AD51 Candidates answer FoLAR’s River Questionnaire

Read responses to FoLAR’s AD51 River Questionnaire

Next month voters in Assembly District 51 will choose who will represent our community in Sacramento. Our next representative will serve a vital district that spans the Los Angeles River. Friends of the Los Angeles River circulated a questionnaire to both candidates in the runoff, Wendy Carrillo and Luis Lopez. Both Carrillo and Lopez submitted their responses laying out their vision for River restoration. Read their responses below, find your polling station, and mark your calendar for Election Day, December 5th, 2017.

FoLAR is a community co-sponsor the AD51 Community Debate on Wednesday, November 15th. Find the event details here and join us on Wednesday


1. In 30 years, dramatic changes have occurred on the Los Angeles River that have created new spaces for public to gather, and for plant and wildlife to habitat. Public interest in seeing a vibrant restoration of the LA River is ever-growing, and stretches of the River in AD51 will be central to restoration efforts. Please share your vision for the River’s future.


WENDY CARRILLO: I strongly support restoring the LA River’s ecology to enhance local habitat, improve water quality and watershed health, reduce stormwater runoff and increase recreational opportunities as a key strategy for local climate-resilience, ecosystem restoration and increased recreational and open space opportunities for all Angelenos. Transforming the LA River to a more natural state and awe-inspiring beauty is critical to protecting the River’s fragile ecosystem while preserving this key piece of our history, flood protection and local identity for current and future generations. It is essential that we work together to implement anti-displacement strategies, public access, and ecosystem enhancements to ensure the maximum benefits to local residents and the community. As a legislator, I will fight for increased funding to invest in the planning, implementation, and protection of outdoor spaces along the L.A. River corridor and take a leadership role in ensuring the success of financing options such as through an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District. I believe the full length of the river and greenway should be fully restored, and support unlocking the approximately 2,100 acres of land within the flood control channel for the public’s use and benefit. However, I will prioritize the 11-mile ARBOR area that runs through the 51st Assembly District. I support Alternative 20 of the ARBOR Study for the LA River.  Alt. 20 calls for the most habitat restoration and connectivity while thoughtfully balancing passive recreation needs and wants. Working for the River is not just about “in- channel” needs but also its banks and the people, plant and wildlife communities that live in, adjacent to and along the 51-mile river.

LUIS LOPEZ:  Angelenos and visitors to our great city will have an opportunity over the coming decades to experience and enjoy the river from which our city derives its name. Steadily the awe and natural splendor of the river that captured the imagination of Juan Crespi in 1769 and led to the city’s placement on its banks in 1781 are coming back to life. The days of turning our backs on this urban riparian ecosystem, caging it out of public view and interaction, and treating it as a dumping ground while choking it with plastic waste are over, once and for all.

I view the river as a valuable but vulnerable asset of the local urban environment. It is a vehicle for experiencing nature, connecting diverse communities, and measuring our progress in eliminating pollution. I view the protection and refinement of this asset as a defining project of our civic life and my own civic leadership. As a resident, I have run and walked along the river, participated in its cleanup, and explored the civic and cultural renewal happening along its banks. As an advocate, I have built coalitions around the river and the concerns of longtime river community leaders, including working to pass the citywide and statewide bans on throwaway plastic bags, thousands  of which still line its riverbed and banks. As Assemblymember, I will continue to be a voice for the L.A. River, ensure investment and allocation of resources for its revitalization and health, and lead by example in sponsoring and supporting river-focused events that build firsthand enjoyment and active, informed respect for this namesake asset of our city.

2. This year the state cut the ribbon for the Los Angeles State Historic Park. This was a great example of how the State can create green, river adjacent, publicly accessible spaces for the community to enjoy.  As the River momentum continues to build, several ideas on river development have become main topics of conversation. Discuss your opinion on public access and how you envision this being carried out along the River.


LUIS LOPEZ: Public access is not only a touchstone for proposed outcomes of river development and outdoor recreation on and along the river. But also access and input by the public, and transparent public decision-making about river planning, are equally precious assets. The product and the process–the goal and the getting-there–require attention to public access. I share some of the concerns of FoLAR founder Lewis MacAdams about the peremptory naming in 2015 of Frank Gehry to oversee redesign of a large stretch of the rivera. I am also concerned that redevelopment along the river may irrevocably alter the character of some river communities, such as Elysian Valley, and, occurring amidst a crisis in affordable housing, could displace longtime residents, who might this lose access to the river just at the moment when years of investment and care by neighbors are paying dividends.

WENDY CARRILLO: I believe that any plan to develop green, river adjacent spaces should make public access a top priority, and fully support increased public access in these spaces. I believe soliciting and utilizing the input of key stakeholder groups like the Friends of the LA River is critical to advocating for the preservation and improvement of public access to these spaces.  This year the State also allocated nearly $100m to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and River & Mountains Conservancy and I plan on being an active voice for how those funds are spent to improve access to the river.

