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City Dives Into River Revival

Environment: Council panel hopes to guide efforts to make waterway an attractive part of the urban landscape.


The newly formed ad hoc committee on the Los Angeles River met Monday, marking the first time the city will try to come up with a master plan for the revitalization of the river.

The group, headed by Councilman Ed Reyes, is hailed as significant by those long involved in efforts to revive the river because the committee can act as a central organization to coordinate various efforts.

"This is the first time the City of Los Angeles has taken an active, organized role in the development of the Los Angeles River," said Lewis MacAdams, the chairman of the board of the Friends of the Los Angeles River, a nonprofit group that promotes restoration of natural habitat, open space and parks around the river. "It's very significant at that level."

Observers note that the body--composed of Reyes and City Council members Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Tom LaBonge and Jan Perry--has direct power over things such as zoning that may make it easier to accomplish projects.

The committee was created in August by Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla.

The committee held its first meeting--attended by about 150 community members, environmentalists and city officials--in Lincoln Heights atop the Buena Vista Bridge, where the river trickles along beneath North Broadway.

The committee plans to centralize numerous studies done on the 51-mile river over the years, take stock of ongoing revitalization projects and consult with community members. Members warned that converting the river into an attractive attribute of the city is a long-term effort.

"It's important that we change the image of the river," Reyes said. "In the past, everything we wanted to hide, to not see, we put them next to the river. And in the process, we failed to recognize the power of this resource."

The task of the committee is to come up with ideas for projects.

For its first action, the committee adopted a set of nine guiding principles. The principles include the idea that the river, restored to its natural beauty, offers opportunities for business development and housing. The principles also advocate that the river can have many uses, including recreation, open space and flood protection.

The Los Angeles River runs from the western San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. In some parts, it has vibrant natural habitats. But in some parts--such as the stretch through the central city--its path was paved long ago, creating an attractive target for graffiti vandals.

In the last few years, there have been a flurry of projects. Most heard about are plans for state parks at two sites, known as Taylor Yard and the Cornfield, near downtown Los Angeles. Other projects include the development of a system of small parks and bike and walking paths.

Key in keeping the river projects alive have been groups such as Friends of the Los Angeles River.

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