At its Dec 2nd Board Meeting, Friends of the Los Angeles Rivers Board of Directors voted unanimously to push for an alternate route for the High Speed Rail, scheduled to begin construction within a year. Currently, both proposed alignments threaten to cut off the River even more thoroughly from surrounding neighborhoods, making FoLAR’s goal of a Los Angeles River Greenway from the mountains to the sea even more difficult to attain.
The four and a half miles of River through the central city is already the most isolated and inaccessible stretch of the entire River because of the train tracks that line the channel on either side. FoLAR’s proposal would essentially move the High Speed Rain right-of-way away from the River entirely, and hug the Gold Line right-of-way north of Union Station and parallel the 5 freeway. You will be hearing much more about this in the months to come, as the route of the High Speed Rail could impact River revitalization for the next Century.
December 1, 2009 was one of those history, big-step-forward days – the first meeting of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (RRC). One of the key recommendations of the City’s LA River Revitalization Master Plan, the RRC is a not-for-profit body established by the City of LA empowered to own and develop land and buildings, manage and operate facilities, and to use all legal funding tools and parnerships to implement the objectives of the Master Plan, the city’s primary entity to do direct public and private financing to River-related revitalization projects.
The five directors of the RRC, appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilman Ed Reyes, who chairs the Ad Hoc LA River Committee, and Council President Eric Garcetti, represent a real cross-section of the City. Chairman Harry Chandler is a long time friend of FoLAR. Other members include Bruce Saito, the head of the LA Conservation Corps, actor Daphne Zuniga, lawyer Daniel Tellalian, and civil engineer Dennis Martinez. The five Directors bring a variety of experience in project management, funding dispersal, and construction oversight.
The spirit in the room, among the newly appointed Directors, the representatives of the city departments, and environmental observers, was very high. The effort to create a Los Angeles River Greenway has taken another big step.
FoLAR’s Board, with the leadership of newly-elected Board Chairman Alex Ward of lxw design, is calling for an international competition to propose alternatives to the current plans to tear down and re-build the 6th St Bridge over the LA River. The weakened bridge has fallen victim to a well-documented problem that has destroyed many older poured concrete bridges. A chemical reaction causes the concrete to disintegrate, creating cracks and eventually causing the collapse of the bridges that were made with a certain kind of sand, used widely when the 6th St Bridge was built in 1932.
Working with architects at Buro Happold and Hargreaves Associates, FoLAR is proposing a call for ideas from around the world to create a new bridge, iconic on its own merits, rather than a pallid imitation of our current 6th Street Bridge. If we are to lose such an icon, something of international scope selected from a pool of international talent should take its place as a centerpiece of the Los Angeles city scape. If you would like to support this idea, please feel free to contact FoLAR via email. Updates will come as this effort unfolds.SPACE
Turtle ingesting a plastic bag. Photo: Melbourne Zoo
This holiday season, help the Los Angeles River and our oceans by giving the gift of reusable bags!
It is estimated that Los Angeles County alone goes through 6 billion plastic bags per year and costs our financially strained cities .17c per bag for disposal, which does not include environmental costs. While some plastic bags are being recycled, the unfortunate truth is that most are ending up in our environment – they travel from our neighborhoods, down our rivers, and out to our ocean. Recycling in addition to river and beach clean ups are no the whole solution to the blight of single use plastics in our environment.
The Algalita Marine Research Institute first began studying plastic debris floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 1999. Since then, they have discovered this patch of plastic is nearly the size of Texas and 80% of the plastic debris collected was from land based sources – watershed. For more video on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch click HERE.
To date, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland have successfully implemented bans on single use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies, and the City of LA has passed a motion to ban plastic bags by 2010 if the State enacts legislation to impose a fee on plastic bag use. The California State Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Natural Resources is currently working hard to pass AB 68 Brownley Single-Use Bag Reduction Act to reduce the impact of single use bags on our environment. To find out how you can support this bill, please visit the Heal the Bay website.
Individuals can also do their part! Through December 17th you can pick up a reusable shopping bag by simply bringing 5 single use plastic bags for recycling and exchange them for a free “Brag About Your Bag” reusable shopping bag. For a list of participating stores and dates visit the Brag About Your Bag website. You can also purchase these excellent stocking stuffers from the following retailers:
FoLAR canvas tote: http://www.cafepress.com/FoLAR
4 in 1 Earthwise Reusable Bags: http://www.earthwisebags.com
Chico Bags: http://www.chicobag.com
June 8th, 2009
KCET Launches Departures: The
(Best if viewed in Firefox 3.0 or Internet Explorer 7)
FoLAR is pleased to announce the launch of KCET Departures: The Los Angeles River—an incredible, web-based resource that gives people amazing access to the
This year, The River Network held its 10th Annual National River Rally in Baltimore, MD, and focused on urban river issues. The three day Rally consisted of over 70 seminars, presentations, and brainstorming sessions, hosted by river advocates, experts, and enthusiasts from across the country. The focus on urban rivers is timely, as the EPA recently received a mandate from their new leadership, asking for an urban rivers initiative. Staff from the national office of the EPA in Washington, DC were there to hear what urban river advocates had to say.