Given FOLAR’s long-time leadership and community support, I expect us to work closely together to ensure increased community engagement as we implement ecological, recreational, economic development, affordable housing and other plans along the LA River and its watershed.

3. Los Angeles is recognized as a park-poor metropolitan area and water quality issues plague the region, disproportionately impacting underserved communities. SB 5 (de Leon), the California Clean Water, Climate, and Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access For All Act authorizes $4 billion to fund parks, water, climate adaptation, coastal protection and outdoor access programs. Please explain if you support or oppose this measure, and how you will work for its passage or defeat.


WENDY CARRILLO: I proudly supported Senate Bill 5 (de Leon) and was pleased to see the measure approved by Governor Brown and will work fiercely towards its implementation. I strongly support this investment in our parks, climate and water infrastructure to ensure Angelenos and all Californians have safe and increased access to these spaces. As a legislator, I will defend this funding and will explore ways in which we can make even greater, targeted investments in areas with the greatest need through the state budget process. Senator De Leon and Assemblymember Gomez did well to encourage the State’s Cap and Trade program to consider funding projects in polluted urban areas. I want to build on those efforts and drive funding to the River as part of a climate change solution. Much of the River runs alongside freeways where air pollution from cars and trucks are amongst the worst in the region. There’s a great opportunity to combat this pollution using the restored habitat of the River. Issues of climate justice, access to clean, safe water for drinking and recreational purposes, open space and urban parks and urban environmental issues will be among my top priorities in the Legislature.  

LUIS LOPEZ: I know firsthand how the lack of greenspace and parks in Los Angeles degrades lives and hurts our communities, especially many of the underserved neighborhoods on the Eastside of L.A. I have experience in leading on this issue repeatedly as chair of the RVNOC (oversight panel for distribution of city Prop K funds), chosen by my peers to lead decision-making on modernization and refurbishment of parks for Eastside residents. Facing the worst scarcity of greenspace of any city in the U.S., and the health hazards such denial inflicts, my neighbors and I built coalitions to create open space and improve access to parks and facilities for exercise and recreation.

As Assemblymember for the Eastside of L.A., now that SB 5 has passed and the parks funding ballot measure will appear on Californians’ 2018 fall ballot, I will work mightily for its passage and then maximize the funds needed for local parks through bonds to invest in parks, water, climate adaptation, coastal protection, and more.

4. California’s recent drought and the devastating hurricanes in other parts of the US have highlighted some of the major challenges climate change will exacerbate in our region.  With California getting ready to spend billions of dollars on water, park, and housing infrastructure how will you determine or prioritize the best use of those funds, and in your perspective, what role does LA River restoration play in those investments?


LUIS LOPEZ: I believe the LA River can serve multiple purposes. It is and can be a flooding overflow, but it cannot be a repository for human waste or other contaminants, which recently occurred, exposing a breakdown in regulatory responsibility for enforcement, river cleanliness, and public warning. It is and can be a resource to replenish our aquifers, though we must also monitor and prevent its poisoning by leaching compounds from nearby eco-hotspots, such as the Scholl Canyon dump.

It is and can furnish much needed public greenspace for the communities it touches, but the resilience of this verdant oasis cannot by taken for granted. In the long term, I would love to see our river a greater part of the identity of Los Angeles, like the Thames, Arno, Seine, and so many other rivers are for cultural capitals of the world.

WENDY CARRILLO: I believe climate change is the greatest existential threat faced by our species, and communities in the 51st Assembly District are among those most impacted. Given that climate change is accelerated by human-made actions, it is our moral obligation to take urgent action to make communities more climate-resilient and water-secure. I will fight for targeted investments in the types of technological and environmental policies and projects that will curb and reverse the life-threatening and devastating effects of climate change. The ecological restoration of the LA River is a critical piece of improving our local and statewide ecosystem, and I will fight to make its restoration a top funding priority in the state budget. Although I support restoration plans along the entire river, I will fight to prioritize funding for the ARBOR area given the importance of that 11-mile stretch to the entire system.

5. The State of California now lists glyphosate – an active ingredient in commercial herbicide – on the Prop 65 list of carcinogens. Glyphosate is currently utilized by Army Corps of Engineers to reduce vegetation in and around the LA River and connecting tributaries. Glyphosate is not only carcinogenic but can cause major adverse effects on wildlife and water quality. How will your office work to reduce and eliminate the usage of a known carcinogen on behalf of the public and the wildlife?


LUIS LOPEZ: As your Assemblymember, I will introduce legislation to eliminate glyphosate from use in California and work with California’s Congressional delegation to put pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers to stop using this deadly product. Also, I will use the bully pulpit to spread the word about the disastrous effects this caustic chemical has on our lives and environment. The combination of state legislation, federal pressure, and public embarrassment is a proven recipe for change in this regard. The Army Corp of Engineers will change their behavior.

