Planning and public engagement continue on ambitious revitalization of Los Angeles River

As readers of my (Storm) 2008 book, Rewealth (McGraw-Hill) know, the restoration of the Los Angeles River—and the revitalization of of neighborhoods that have been devitalized by that lifeless, over-engineered monstrosity—has been a long time coming.

But planning and public engagement—if nothing else—continues. The latest approach divides the massive project into more easily-digestible pieces, with the current focus being on the lower stretch of the river.

Southeast Los Angeles County communities have long suffered from disinvestment, pollution, and from a lack of public open space. The Lower Los Angeles River Revitalization aims to reconnect residents to the river that flows through their communities. The Plan ensures that the Los Angeles River continues to provide flood risk management while restoring natural features, increases access to the river, creates opportunities for recreation, and promotes equity.

The County of Los Angeles, the river-adjacent cities of the southeastern county, and community organizations collaborated as part of a “Working Group” created by Assembly Bill 530 to create the Lower Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan (the Plan), which explores ways for improving the environment and quality of life along the river while identifying opportunities to reduce flood risk. The Plan’s goal is to connect individual communities to the river, and to ensure that residents have a voice in the process as the river is re-imagined and revitalized.

Perkins+Will worked with Tetra Tech, the Working Group, the San Gabriel and Lower LA Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and the LA County Department of Public Works on the public realm plan to set goals, explore the feasibility of improvements and develop concept designs for three signature open space sites and three signature design templates for infrastructure improvements. These signature projects aim to help transform the river into an integral healthy, equitable, and sustainable community.

Martin Leitner, urban design leader at Perkins+Will’s LA office says, “The signature projects are probably some of the largest open space opportunities that LA will ever see. Los Angeles is not about mega-projects, it is a city of diverse communities, cultures and moments. We worked with the Working Group, LA County and Tetra Tech to design concepts that serve the communities first.

Throughout the process, stakeholders were asked to describe what improvement they would like to see along the Lower LA River. The project team conducted over 80 community and stakeholder meetings that helped shape design objectives. Site-specific revitalization projects were identified for 155 locations throughout the river corridor, focusing on public open space or public land for public use.

Overcoming a contrast between the massive concrete channel and the scale of the surrounding neighborhoods, the Plan aims to transform the river into a canvas for the community to play, explore, and create. Open spaces, street spaces and multi-use paths are woven together creating a vibrant extension of the public realm.

Connecting the surrounding community with the built fabric, the signature projects apply a human-scaled approach, creating a canvas for activity, expression, and recreation along the Los Angeles River.

Renderings courtesy of Perkins+Will / KG&A

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