The Rally was Friday through Sunday, May 29-31. On Tuesday, June 2nd, American Rivers (national advocacy group focused on river & water resource policy) held River Action Day. Attendees were trained on Monday June 1st, and taken to Capital Hill on Tuesday for a full day of lobbying. They organized all the appointments, so that each attendee met with senators and representatives, or their staff, from their state and district.
If any city knows about urban river issues it’s Los Angeles. Ramona Marks of Friends of the LA River attended the River Rally (thanks to a generous scholarship from River Network sponsors) and here is her report.
What an inspiring weekend! If I had cloned myself three times, I still couldn’t have attended all the seminars that would be helpful for the LA River & FoLAR. Each day, I spent every hour learning from experienced river advocates, and during every 15 minute break I met someone new who had insights or questions about urban rivers. Many people approached me to tell me that they respect the work of Friends of the LA River, and that they find our fight for the LA River to be critical and inspiring.
Some folks, like David Groenfeldt, the Executive Director of the Santa Fe Watershed Association, are trying to do what we are – remove concrete, create a greenway with parks and river walks, turn the river into a commercial corridor where neighborhoods come together, jobs are created, and locals can stretch their legs. Others are trying to avoid the situation we are in – lobbying hard to ensure that development doesn’t encroach into the flood plain of their river, so concrete isn’t introduced as the remedy for flooding!
On Friday, we had a four hour session focused on strategies for urban river revitalization, lead by Lynn Broaddus of the Johnson Foundation and Helen Sarakinos of Milwaukee Riverkeeper. Lynn presented on the Menomonee River, a major tributary of the Milwaukee River. When Milwaukee was an industrial city, the center of industry was along the Menomonee, and the River was contained in concrete. As factories emptied and industry moved out of town, the center of the city became a rusting brownfield, toxic and neglected. Now, commercial development has been re-introduced, following a massive clean up and the re-planning of entire stretches of the River, to ensure access, habitat, and park space.
Looking at the photographs, I saw something very familiar – concrete channels. I also saw the renderings for revitalization, images that remind me of the LA River Revitalization Master Plan. The final images in Lynns presentation were of a natural looking waterway, with park space and pedestrian bridges and pathways. They did it – and we can too!
Professional river advocates were abundant, as were consultants, coaches, and funders. I spent an evening talking to Marc Alston, who worked for the EPA for almost 30 years, culminating with an assignment to the revitalization of the South Platte River through Denver, CO. The Denver revitalization project was championed by Mayor Webb, whose legacy is the creation of a greenway through Denver – changing the city from one that turned its back on the South Platte River, to a city that celebrates the community created by open park space and a greened waterway. They did it – and we can too!
Can you see a theme emerging? The LA River isn’t the only River that has been neglected, channelized, fenced off, and separated from the communities around it. In our brainstorming, we figured out that one element that pushed revitalization movements into action was a political champion. Everyone successful had an active environmental org, architects and designers with green sensibilities, and a vibrant and vocal community asking for improvements. But the factor that tipped the balance in each case was political will.
The LA River has architects, designers, fans, and non-profits dedicated to the improvement of its watershed. What we need here is a political champion. And at a time when stimulus funding might be available for the creation of jobs, our City Councils & Mayors should be focusing on our infrastructural needs. The New Deal funded the concrete channel in the 1930s-1960s, employing over 17,000 people over more than 25 years. Creating park space, opening the River back up to the communities along it, and even taking out concrete in areas would be great ways to create jobs, create commercial and green corridors, and increase property values.
In Los Angeles, as part of the Master Plan, we are close to deciding on a demonstration project, a collaboration between the Bureau of Engineering and the Army Corps. We will be asking for your input about locations and plans very soon. Encourage Councilmembers Ed Reyes, Tom LaBonge, Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar, and Jan Perry; they are the members of the Ad Hoc LA River Committee, and they are the River heros pushing for change. Support them in their efforts and thank them for the work they are doing! The more support and encouragement they get, the more they will know they are doing the right work.
We’re seeing implementation of storm drain grate programs in Pasadena, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and other cities along the south LA River – a critical step in keeping trash from getting to the River in the first place. Mayor Bob Foster in Long Beach has attended FoLAR’s Great LA River CleanUp for two years in a row!