WENDY CARRILLO: Not only do we need to ensure greater public access to a restored LA River, we need to also ensure that it is a safe place for our families and children. I will fight to protect our state’s wildlife and water quality from known carcinogens, and will oppose the use of these substances in public spaces like the LA River. As a legislator, I would welcome the opportunity to work with FOLAR in crafting legislation to reduce and eliminate the use of known carcinogens in these spaces.

6. This year a ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam), SB-705, failed to pass in the California Senate. In response, there have been numerous calls for cities and counties to pass their own bans, however piecemeal implementation is unlikely to reduce waste in the Los Angeles River that carries Styrofoam out to the ocean, where as it breaks down can be harmful to wildlife species. Do you support a Styrofoam ban at the State level? What actions will you take to ensure Californians reduce waste and ensure water quality in our natural environments?


WENDY CARRILLO: Yes, I strongly support reducing waste and protecting our natural environment. That’s why I supported the ban on plastic bags and support a statewide ban on polystyrene. I believe there is room to further improve our water quality and natural environment, and will be a strong advocate for policies that do so.

LUIS LOPEZ: I will lead efforts to ban polystyrene. In doing so, I will apply lessons from the victories we won through grassroots organizing, coalition advocacy, earned media to frame the policy issue for ordinary voters, and bringing the platform and strength of the Democratic Party to bear on this effort. One key step is to present to the public and highlight to policy-makers the alternative to non biodegradable waste like styrofoam. In 2013, amidst the crisis of plastic blight choking the L.A. River, our Eastside neighborhoods, and California’s marine ecosystems, I worked with local Latino and other community activists to support the L.A. city ban on throwaway plastic bags. Drawing on the leadership of former County Supervisor Gloria Molina, we not only won approval of the citywide ban, but also advanced the statewide ban in Sacramento.

Building on sustained advocacy from Latino leaders and allies I helped recruit throughout the state, we reframed the issue of plastic waste to focus on the costs of blight in our neighborhoods and to taxpayers for cleanup as well as the economic opportunities created by consumers’ transformed awareness and ongoing transition to reusable bags. We won the epic fight to pass SB 270 in 2014, the first statewide ban on throwaway bags in the country. Through the recruitment and deployment of Latino spokespeople, such as Dolores Huerta and the astronaut Jose Hernandez, we beat the out-of-state plastic polluters that sought to thwart us and protected our policy victory by winning two statewide ballot measures on the Nov. 2016 statewide ballot, No on 65 and Yes on 67.  As our Assemblymember, I would like to lead the charge in banning polystyrene.

7. In the past decade, the rate of project proposals and development along the River has increased dramatically. Throughout this increase in activity and development, some projects have a more transparent process than others. Would you support any projects or plans along the River without public process or outreach?


LUIS LOPEZ: A public process with community outreach is vital for a successful planning process. I managed such a process firsthand as the Chair of the East Area Planning Commission, for five years from 2008 to 2013. I will only support projects and plans that have a public process, with public meetings, community outreach, and stakeholder input.

WENDY CARRILLO: No. Development projects along the LA River should be subject to an open and transparent process, especially with the unacceptable amount of displacement that will take place and increasing missed opportunities for the best ecological restoration. Given the importance of the LA River, the delicate nature of its wildlife and ecosystem, and the role it plays as a public recreation point, I support intense public participation and scrutiny of all development along the LA River. Additionally, I would be open to a conversation about creating a specific set of protections for River Communities whether through a planning overlay zone in Los Angeles, a Joint Powers Authority or even an act similar to the Coastal Protection Act.

8. The California Coastal Commission was created to ensure habitat protection and public access along the coast as private development began dominating coastal land. To prevent a privatized Riverfront, what will you do to ensure that riverfront property provides public access while preserving the integrity of the riparian ecosystem?


WENDY CARRILLO:  As stated previously, I strongly believe increasing and protecting public access to the LA River should be a top priority for any proposed development or restoration plan. I do not support a privatized riverfront that would eliminate public access or deteriorate the riverfront’s fragile ecosystem. To the extent private development occurs on the riverfront, I strongly support clearly defined public ways of access that do not deteriorate the integrity of the riparian ecosystem.

LUIS LOPEZ: One of the most freeing feelings I experience as an Angeleno is running alongside the L.A. River. And one of the most gratifying contacts with nature is being able to walk directly along the water, savoring the company of an egret or heron. This cannot go extinct. Thank As your Assemblymember I will fight to protect the public’s access to the river and preserve the integrity of the river’s ecosystem. This includes application of my direct legislative authority. Direct interaction with this urban waterway and participation in its cleanup reinforce a shared sense of its value and vulnerability. Only through preserving this prized asset will we honor our history. Only by protecting our land and resources will California continue to be a leader in developing the green industries of the 21st Century, which are bringing and new jobs here. Only by ensuring that current and future generations can gain firsthand exposure to the river will we foster sustainability of the ecosystem.


