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We Can’t Squelch a Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity to Plan the LA River’s Future

Friends of the LA River asks you to comment on the LA River Master Plan Update.

a-bike-path-next-to-the-la-river
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

You know a bad plan when you see it. A “great” public planning document serves as the backbone of site-specific projects for up to 25 years, balancing amenities and developments for public benefit. An excellent plan anticipates major challenges – like extreme floods spurred by  climate change or displacement in the midst of a housing crisis and economic downturn – and indicates solutions to rise to the occasion. 

Unfortunately, the County Public Works’ LA River Master Plan Update (LARMPU) is flat out a bad plan. While the Public Works team spent two years updating their original 1996 LA River Master Plan, they have produced a strikingly narrow document that rejects a watershed-wide approach and channel naturalization outright, and fails to prioritize robust anti-displacement policies that would keep current residents in their homes while assisting them on the path to homeownership. The LARMPU in its current form falls short of the generational opportunity to protect the people from the coming onslaught of climate change and uplift our fragile local ecosystem with in-channel naturalization, where appropriate. Instead, the LARMPU buries the river with a platform park without exploring a holistic, regional approach that would make a verdant and healthy river accessible to the communities alongside it. 

For two years Friends of the LA River (FoLAR) and a host of fellow community organizations have served on the steering committee, attempting to advise the County Public Works throughout on how to improve their approaches and align with community needs. We have done our best to represent you as a community member – but you have the strongest voice in demanding the County to deliver a Master Plan that sparks our imagination and sets a bold course for our concrete waterway as an area of restoration and opportunity for current and future generations.

Join the public opposition to the LA River Master Plan Update by submitting a comment online before May 13, 2021. This portal provides a template letter to send directly to Public Works. 

FoLAR along with key partners Heal the Bay (HtB) and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ) teamed up last month to provide members of the public a virtual advocacy training to explore the contents of the plan and provide our context for opposition. Resources like the presentation (link) and recording of our workshop are available online. 

We are calling on the public to join us in opposition to the LARMPU by sending a letter directly to LA County Public Works. You can sign our template letter and send online at folar.org/county-plan, or use that same portal to personalize your message before sending. 

Wherever you live in the LA River’s 900 square mile watershed, this County Plan for the 51 miles of the river channel will impact your access to parks, flood resilience, and our ability as the largest county in the United States to rise to the challenge of being true leaders on climate change. With the amount of money necessary for a platform park we could afford to remediate lands, prepare for climate change, and stem the tide of displacement in river-adjacent communities.

Michael Atkins is the Director of Communications and Impact at the Friends of the Los Angeles River.

Knock LA’s parent organization, Ground Game LA, signed FoLAR’s letter.

This piece is published under Knock LA’s “Activism” vertical. Posts under Activism reflect the views and policies of those organizations and authors, which may not be shared with Knock LA. Authors typically are not compensated for writing pieces shared under Activism.