$2 billion plan to revitalize Los Angeles River unveiled

A pricey, decades-long plan to transform 32 miles of the concrete-filled Los Angeles River into a "green ribbon" of parks, pedestrian walkways, bike trails and housing was unveiled by city officials Friday.

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Published February 2, 2007 by NCTimes.com
Associated Press 

LOS ANGELES — A pricey, decades-long plan to transform 32 miles of the concrete-filled Los Angeles River into a "green ribbon" of parks, pedestrian walkways, bike trails and housing was unveiled by city officials Friday.

Very little of the estimated $2 billion-plus cost has been secured, but planners say they hope it will come from a mix of federal, state and local sources.

The proposed revitalization represents the first comprehensive plan for restoring a section of the river, an industrial-strength storm drain running from the San Fernando Valley to the sea that was channeled decades ago to protect the city against periodic flooding.

The draft proposal consists of 239 projects, and is intended to guide construction over 25 to 50 years. It calls for communities to reconnect with the river through the creation of new open spaces, recreation trails and new residential and commercial development.

"Since the city's early years, neighborhods have turned their backs to the river. Now the people of Los Angeles have the opportunity to enjoy the river as a safe … and celebrated place," according to the executive summary of the master plan.

As part of their long-term goal, officials want to restore the river's natural function without compromising its flood-control role by widening the river channel in some places and creating more riparian habitats along the corridor.

"It's taken more than a year and a half, and thousands of Angelenos, to get to this point. This is their plan. And that's what I'm most proud of," Councilman Ed Reyes, who chairs the L.A. River ad hoc committee, said in a statement.

The proposal was drafted by the city, consultants and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It has the support of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and a majority of the City Council wants some sort of change.

The Corps of Engineers, which paved over the river to control flooding between the 1930s and 1950s, is conducting a three-year study to determine what is technically feasible.

The entire urban waterway runs 51 miles through several cities in Los Angeles County. Movie directors have used its concrete gullies for car chase scenes and drag races in movies such as "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and "Grease."

The revitalization plan focuses on the stretch of the river that winds from Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley through downtown Los Angeles.

Officials hope breaking the restoration effort into small pieces will allow them to tap into a variety of funding sources, including local, county and state water initiatives. Private funding may also play a role.