Friends of the Los Angeles River is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission since 1986 has been to ensure a publicly accessible and ecologically sustainable Los Angeles River by inspiring River stewardship through community engagement, education, advocacy, and thought leadership. FOLAR is a leading powerful force guiding policy and connecting communities to the River, nationally respected as a leader in urban river revitalization with a membership of 35,000.

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Marissa Christiansen is the Executive Director of Friends of the LA River (FOLAR). Prior to FOLAR, she held roles in policy, advocacy and development at XPRIZE and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, among others. Her deep abiding love for LA began at USC where she earned her Master’s in Urban Planning [fight on]. Her inner compass and lifelong passion for counter-culture has magnetized her to the nonprofit world. A proud California native, her primary inspiration is the beauty of our natural landscape – gripped by color and texture, obsessed with the unexpected and overlooked. So to help guide the movement centered on LA’s most diversely textured and inconspicuously beautiful resource is basically her dream come true.

Andrea describes herself as a pragmatic idealist and left her early years in investment banking/consulting to bring appropriate business acumen to the task of social and environmental change. She is excited by bold, scalable solutions to systemic challenges. Andrea fell in love with the L.A. River on a tour of it with FOLAR founder Lewis MacAdams. Since then, she has been annoying everyone at FOLAR with her insistence that Long Beach is the center of the universe. When Andrea is not analyzing spreadsheets and creating policy and budgets for FOLAR, she can usually be found near or in the ocean with her husband and their young son.

One of Shelly’s earliest memories is catching a bird in her bare hands. After a weekend birding trip to Mono she was hooked. It’s just one of the reasons she is so passionate about plans and projects that re-create wetland habitat along the Los Angeles River. Shelly shares this enthusiasm at any opportunity whether it’s leading a tour, running a field trip activity with elementary school children or meeting a community member on the Los Angeles River Rover. If you see Shelly out on the River don’t be surprised to hear her squeal, “Oh, look! There’s an osprey!” and she’ll talk about what it was like being out on the River with biologists during FOLAR’s first fish study. She knows that a swimmable, fishable, boatable Los Angeles River is possible, just ask her about what the time she fell out of a kayak in the Glendale Narrows.

Ivana was born and raised in Southern California, with a brief stint at a young age in her family’s native northern Mexico. Both regions inspired an early love for all things nature – from the wildlands just a stone’s throw away from either city, to the urban wildlife that calls Los Angeles home. Inspired by this love, she graduated from USC with a degree in environmental studies and was part of a pioneering team that helped launch the Audubon Center at Debs Park, an environmental education center in Northeast LA. Today, you’ll find Ivana connecting donors to FOLAR’s mission, often on a kayak, immersing them in the River’s beauty.

Chris is an LA native who grew up in near the River and developed a passionate love for all things Los Angeles. He’s dedicated to public service and has worked with organizations from his old high school’s Science Bowl Team to the American Red Cross. At FOLAR you can find Chris working to keep the community connected to FOLAR’s work. Whether it’s working up with the Policy team to activate the community in the fight for river restoration or putting out the call to gather for the next big LA River event, Chris in the middle of the action.

Native Angelino, Johanna has lived her entire life in her beloved birth city. In the midst of earning her Psychology degree from Antioch University, Johanna took a course on the Los Angeles River. The course exposed Johanna to a bounty of interesting facets of The River and more importantly, the effects The River has on the lives of Angelenos. She fell head over heels in love with the Los Angeles River and her commitment to the LA River was born. The Frog Spot was inspired and born of Johanna’s desire to marry the Los Angeles River with the community through art, music, local history and native culture. Johanna has also curated Fandango since conception and been on all efforts to grow the Great LA River CleanUp: La Gran Limpieza.

As Policy & Advocacy Manager, Stephen helps support and lead the execution of FOLAR’s policy and advocacy initiatives. As a native Angeleno, Stephen places special emphasis on the inclusion of underserved communities in environmental discourse. For the past 5 years he’s worked throughout LA County building watershed literacy, inspiring local stewardship and empowering community voices of all ages in local watershed planning efforts. He’s pretty stubborn about the connection between social and environmental health, the importance of acknowledging injustice, and the strength of optimism and hope. When he’s not being dramatic, you can find him riding his bike, exploring the city or some hidden park. He’s also a sucker for board games, maps, street art, food, and good company.

For the past decade, Mr. Bowling has been working at FOLAR on various River projects. From managing fish studies to creating the First-Ever catch and release fishing derby on the L.A. River to presentations on river history, you can really ask him anything. William provides support for educators from K to College by bringing a detailed river curriculum followed by a visit from FOLAR’s mobile museum, the Los Angeles River Rover to schools and community events within the watershed. You may also find him hosting several River tours each year; in person and in Virtual Reality.

