(FoLAR) Friends of the Los Angeles River is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization founded in 1986, whose mission is to protect and restore the natural and historic heritage of the Los Angeles River and its riparian habitat through inclusive planning, education and wise stewardship. Once home to steelhead and grizzlies, the Los Angeles River meandered through wetlands, marshes, willow, alder and sycamore, providing desperately needed water for the region. Now running over 50 miles long – from the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley to the ocean in Long Beach – the Los Angeles River flows through 14 cities and countless neighborhoods. When the Army Corps of Engineers initiated a flood control project in the late 1930′s, they began the process of paving 80% of the River, creating the world’s largest storm drain. Over the ensuing decades, the River that had been the sole water supply for the City of Los Angeles before the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed in 1913 almost disappeared from public consciousness. With the cement came a perceptual shift: the River no longer existed. Instead, it was a “flood control channel,” a no-man’s land, surrounded by fences and signs.

FoLAR Brochure

Click on the Above IMAGE to Download a PDF of the 2011 Brochure SPAC

FoLAR was founded on the belief that effective advocacy, education, collaboration and imagination can accomplish great things. We know first hand that urban restoration requires creativity, technical knowledge and tenacity – but also that our goals, while vast and visionary, are also undeniably attainable:

  1. Restoring the L.A. River’s natural habitat
  2. Developing recreational and commuter bikeways, pedestrian paths and horse trails on the riverbanks; as well as places for canoeing and kayaking in the River
  3. Applying flood-protection technologies that emphasize the restoration of a healthy ecosystem
  4. Reforesting and re-vegetating the River’s watershed to control seasonal flooding and debris flow
  5. Creating educational programs which bring students to celebrate and study the River and to explain the importance of the River, its tributaries an its watershed
  6. Fostering efforts to monitor and improve water quality in the River and its tributaries, and to control toxic pollution from dumping and storm drains
  7. Coordinating community-based clean-ups and graffiti removal along the River in cooperation with other groups and agencies
  8. Creating an LA River Conservancy to coordinate public management of the River, to enact land-use ordinances and zoning laws and to manage development in the riparian corridor
  9. Placing the LA River bridges on the National Historic Registry, thus protecting and enhancing their historic and aesthetic value
  10. Encouraging appropriate uses of reclaimed water for irrigation and recharge of aquifers, thus promoting sustainable development.

FoLAR has seen remarkable victories, reminding us of what is possible. They include: Fighting the Los Angeles County Drainage Area (LACDA), which proposed building walls 2-8 feet high along the last twelve miles of the River to increase flood protection (our efforts were key in modifying the original plans, and led to the creation of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, a principal forum for discussion of the Rivers’ future); Successfully mobilizing efforts to create a community park at the Cornfield Yards — a 30-acre parcel of land between Chinatown and the Los Angeles River, which had been slated for warehouse development (the Chinatown Yard Alliance brought together diverse stakeholders including FoLAR, the Sierra Club, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Concerned Citizens of South Central L.A., Mothers of East Los Angeles and the Latino Urban Forum); and winning the battle to create a State Park at Taylor Yard — a 220+ acre former railroad yard with more than 2 miles of living riverfront.

Who We Are

Board of Directors:

  • Lewis MacAdams is the cofounder of FoLAR, its current President, and served as Chair on the Board of Directors for more than 20 years. He is a poet, journalist, and filmmaker.
  • Paul Keller is a founding Principal of Urban Partners’ investments and has over 30 years of experience in real estate and construction industries.
  • Alex Ward is a former Chair of FoLAR and is an architect and principal of lxw design in Los Angeles.
  • Yuval Bar-Zemer is a partner at Linear City Development, an urban-centric real estate development partnership based in Los Angeles, California.
  • Alejandro Ortiz  is the current FoLAR Chair and founder and principal of Alejandro Ortiz Architects, Inc.
  • Susan Papadakis is the Project Manager, LEED AP at Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Corporate Real Estate.
  • Charles Eddy is an energy and environmental executive and attorney, with extensive experience in natural resources and technology businesses, and in federal government energy and environmental policy.
  • Ruth Coleman is the immediate past Director of California State Parks.

Advisory Board:

  •  George Mihlsten is experienced in real estate, regulatory and legislative issues at the local, state and federal level, and was named the Best Lawyers’ 2013 Los Angeles Real Estate Law “Lawyer of the Year.”
  • M-K O’Connell is the Managing Director at the investment firm M2O.
  • Adele Yellin is the President of the development company that runs the Grand Central Market.


Lewis MacAdams • President

Shelly Backlar • Director, Education Programs

Andrea White-Kjoss • COO

Jennifer Kang • Director of Development

Karin Flores • Director of Outreach and Communications

Stephen Mejia • River Rover Manager

William (Bill) Bowling • Contract Project Manager

Special thanks to JunkEmailFilter.com for their miraculous spam-filtering service provided free to non-profits. Worth more than the weight of all the avoided junk email in gold – they’ve provided us with sweet relief from almost constant bombardment.