County Seeks Input On 'Re-Imagining' LA River

Sean Belk

By Sean Belk

Imagine riding a bike from the shoreline in Downtown Long Beach to a trail along the Los Angeles River to enjoy a day of fishing, wildlife sightseeing and live music.

Such a recreational experience is what some residents hope will someday become a reality as the County of Los Angeles looks at ways to revitalize the waterway and update the river’s master plan.

Efforts to update the LA River Master Plan, a comprehensive blueprint covering all 51 miles of the flood control channel, were launched this year as a way to modernize the county’s existing plan developed in 1996. County officials began gathering feedback from residents, including those in Long Beach, at community meetings along the stretch of the river.

So far, four community meetings have been conducted, including one in Long Beach on Oct. 24 at the Jenny Oropeza Community Center at Cesar E. Chavez Park, with more than 100 people in attendance.

County officials stated in a brochure that the project, expected to be completed by 2020, will eventually “synthesize more recent ideas for portions of the river and bring a coherent and comprehensive vision to the transformation and re-imagining of the LA River.”

The new LA River Master Plan will cover the entire river that traverses through about 17 cities from Long Beach to Canoga Park, and will take into account recent studies and plans, including a draft of the Lower LA River Revitalization Plan, which includes Long Beach and was completed last year.

Mark Hanna, a water resources engineer who is part of a consulting team for the project, said most of the river’s infrastructure is decades old and issues that diverse communities along the waterway face today are more complex than they were when the original plan was developed.

Still, he said the original master plan’s mission is similar to the county’s new goals and include enhancing aesthetic, recreational and environmental values while improving the quality of life for residents and recognizing the river’s primary purpose as a flood control.

Hanna said the county’s consulting team has reviewed over 130 planning documents, guidelines and standards, including the most recently completed draft of the Lower LA River Revitalization Plan. He added that the master plan will cover three main categories that include, “environment, people and water.”

Additionally, the new master plan will focus on various draft goals that include: impacts to affordable housing; embracing local culture and communities; enhancing equitable opportunities for river access; and fostering learning and educational opportunities.

Other goals of the new plan include: improving regional water supply; promoting healthy, safe and clean water; providing a protective and resilient flood management infrastructure; providing inclusive and safe parks, open space and trails; and supporting healthy connected ecosystems.

During the community meeting in Long Beach, some residents expressed the need for more security to ensure safety along the river for local residents as well as a clear plan to improve water quality.

John Kindred, a Long Beach resident and co-founder of Long Beach Environmental Alliance who has used the LA River for bike riding, skating and horseback riding, said his main concern is how the county will prevent other cities’ pollution from continuing to flow into the Long Beach shoreline, affecting water quality and local marine life.

“What are they doing to stop all this trash from going into the ocean?” asked Kindred, who further questioned how the new LA River Master Plan will fit into the Army Corps of Engineers’ and the City of Long Beach’s ongoing effort to study reconfiguring the Long Beach breakwater.

Dan Knapp, executive director of the Conservation Corps of Long Beach, who helped lead a presentation on the county’s update process, told the Beachcomber that a main concern for local residents continues to be increasing safety and water quality.

He added, however, that community members have also expressed the need for more access to the river, which has generally been fenced off. Knapp said more access could eventually provide possibilities for recreational activities, such as fishing, BMX biking, kayaking, running and public events.

“The river is still a flood control channel and there’s only so much you can do,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to put in a bunch of concrete or plant a bunch of trees because it’s going to flood down there. But you could build more park space.”

Knapp added, “If anything is changing, it’s the mindset [of county officials] that the river is a resource, let’s use it. People want access to it in a responsible, safe way.”

The county’s consulting team will continue to revise the new master plan’s goals based on feedback from community members. After studying and analyzing current conditions along the river, the county will start seeking comments next year on opportunities for the future of the river, with a final draft master plan to be released in 2020.

The County of Los Angeles is expected to conduct eight more community meetings on the new LA River Master Plan, with a final meeting in Long Beach scheduled for July 2019. For more information, visit


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