Galina grew up in Northern California, and developed a reverence for nature among our great state’s rivers, lakes, and ancient forests. Prior to joining FOLAR, Galina worked for the Downtown Women’s Center in LA’s Skid Row. She joined DWC’s development team in the throes of a 35m dollar capital campaign which ultimately provided 71 new units of permanent supportive housing for homeless women. Over three years at DWC, she recognized her passion for nonprofit development and its essential power to enact positive change. She loves the tranquility the River brings amidst the bustling city, and enjoys bird watching along its banks. You can find Galina writing grant proposals and working with donors, in service to a shared vision of a healthy, dignified LA River for generations to come.

Alexandra is an administrative assistant for Friends of the LA River. She was one of many Angelenos who didn’t know a Los Angeles River existed, but as soon as she was introduced she fell in love with the beauty of it. Inspired by all of the dedication and passion from Friends of the LA River, she made her way into the family and now proudly works hand in hand with founder Lewis MacAdams and the rest of the FOLAR to continue the artwork that Lewis began.

Liliana has always had a passion for working with the environment, from teaching SCUBA diving to identifying microalgae in a landfill. When Liliana returned home to Los Angeles, after completing her Masters in Europe, her eyes were widened by the lack of access her fellow Angelenos had to nature. Working as the Programs and Policy Manager at FoLAR, she is given the opportunity to connect her community with the environment and provide a voice for the River. Liliana is excited to be doing work around the River, as it has infinite opportunities to promote community engagement and bring all Angelenos closer to nature.

Lewis MacAdams is an American poet, journalist, political activist and journalist. In 1986, MacAdams created Friends of the LA River, a “forty-year artwork” to bring the Los Angeles River back to life. In the years since, FOLAR has become the River’s most important and influential advocate, with an E- newsletter and social media that reaches over 60,000 people. Among FOLAR’s many projects are “La Gran Limpieza,” the Great Los Angeles River Clean-Up, the largest urban river clean-up in the United States; a summer length riverfront cabaret, The Frog Spot, that has welcomed nearly 40,000 visitors; a collaboration with the Aquarium of the Pacific, a K-12 “River School” outdoor education curriculum; the “Los Angeles River Rover,” a 38-foot recreational vehicle designed as a mobile classroom; and the first reports on legal access to fishing on the L.A.River. His pamphlet, D-Town Visions: Building A City The River Can Be Proud Of, was published at the beginning of 2008 by The Natural Resources Defense Council. Friends of the LA River was able to organize and lead multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-class coalitions that stopped major riverfront industrial developments leading to the creation of a pair of State parks in the Cornfield and the Taylor railroad yards.

He is currently on the Board of Directors of Friends of the LA River and centers his time on his book Poetry and Politics, a clear depiction of his lifelong work.

Charles has spent his career as an environmental and natural resources attorney, as a manager of businesses in those fields, and in the development of nonprofit organizations. Coming to Los Angeles and a neighborhood abutting the Los Angeles River in 1980, he became interested in the river and its potential while exploring and using adjacent roadways for biking and hiking. Before moving to Los Angeles, his career was spent in public service in Washington D.C., holding policy positions in the Department of the Interior and the Council on Environmental Quality, and working with nonprofit organizations. His work since has spanned businesses in environmental and alternative and conventional energy technology and energy conservation. He graduated from Cornell University Law School in 1970, holds a degree in international relations from the University of Colorado, and served as a U.S. Navy officer. Since associating with FOLAR in 2009, he has worked on policy and legislation to open the river for public access and use and for river restoration.

Paul Keller has over thirty years of experience in real estate and construction industries and is a founding Principal of Mack Urban, LLC. He is involved with the firms’ strategic direction, capital market relationships and tactical management of all Mack Urban investments.

Mr. Keller formerly led Urban Partners, Keller Equity Group, Keller CMS and Keller Construction Company. Mr. Keller and Keller-related entities have been responsible for over 2,000 projects in the continental United States and Hawaii and have provided program development, project and construction management oversight services to a variety of clients on projects valued in excess of seven billion dollars.

Mr. Keller is highly regarded in the industry for his comprehensive grasp of asset and project management details and his ability to match leasing, construction and financing requirements.

Among his activities, Mr. Keller is a member of ULI (Urban Land Institute) Los Angeles Advisory Board; ULI Los Angeles Land Use Leadership Committee; member of The Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy and Jobs; board member of the L.A. Streetcar Initiative (LASI); board member of FOLAR (Friends of the L.A. River) and a member of the Central City Association of Los Angeles and a board member of Friends of Waterfront Seattle.

