A Community-Driven Revitalization Plan for the Lower Los Angeles River
This presentation will explain how the Working Group guidance and the community input received at various outreach events and online surveys developed a cohesive, community-driven revitalization plan for the Lower Los Angeles River (LLAR), that identifies over 150 sites for multi-benefit, sustainable projects, which incorporate concepts of the three main plan elements – water and the environment, the public realm, and community economics, health, and equity.
The LLAR is the core of southeast Los Angeles, and protects life and property by collecting stormwater from surrounding areas and safely conveying it to the ocean. The LLAR’s paths and trails also provide a space for the community to recreate and travel within the region. Despite these functions, the LLAR’s potential value as a place for relaxation, discovery, recreation, tourism, and economic development has yet to be realized. In 2015, California State Assembly Bill 530 (AB 530) was passed to revive the LLAR through the development of a watershed-based, equitable, community-driven plan. The AB 530 required the creation of the LLAR Working Group, which was chaired by the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, and included 40 stakeholder organizations, comprising advocacy groups and the 14 cities located within 1 mile of the LLAR from Vernon to Long Beach. The Working Group collaborated to create the LLAR Revitalization Plan (the Plan), which delineates programs and projects to improve the environment and residents’ quality of life.
The Working Group convened for almost two years through 80 meetings to gather feedback and design a truly collaborative and inclusive planning process. To ensure that revitalization efforts included in this Plan were selected and designed to serve to the needs of the river communities and improve their quality of life, the Working Group developed a planning process — also referred to as the technical framework — to select appropriate locations and imagine restoration efforts which would provide multiple benefits for diverse populations.
The Working Group also solicited ideas and inspiration from the community through extensive outreach and input events. During the first phase, the Working Group listened to the people talk about their vision for the river. The second phase was to share how their vision was captured in the Plan through the development of specific goals and objectives. Community outreach events included the LLAR River Movie Night, six river bike tours, three kickoff events, six community workshops, pop-up booths at 12 events in their neighborhoods, multiple youth outreach events including #ReclaimingTheLARiver, and two trail etiquette training sessions for multiple users (horse, bike, pedestrian). Residents also had the opportunity to share their input through two different online surveys.
Ultimately, the Working Group guidance, community input, and use of the technical framework directed Plan development and identified over 150 potential multi-benefit projects, which included stormwater capture and green infrastructure. The process also created several standardized templates to streamline revitalization efforts including multi-use trails, welcoming street-ends and green streets, concrete channel enhancements, and improved and safer bridges and crossings. Additional components of the Plan include a Community Stabilization Toolkit, developed to help prevent displacement due to gentrification; a Watershed Education Program, which identifies ways to engage the community about the personal connection between everyday activities (such as driving a car, watering a lawn, picking up pet waste) and watershed and environmental health; and a multi-agency governance structure, which will facilitate long-term operations and maintenance of the revitalization projects along the LLAR. These projects, when fully implemented, will help connect the drops from the mountains to the ocean.