In recent years, momentum has been building to recognize the Los Angeles River as an integral part of the city’s cultural identity. After many years of neglect, the river has the potential to help define future communities and public spaces. The 32 miles of river that flow through Los Angeles are channelized, with the exception of a few miles at the Glendale Narrows. There, one can enjoy natural vegetation and other amenities instead of concrete. Proponents feel the need to capitalize on redevelopment opportunities in this area, such as creating new bike paths and community parks. This is not to mention the need to recreate the river's ecosystem and perform other updates and improvements to the area.
In terms of municipal direction, the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP), which was adopted back in 1996, provides a long-term framework for river revitalization projects and improvements. The goals of LARRMP are ambitious and multifaceted, targeting not only physical improvements to the river corridor, but extending to adjacent neighborhood improvement projects. For example, the LARRMP envisions tearing up more concrete to increase public access to the river, improving and establishing new bike lanes, implementing neighborhood redevelopment, and creating recreational opportunities. One overarching goal is to create a sense of value and pride, making the Los Angeles River the centerpiece of the city’s vibrant urban fabric.
Another more recent city ordinance, the River Improvement Overlay (RIO), focuses more on the design and construction aspects of projects neighboring the river. Special city-designated districts will follow RIO guidelines to enhance qualities of that neighborhood. RIO guidelines would solely apply to new construction projects and to existing projects undergoing heavy renovations. A point system is devised to ensure that the developers’ project meets the many goals of revitalization. Some design elements are worth more points than others – for example, utilizing greywater for at least 50% of irrigation earns two points. To earn another two points, developers can choose to complete a class related to native plant gardening.
An interview with Glen Dake from DakeLuna Consultants shed light on LARRMP and RIO. More than just a set of guidelines for river revitalization projects and planning, ordinances such as LARRMP and RIO draw attention to the affected communities themselves. Perhaps the process of redevelopment will help turn a more critical eye to community needs, in conjunction with highlighting aspects of the river. For example, DakeLuna worked on a project commissioned by the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation that worked with students in the Elysian Valley, asking them to re-imagine how entry points to the river in the community could be turned into interesting and lively spaces. For instance, the Elysian Valley area beside the Glendale Narrows is essentially a food desert. Riverside development projects provide opportunities for planners and community members to assess community needs, such as having more food outlets. Pictured above is the River Loft project that DakeLuna Consultants helped design.
What city ordinances have been implemented in your community? How have city ordinances affected you? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Victor Tran. Data linked to sources.