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Design Students Display Visions for L.A. River

Planning: Their ideas, including parkland, housing and an urban lake, have no price tags and would take decades to realize.

January 23, 2002|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Visions for the future of a four-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River near downtown are being exhibited this week. But there are no price tags attached, and the ideas would take 30 years to realize, if they ever are.

The ideas are those of 12 students of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, whose semester-long efforts were solicited by the Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

They were under the direction of landscape architect George Hargreaves, a professor known for his work at the San Francisco Presidio's Crissy Field and on the plans for the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Ark.

The Southland exhibit, open to the public without charge, is at the 2-year-old Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, where Lawry's California Center once stood on West Avenue 26. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The phasing out of certain industrial and rail activities on the east side of the river and the gradual crumbling of some of the concrete sides open up new opportunities, Hargreaves and five of the students said Tuesday.

The students envisioned uses ranging from parkland, housing and an urban lake to even a display of old rail cars.

Hargreaves mentioned possibly shifting all rail lines from the east to west side of the river and eventually putting those tracks underground.

Although he and the students suggested spreading the river outside its concrete banks and making its boundaries "softer and greener," there was little detailed discussion of how periodic floods might be controlled, other than retaining more water in the mountains. The concrete banks were built as a flood-control measure.

Friends of the River President Lewis MacAdams said visits were exchanged, with the students coming to Los Angeles and L.A. conservationists visiting Harvard, to examine a broad range of ideas for future projects.

"What we have here is a blueprint for the urban core for decades to come," he said.

Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge, welcoming Hargreaves and the students to the city Tuesday, said he believed that some of their ideas could be implemented soon but that others would take far longer.

No formal proposals have been drafted, however.

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