OOS 12-8
From vision to implementation: The case of revitalization of the Los Angeles River

Tuesday, August 12, 2014: 10:30 AM
307, Sacramento Convention Center
Pauline K. Louie, Urban Water Federal Partnership, Los Angeles, CA

If early settlers to Los Angeles were drawn to the sparkling waterway that carried water from mountain to ocean, they would be hard-pressed to find that water in our landscape now.  Native peoples and the first Europeans to California followed 50+ miles of verdant shrubs and woods – alongside which sprang the beginnings of the City of Angels.  But as growing settlements sought permanence, the fiercely independent Los Angeles River would challenge this by flooding, changing course, and pushing against the increasing human habitation in the area.  By the middle of the 20th Century, the promises of wealth in the Golden State would seek to subdue the Los Angeles River with concrete and sentence it to being little more than a gutter for that which the developing metropolis deemed incompatible for its purposes.  Whether visionary or subversive, the movement in the last 20 years to unwrap the layers of infrastructure that has encased the Los Angeles River has been a triumph of citizen action and the courage of a region - one not widely known by what is old - to redefine itself by something that preceded the first seekers of the LA dream. 


Revitalization of the Los Angeles River is engaging Angelenos and has received national attention, and yet the process of coaxing nature back to the River, then connecting people to this natural bounty in a sustainable way is a delicate and costly process.  Revitalization brings together restoration of land, water, flora, fauna – and tries to create a new ecosystem that also includes increased outdoor recreation, public education of the environment, economic development and preservation of community and cultural assets.  As daunting as this challenge is, the benefits are irresistible to local stakeholders, as well as local, state and federal agencies. 

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership was started in 2009 – a commitment by 13 federal agencies led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to target hidden or neglected urban waterways such as the Los Angeles River for revitalization (www.urbanwaters.gov) .  The Los Angeles River was chosen in 2010 as a pilot location, and a national showcase of collaboration among diverse local stakeholders, and between local and federal resources.  Under this framework, this session will survey the journey of the Los Angeles River from vision to implementation – a study of challenges and victories in the process of revitalization.