Los Angeles County has published the final L.A. River Master Plan for consideration and adoption by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors as a framework for equity, access and infrastructure improvements along the 51-mile river.
The new Master Plan is the only plan encompassing all 51 miles of the L.A. River. While prioritizing critical infrastructure improvements, park access and water resources along the river, the Master Plan targets climate instability, addresses biodiversity loss, supports COVID-19 recovery, mitigates housing shortages and maintains housing affordability. The Master Plan builds on the city of L.A.’s Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, the state’s work on the Lower L.A. River Revitalization Plan and 144 other local planning documents to develop a comprehensive vision for the river from Canoga Park to Long Beach.
Once adopted, the Master Plan will serve as a toolkit for equitable community-driven projects along the river, marrying the latest research and technical data with community engagement efforts to support environmental and community health in L.A. County. The Master Plan will improve funding opportunities for projects along the river while meeting the specific needs of river-adjacent communities.
In 2016, Supervisor Hilda Solis and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl spearheaded a joint motion to update the plan to address the region’s evolving societal needs through a process of robust community engagement. Throughout the five-year effort, led by L.A. County Public Works, the Master Plan was developed with significant community input. This includes a 41-member Steering Committee, 13 public community meetings and 15 events coordinated with ten community partner organizations, engaging thousands of county residents in person and garnering nearly one million impressions online.
“The L.A. River Master Plan outlines critical investments throughout the 51 miles of the river and supports our river-adjacent communities,” said Solis, Supervisor to the First District. “Once adopted, this Plan will ensure that every L.A. County resident has equal access to the river while improving our local water supply and expanding parks and open space, trails, and more.”
“The L.A. River is an incredible natural resource, but it was never designed to serve the recreational and environmental needs of our river-adjacent communities or the county as a whole. This final version of the L.A. River Master Plan brings the potential of the river up to date by establishing a thoughtful, comprehensive roadmap that creates a 51-mile artery of sustainable and healthy habitats for plants, animals and people,” said Kuehl, Supervisor to the Third District. “I am excitedly looking forward to the adoption and implementation of the Master Plan.”
“We explored areas of social, cultural, and ecological disparity, including homelessness, gentrification, public open space, public health, and community and environmental inequities in infrastructure,” said L.A. County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella, who is also the chief engineer of the L.A. County Flood Control District. “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 coexist, intermingle and thrive”
Among the many involved with the planning process, architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin have supported a team of experts led by Geosyntec Consultants to develop a data-driven vision for the L.A. River. At the forefront of this work, the Master Plan team has prioritized maintaining the rich diversity of river-adjacent communities from Canoga Park to Long Beach.
“The L.A. River has had several big transformations over the years,” said Gehry. “It has been a privilege to collaborate with public officials and organizations to imagine a more equitable future for the folks who live along the river by using it to help heal the environmental and socio-economic inequities that seem to follow alongside the path of the river. We started out with the goal of trying to green entire 51 miles of the L.A. River. After years of study, the science is clear: the concrete of the channel cannot be removed without dramatically increasing flood risk and thereby needing to displace tens of thousands of people. There are other tools that are outlined in the plan and ready to use. So, let’s get going and let the L.A. River benefit millions of Californians.”
“L.A. County Public Works and the Flood Control District are leading the way in multi-beneficial planning and project development along the entire L.A. River,” said Mark Hanna, Senior Principal Water Resources Engineer at Geosyntec. “The projects along the 51-mile L.A. River truly aim to increase river resiliency and prioritize sustainability for the future of L.A. County residents.”
“The L.A. River Master Plan prioritizes public investment in historically underserved communities and serves as a guide for projects that promote park access, community and ecological health, and resilience in the face of climate change,” said Jessica Henson, Partner at OLIN, the landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm working on the plan. “The plan is supported by principles of equity that help residents thrive in place.”
“The L.A. River Master Plan is a significant example of the ways that public infrastructure projects can provide multi-benefit solutions to the affordable housing crisis,” said Sissy Trinh, Founder and Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance. “Initiatives should reduce displacement and support the diverse communities in L.A. County to ensure that those along the river maintain access even after the implementation of projects outlined in the Master Plan.”
The Master Plan is expected to be adopted by the county on June 14, 2022 and can be viewed or downloaded here.