chief engineer of the Flood Control District Los Angeles County. “The result is a plan that recognizes the river as a complex ‘system of systems,’ in which people, places and the environment are encouraged to live, mingle and thrive together.”

Renowned architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin are among those involved in the process and have supported a team that the district said has prioritized preserving the diversity of communities living along the river.

“The LA River has seen several major changes over the years,” Gehry said. “It has been a privilege to work with public officials and organizations to envision a fairer future for the people living along the river by helping to heal the environmental and socioeconomic injustices that seem to follow the course of the river.”

A revised draft of the updated master plan was released in January 2021 – the first update in 25 years and the only plan to encompass all 51 miles of the river. Once approved by the Board of Supervisors, the final plan will serve as a toolkit for potential projects along the river and improve funding opportunities to get the projects off the ground, the county said.

“The LA River Masterplan prioritizes public investment in historically underserved communities and serves as a guide for projects that promote park access, community and environmental health, and resilience to climate change,” said Jessica Henson, partner at landscape architecture firm OLIN, that works with the district.

People can learn more about the plan at LA County Unveils Final LA River Master Plan – Daily News

Caroline Bleakley

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