Previous community leadership roles include: Chairman of Eimago (formerly Union Rescue Mission Foundation) and former Chairman of the Board of Directors, Seven Arrows Elementary School in Pacific Palisades, California.

M-K O’Connell joined M2O, Inc. as a Managing Director in 2009. The firm invests in growth business, particularly those in which a founder is looking to transition his or her company to the next generation of entrepreneurs. M-K is responsible for meeting with potential entrepreneurs and helping them source acquisition opportunities. He also helps ensure a smooth transition from the founder to the new management team.

When he is not monitoring the progress of portfolio companies, M-K can often be found wandering the trails of Griffith Park with his dog and two children. Of course, you’ll find the whole family plucking refuse from the river at the Glendale Narrows during the annual Grand Limpieza.

M-K received his B.S, magna cum laude, from Boston College and his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he was the recipient of the Thomas P. Gerrity Leadership Award.

Mr. Bar-Zemer is the principal at Linear City Development LLC, a real estate development company that focuses on the revitalization of Downtown Los Angeles. Bar-Zemer developed the initial properties that touched off the Arts District and have since led a transformative urban and social process that contributed to a unique urban success story. As a result of his development efforts, the Arts District is considered one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Los Angeles for residential, commercial, culinary and retail uses alike. In addition, Mr. Bar-Zemer is the landlord partner of several notable restaurants including Bestia, Church & State, and Winsome.

Mr. Bar-Zemer was born and raised in Jerusalem. He attended the Music Academy of Jerusalem (1983-86) and continues to be an avid supporter of the arts here in Los Angeles, particularly jazz and opera, as well as dance and the fine arts.

Mr. Bar-Zemer is a board member of the following organizations: LARABA, ADCCLA, Arts District BID, Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council, Impact Hub LA, the Institute of Field Research, Friends of the LA River, the Institute of Contemporary Art (formerly the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Toy Factory Lofts HOA, the Biscuit Company Lofts HOA, the Design Advisory Committee for the Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project, the Technical Advisory Committee for the In-Channel Bike Path and the Preservation Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) for re:code LA.

Mr. Bar-Zemer is also the co-founder of the app Kitchen Table, which brings people together to share dining experiences, make memorable meals accessible and easy, and redefine what it means to eat local. Yuval is passionate about the future of cities, in particular about Los Angeles and the possibility of the River connecting residents and inspiring diverse mobility.

Ruth Coleman has held positions in the public and nonprofit sector for twenty-six years. Currently, Ms. Coleman serves as the Executive Director of the Relationship Coffee Institute (RCI), the non-profit affiliate of Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers. In this capacity, she is responsible for overseeing the organization’s operations and managing strategic relationships. In 2013 The Relationship Coffee Institute was selected by Bloomberg Philanthropies to bring its innovative economic Relationship Model of development to low-income rural women based in Rwanda. Ms. Coleman manages multi-year project to improve the livelihoods of 25,000 low-income Rwandan women coffee farmers through training and connecting the farmers to the international market.

Prior to joining RCI, she served for ten years as Director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Earlier in her career she worked for the California Legislature as a fiscal analyst as well as a natural resources policy advisor.

Ruth was a Peace Corps volunteer in Swaziland, Africa. She is a graduate of Occidental College and has a Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Jennifer Wangers was instrumental in creating Sierra Club Green Home, the first-ever social entrepreneurship model attempted by the Sierra Club in its 124-year history. The purpose of is to enlighten the average American about sustainable practices in their home and daily lifestyle. After running for five years, Jennifer sold the site to digital marketing aggregator Fractl.

Jennifer studied environmental design and sustainability at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Following Art Center, she earned a Masters in Urban Planning and Sustainable Design at the University of California, Irvine. Jennifer is a LEED Accredited Practitioner. Ms. Wangers earned a Fulbright Scholarship in 2013-14 which she performed in Israel to teach a water management at Arava Institute in the Southern Israeli desert. Jennifer is a widely quoted media analyst and was previously a frequent green expert guest on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Away from work, Jennifer follows art and design avidly, serves on the Friends of the L.A. River Board, and is a long time hobbyist pilot trained in a Cirrus SR-22T, Cessna 414 and Beechcraft Duchess multi-engine aircraft.

It is Jennifer’s firm belief that with the right tools and education, women have infinite potential. Entity is founded on the concept that building and refining lifelong skills as well as positive character traits will greatly enhance your future. Suffice it to say, Jennifer is a woman that does.

Alex Ward is an architect with over thirty-five years of experience designing projects from Tokyo and Beijing to Hong Kong and London, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, including airports, churches, private homes, office towers, stage sets and bridges. He has lectured and taught design at schools from the Rhode Island School of Design to Cal Poly Pomona. He has installed solar panels on roofs in underserved neighborhoods for Grid Alternatives. A hiker and bird-watcher and avid student of urban design, he believes that a restored Los Angeles River is a vital part of the future of the city of Los Angeles and region.

