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Climate and Environment

Board Of Supervisors Adopts LA River Master Plan, But Community Advocates Withdraw Support

Household items sit in a storm drain along the Los Angeles River in Frogtown.
Household items sit in a storm drain along the Los Angeles River in Frogtown.
(Andrew Cullen
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A coalition of tribal, environmental, and community groups has withdrawn its support for the Los Angeles River Master Plan.

The master plan, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors today, includes the creation of raised green spaces above the channel's floor supported by concrete structures. It envisions ponds, trails, trees, walking paths and more.

L.A. County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella says officials will work with partners and stakeholders to address their concerns.

"We took on the audacious task of reconciling all of the visions of the L.A. River," he said. "I think we did a pretty good job of reconciling that."

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However, Laura Cortez, an organizer and co-executive director at East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, says the plan ignores their input by laying down more concrete. Cortez and other community advocates would like to see more of a "naturalization" of the river.

"Prioritizing native plants, prioritizing the idea of letting the natural river flow, those are the types of things that are not extraordinary," Cortez said. "They are not out of reach, but they are definitely needed."

In a letter, Cortez and advocates wrote that the master plan’s team looks at the L.A. river as “nothing more than a flood control channel”:

“From a scientific and urban planning perspective, we know it is indeed feasible, less costly, and beneficial to surrounding communities to deploy nature-based solutions when managing floods (see, e.g., the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s guidance on Building Community Resilience with Nature-Based Solutions and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ ARBOR Study for the LA River).”

Cortez points out that local Indigenous tribes like the Tongva and the Chumash were the original caretakers of this land. They understand how water operates in this region.

Instead, Cortez argues that building spaces without community input, such as the proposed SELA Cultural Center, "induces gentrification."

“We're talking about the irony of this project, stating that it will ‘serve the local community,’ and in the same statement, say ‘we're hoping to attract people,’” Cortez said. “And really, that's not what we want.”

Supervisors also agreed on creating a land bank pilot program Tuesday afternoon that will "prevent real estate speculation" and create new opportunities for affordable housing in areas facing "rapid gentrification and displacement" near the L.A. River.

Supervisor Hilda Solis called the adoption of the plan a “monumental step toward improving the health and well-being” of communities from Northeast to Southeast L.A.

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