Although steps may not be obvious quite yet, and we’ve suffered some setbacks, improvements to the LA River are slowly moving forward. The more you show your local politicians that they could be that River hero, that their legacy could be revitalization of one of the most paved urban rivers in the country, the better they understand what their constituents want. If you need information about how to contact your local city council member or mayor, please send us an email at email@example.com.
River Rally inspired me to be focused on the goals of FoLAR and the communities that support our efforts. I hope that you are also inspired by the possibilities, by the other positive stories of urban rivers, and that you continue to support FoLAR by telling your friends about the River and our efforts to bring about a lasting positive change for the entire region. Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome, and you give us the strength to go to our policy makers and advocate for a better LA River! Let us know what you’d like to see in your neighborhood, maybe together we can bring out the champions in our local politicians all along the LA River.
There are so many people to thank we don’t know where to start: Volunteers at every site came out in record numbers and picked up an amazing amount of trash; all of our sponsors, who make the CleanUp possible by donating funds or products – Earthwise bags for donating the reusable shopping bags and being an amazing company with a great vision; volunteer musicians, photographers, and videographers making the whole experience fun and documenting it for everyone. And speaking of photographs – we have a lot of ‘em! We’re still collecting and we will be putting them up online. Look for a re-designed CleanUp page, where each site has it’s own page, complete with photos from this years CleanUp. Here are a few photos, just to get you started…
Steelhead Park (photo by Raymond Woods Ii) :
Marsh Park (photo courtesy of The MikoLevines – see cute children in foreground):
Sepulveda Basin (photo courtesy of Kimberly Kirvan):
Taylor Yard (photo courtesy Maria Margarita Lopez):
Golden Shore (courtesy of board member Tammy Metzger):
Willow Estuary (courtesy of Melinda Wong Jankowski):
The LA Times did us the favor of writing up a lovely piece, available HERE.
As soon as we get our CleanUp page re-organized, photos and volunteer counts will be posted, as well as the trash weights for each site!
Friends of the fishes of the LA River, our fish study is here! We did pass them out at RioFest in October, and we have had some great feedback so far. Many of you have asked if we can send out an electronic copy, and the answer is YES!
When George Wolfe and his team of kayakers took to the LA River at the end of July 2008, they did so as a statement about the navigability of the River and the Clean Water Act protections that we fear will be denied the LA River due to a recent Army Corps determination. They were also closely followed by a team of intrepid filmmakers who wanted to make sure that the LA River Expedition was captured on film and that it can continue to serve as a message about the LA River. Here is the trailer for that film. The feature film ‘Rock the Boat’ is currently in post-production, looking for funding. For more information contact Thea at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see other work that Thea has done to bring awareness to the LA River, check out ‘Heather and Goliath’ on YouTube – an official selection at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival held in January of 2009.
FoLAR joined numerous environmental organizations to urge the governor to avoid repeating mistakes like that of paving the LA River with a single-minded goal. The complete text of the letter is below, including all our partners in this effort to ensure that infrastructure projects are not taken on too hastily, to the cost of communities and neighborhoods.
January 14, 2009
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Los Angeles Office
300 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,
In the depths of the Great Depression, Los Angeles County emptied its relief rolls, putting 17,000 people to work paving the Los Angeles River by hand. Today, as we work to undo that monstrous miscalculation, calls are rising all over the land to put people back to work building or repairing our tattered and neglected infrastructure. Like all other hard-hit Angelinos, the undersigned environmental and environmental justice organizations welcome this economic stimulus and look forward to working with government to initiate critical public works efforts and bring them to completion.
But as governmental agencies prepare “shovel-ready” projects for a massive influx of cash we in the L.A. environmental community urge local, state and Federal authorities to make sure that all such projects reflect the principles of smart green infrastructure and equitable development, and reject proposals which attempt to set aside environmental and civil rights laws, principles, and safeguards; or compromise public health, safety and equal justice in the name of full employment. We strongly oppose your efforts to waive or modify NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act and CEQA, the California Environmental Protection Act, in the name of haste.
In this moment of political inclusiveness, when what joins us seems more powerful than what tears us apart, we the undersigned urge that all new public works contribute to the sustainability of our air, earth, and water and to the restoration of communities, both human and the wider communities that share this planet. We believe all Federal, State, and local stimulus projects should jump-start the green Jobs movement and our long-overdue transition to a green economy. We look forward to creating and working with the broadest possible coalitions to restore our economies and the health of the earth.
Arroyo Seco Foundation
The City Project
Coalition for Clean Air
Community Gardens Council
Earth Day L.A.
Friends of the Los Angeles River
From Lot to Spot
Heal The Bay
Latino Urban Forum
Mujeres de la Tierra
Natural Resources Defense Council
People For Parks
The River Project
The Sierra Club
Parks for People, Trust For Public Land
Cc: Speaker Karen Bass
Senate Pres. Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
Representative Henry Waxman
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Diane Feinstein