Mr. Mihlsten has substantial experience in real estate, regulatory and legislative issues at the local, state and federal level. His work often includes real estate projects and transactions, including securing regulatory approvals for large scale development projects. In addition, Mr. Mihlsten has broad experience in complex regulatory and legislative issues.

His work includes environmental clearances pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. In addition, Mr. Mihlsten has extensive experience in coordinating large teams in connection with these projects including architects, engineers, environmental scientists, community relations and communications specialists, and media relations experts. Mr. Mihlsten also works with many community and business leaders, representatives of organized labor and elected officials in connection with many of these projects and issues.

Projects on which he has advised include studios, resorts, office complexes, mixed use projects, hospitals, high-rise condominium projects, shopping centers, oil fields, refineries, residential projects and sports facilities. Mr. Mihlsten has served on a number of task forces dealing with issues such as housing policies, transportation policies, permit streamlining and environmental review processes.

Councilmember Nestor Enrique Valencia is a champion of social causes, and health care quality and the environment. He is leading reformer of the City of Bell and for good government. He is a regional community leader and expert in managed care. Among other roles and responsibilities in his life, he is a full-time health care administration. He has served as Bell’s Mayor and continues as a member of the Bell City Council in his second-term. He is an alternative on Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Mia Lehrer leads the ML+A office through the design and development of a diverse range of ambitious public and private projects that include urban revitalization developments such as Hollywood Park and San Pedro Waterfront, large urban parks such as Vista Hermosa Park in Los Angeles and Orange County Great Park at the El Toro Marine Base, and complex commercial projects like a Bio-tech Corporate Campus in Thousand Oaks. In recent years, several interesting historic renovation projects have been added to her repertoire; these include Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, the glamorous Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and Santee Court, an urban housing development that pays tribute to its interesting context – L.A.’s fashion district. The firm is a consultant for the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, leading efforts to identify and plan a comprehensive open space network that interfaces with channel restoration and urbanism.

Adele Yellin is the President of The Yellin Company, LLC overseeing a large mixed-use project, Grand Central Square, in the Historic Core of Los Angeles which includes the historic Grand Central Market.

In 1984, downtown visionary Ira Yellin, a successful developer with an academic interest in urban planning and historical preservation, bought Grand Central Market and adjacent properties including the Million Dollar Theater, as well as the landmark Bradbury Building across the street. Ira passed away in 2002, but today Adele Yellin continues to champion his vision that a dynamic city needs a vibrant downtown.



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Alejandro Ortiz is an Architect / Entrepreneur based in Westwood CA. After completing his undergraduate studies at Berkeley, he interned for Steven Lerner, AIA in Providence, RI where we acted as Project Designer on several buildings at Brown University. In 1989, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for Architects Frank Gehry, AIA and Frank Israel, AIA. After attending the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, he founded Alejandro Ortiz Architects, Inc. which he ran successfully for 20 years. He has since been engaged in Real Estate Management and is spearheading various Tech ventures as Founder and President of BulletNBoard, llc.

In addition to his diverse business activities, Alejandro has pursued his passion for the City of Los Angeles by actively contributing to a number of local organizations such as the LA County and the City of LA Departments of Parks and Recreation. He served on the Executive Board of the Music Center Fraternity of Friends and various Neighborhood Associations. He was appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as Commissioner at the LA Community Redevelopment Agency. He has served on the board of FOLAR since 2011, occupying the position of Chair for 5 years.n.

Michael serves as Communications and Impact Manager with FOLAR to broadcast the organization’s vision to present projects, actions, policies, and events to grow the River community. For the past 5 years Michael has worked to improve the public health and environment within his neighborhood and city as an advocate committed to facilitating community-based climate change solutions.

Michael’s background in small business, media production, community organizing, and political campaigns make him profoundly appreciative of the importance of effective advocacy in the lives of Angelenos to promote clean air, clean water, and public access to open and vibrant spaces. In his spare time Michael can be found on his bicycle exploring the city or at the farmer’s market enjoying good food and community.

Alyssa is a native of Northeast Los Angeles and a student at Bryn Mawr College majoring in Urban Studies and Spanish. She is pursuing a path in urban planning and enjoys learning about how varied the field is. As part of the LA Promise Fund’s The Intern Project, Alyssa began as an intern at LA-Más in 2015 where she discovered the importance of the LA River and the advocacy efforts surrounding such an essential part of the city. She has previously been a part of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy and Mayor Garcetti’s Youth Council. During her free time, Alyssa enjoys exploring the city, cycling on the river bike path, and reading outdoors.

Dan Rosenfeld is a real estate investor who alternates between private and public-sector service.

