Monday, May 19, 2008


So for once I thought I'd blog a little bit about what appears to be a good plan currently being implemented by a city government.

I'm hoping the good plan works out the way so many dream.

I'm talking about something named the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan.

A critical element of the Revitalization Master Plan has been ongoing opportunities for public involvement in the process - something which is too often left out of such planning. And as you'll read below community involvement can make all the difference.

Recently one aspect of the plan "opened." in Long Beach. The Dominguez Gap Wetlands, a small, restored wildlife habitat area adjacent to the Los Angeles River which offers local residents the chance to experience the flora and fauna one might expect to find in a wilderness. It is model for what could be.

Wrigley Area Neighborhood Alliance (WANA) President Jill Hill says, “When you enter the wetlands, it’s a vision that you would never expect to see in this area. Coming into it, it looks like a trail, but once you enter and you see all the wildflowers, the water and the birds, it’s unbelievable.”

The first of its kind in the region, the wetlands project, along the east and west sides of the Los Angeles River between Del Amo Boulevard and the San Diego (405) Freeway, still offers flood protection along the river's urban lower reaches.

But it also helps improve groundwater quality, restores some native habitat and offers trails for walkers and horseback riders.

The blog Breathing Treatment points out the construction of the 37-acre east basin includes one mile of treatment wetlands, pedestrian and horseback trails, bird observation decks, woodland and riparian habitat and a bike trail rest station.

Some of the wildlife native to the area, including the red-shouldered hawk, the great blue heron, and the tri-colored blackbird, are returning to the region, according to county officials. Plants like purple sage, buckwheat, monkeyflower and willow trees are also part of the habitat.

The Los Angeles River flows 51 miles through some the most diverse communities in Southern California. It stretches 32 miles within the City of Los Angeles alone, from Owensmouth in the upper reaches of the northwest San Fernando Valley, all the way to the border with Vernon at the southern end of Downtown. The River is typically dry during summer months, and can become a river filled with racing waters during the rainy season.

The L.A. River has historically been polluted by stormwater and runoff that collects on the city streets and communities, due to littering and illegal dumping of automobile fluids and other contaminants.

Part of the plan is to educate the public to take action to prevent such pollution and to keep the area clean.

It all sounds good, doesn't it?

On the other hand, my friends, while every other community along the LA River is being gifted with parks, housing and community-community-building projects, one outfit seems determined to spoil it for those in downtown LA and demonstrate how so few can mess up a good idea so easily.

The Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA) seems to think lining the river within the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council’s boundaries with block after block of wall-to-wall new factories is a swell idea.

Did I mention that contrary to what I happily reported above the CRA refused to hold even a single public meeting within downtown until public pressure embarrassed them into giving a single token meeting.

As for that meeting, the blog LA Cowboy reports:

"Because even though many of us attended a half-dozen of these public meetings in the Central Area to give our input – every single suggestion or request made by those of us Downtown regarding the river within Downtown LA Neighborhood Council’s boundaries was 100% ignored."

Except for a few street trees."

And, oh yes – if there were any palm trees discovered in the area – they would have to be removed and destroyed since palm trees were not considered sufficiently politically correct to be allowed in our neighborhood."

Again, behind closed doors, every decision regarding our community, every detail of our future down to what trees we would be allowed to have in our neighborhood, had already been made long before the first 'public' meetings were held."

Entrenched special interests within City Hall had already determined – that no matter what our community wanted – all we deserved along our river was factory buildings. No parks or anything serving the various communities that actually live in the area would ever be allowed since the goal was to have the area 'cleansed' of all residential uses."

Some also fear that in the city of Los Angeles up to 45 percent of communities (primarily Hispanic) near the River itself will have no access, or are not within walking distance to parks of any kind.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that a good idea doesn't go bad.

The following is from

We love it! We hate it! The L.A. River in Long Beach
Jenny Price

While the City of Los Angeles is busier than ever implementing its incredible, amazing, wonderful yearling master plan to revitalize the L.A. River, still the big river kudo this year so far goes to the brand-new Dominguez Gap Wetlands in Long Beach, where lovely new river projects have been sprouting steadily but with far less media attention and fanfare.

Brought to you by your public servants and your money—the L.A. County Public Works, using state (mostly) funds—this quondam big ugly ditch has now become a fifty-acre, mile-long quiet riverside wetland with a walking path through tens of thousands of blooming native wildflowers.

It is, without exaggeration, one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen in the L.A. basin—yes, hard by the 710 between the 405 and Del Amo Blvd. [To see it for yourself, you can enter from the north side off Del Amo just east of the river (park on Oregon); or enter from the south end at 4062 Del Mar Ave. off W. San Antonio Dr.]

And it’s one of the smartest things. Like a lot of L.A.’s upcoming master plan projects upriver, it’ll catch and clean up polluted stormwater runoff, and recharge and store our local water supplies. You know, that water—not the stuff that we use up to a quarter of our energy expenditures and ~1200 miles of aqueducts to import from northern California and the Colorado River.

That’s the good news. In the dubious-news column, the big L.A. River blooper this year so far goes to…the cabal of civic and business leaders in Long Beach who seriously propose to move the mouth of the river--and its assorted loads of trash and toxics--from downtown Long Beach a mile west to the port. This project has received, mercifully, little media attention outside Long Beach—please forget it after you read this—and qualifies as the worst really huge plan for the river since 1989, when a state assemblyman suggested that L.A. convert the river into a dry-season truck freeway.

What would be the best use, after all, of hundreds of millions of dollars (conservatively) of your money and several decades of efforts by your public servants? We could clean up the L.A. River, or, alternatively, we could divert the pollution to someone else’s neighborhood—and to the area that already happens to suffer the worst air quality, no less.

Moving the river would, of course, leave the blooming Dominguez Gap Wetlands high and dry. It would also make Long Beach’s ambitious master plan to revitalize its own nine miles of river—a plan that's not being nearly heralded enough--completely pointless.

The L.A. River is a lot like that just now: it thrives in parallel universes of imagination. In the older universe, it’s a reviled concrete anti-river of a sewer, a joke, and the place to dump the bodies in movies. And in the second universe, it’s now the Great Green Hope of the Future. It’s the inspiration for wildly ambitious plans to create a 51-mile greenway along the river corridor, which itself should serve as the backbone for a county-wide network of greenways, green streets, wetlands, and other projects that can give us the park and public space we need, clean up our polluted water bodies, and maximize our local water supplies.

Try a visit to the Dominguez Gap Wetlands. It’s a preview of the second universe.

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