In the private-sector, Mr. Rosenfeld served as a senior officer with The Cadillac Fairview Corporation, Tishman-Speyer Properties, and Jones Lang LaSalle. He was a founding member of Urban Partners, LLC, a nationally recognized developer of urban infill, mixed-use and transit-oriented real estate. Among the firm’s major projects are Del Mar Station, Wilshire/Vermont Station and the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters. Mr. Rosenfeld is currently developing and managing real estate in Los Angeles and Seattle.

In the public sector, Mr. Rosenfeld served as Director of Real Estate for the State of California and City of Los Angeles, and as a Senior Deputy for Economic Development with Los Angeles County.

Mr. Rosenfeld is a graduate of Stanford University and the Harvard Business School. He is married to noted choreographer Heidi Duckler and lives in Los Angeles. The couple have three grown children Anya, Austen and Ellery.

Lily grew up in Northeast Los Angeles but moved to Portland, Oregon to receive her Bachelor’s in English at Lewis & Clark College. After graduating in 2015, Lily immediately moved to NY to try her hand at working in television, but soon found the city and the TV industry wasn’t where her heart lied. She missed Los Angeles’ vastness, the easy access to nature, and was looking for work more involved with her community. With that realization, Lily moved back to LA to soon begin her internship at the educational nonprofit, 826LA, where she spent a year teaching creative writing and tutoring students ages 6-18. Lily has long loved California’s bountiful nature and is happy to now be apart of an organization that advocates for our city’s largest natural landmark. In her spare time, Lily enjoys buying too many books at Skylight Bookstore, hiking local trails, and heading to the Sierra Nevada to camp and be in nature.

“What river?!?!” This was Zoe’s response when, in a writing class in her junior year of college, her professor announced that the Los Angeles River would be the focus of much of the class. Born and raised 30 miles east of LA, Zoe was dumbfounded to learn that LA was home to a river that she had never known about. Intrigued, Zoe set out to learn more about the River, making it the subject of her senior thesis. She became passionate about the River—fascinated by its rich ecological history, saddened by its unfortunate channelization, but hopeful and excited for what the future holds for its revitalization. After graduating in May 2016, Zoe decided to pursue her River passions and sought out an internship with FoLAR. After interning in the Development Department for 6 months, Zoe joined the FoLAR team as the Development Assistant and later transitioned to the Operations Department. She loves FoLAR and is incredibly grateful to be a part of this organization, where she gets to experience what goes on behind the scenes to re-connect Angelenos to their River.

Mareshah “MJ” Jackson has built a career expanding community networks with local nonprofits through outreach and public activation. She’s passionate about the connection between community wellbeing and access to nature, physical recreation, and open community space. When she’s not cultivating the relationships that enable FoLAR to increase every Angeleno’s access to green space, she’s looking for ways to stay active. You can find MJ practicing samba, training for long-distance runs, and learning about LA by taking Metro to new destinations.

Mike understands the intersection of nature and cities from an unusual perspective – he grew up on a farm in rural Missouri with nature stretching for countless miles in every direction, but since graduating from university he has lived either years or months in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Seattle, Moscow, Sydney and Florence. Seeking out the best examples of overlapping nature and urban landscape has been a pleasure for many years now.

Living in Los Feliz with his wife, a native Angelina, three young sons and giant Bernese Mountain Dog, on weekends he can be found hiking Griffith Park with his family, chasing his kids in the surf, or showing off his backyard grilling skills for friends. He has also been known to drag his family down to the LA River for an impromptu cleanup and discussion about the importance of community service.

Mike has spent his career in finance – in his role as Senior Vice President for Cascadia Capital, he leads the aerospace and defense investment banking practice for the firm, advising executives and business owners in mergers and acquisitions. Mike holds a masters in business from Stanford University where he was a Sloan Fellow and a bachelors in finance from the University of Missouri.

Reymundo, or Rey, grew up right by the Los Angeles River in Compton, California. He attended the University of California – Irvine where he experienced a culture clash that inspired him to find a way to give back to communities like his hometown. Prior to working at FoLAR, he worked throughout Los Angeles in marketing and education based jobs that grew his love for the greater Los Angeles Area. His work with FoLAR began at The Frog Spot where he got to see the river be lit up in the morning by the sun and framed beautifully by the moon at night. This experience made Rey want to join in the work towards a more inclusive and natural river for his beloved city of Los Angeles.


Natasha Keefer has spent her career in energy and water sustainability, with experience working with public and private stakeholders to implement measurable environmental and social outcomes. Natasha is the Director of Power Planning and Procurement for Clean Power Alliance, California’s new, locally-operated, electricity provider dedicated to providing clean, renewable power to 31 communities and approximately one million eligible customers across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Natasha’s prior experience includes sustainable infrastructure development, energy finance, and strategic planning impacting Southern California communities. She earned an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School and a B.S. from the University of Southern California. Natasha, her husband Jason, and dog Bowie, are Elysian Valley residents and love to spend the weekend enjoying everything the LA River has to offer.