11 Oct Thanks for joining our fifth Policy at the River Talk
Thanks to all who attended our fifth Policy at the River to learn about the power of communities in the fight for access to natural spaces!
We at FoLAR refuse to believe that community needs and environmental concerns are at odds with each other. As decades of river planning efforts have begun to crystalize over the past few months, we’ve seen an irresponsible pattern of decision-making framed around an assumption that prioritizing communities must come at the expense of the environment, or that achieving ecological goals must come at the expense of equity. In fact, not only are holistic and multi-functional policy, planning, and design solutions possible, they’re the only solutions we should consider.
“The virtue of the river is that it intersects these values together. The complexity of connecting land issues with open space, with equity, with community health – we can’t pull these things apart, they need to be in concert with each other,” said Stephen Mejia.
At last week’s Policy Talk, we discussed two landmark case studies illustrating how community groups have fought for and won access to green space near the Los Angeles river. We talked about what the implications of those success stories are for the next battleground: the Casitas Lofts Development. And we had some spirited engagement with our awesomely passionate audience! People shared their questions about housing and gentrification, how planning in Los Angeles informs (or doesn’t inform) land use near the river, strategies for diverse groups working toward a common vision (it’s a lot of networking), and what the next step in the Casitas Campaign is (hint: it’s to keep yourself informed while we wait for the release of an Environmental Impact Report).
For those who couldn’t make it, Friends of the LA River produced a livestream of the event which is available to stream online.
Panelists Stephen Mejia of FoLAR and Damon Nagami, Senior Attorney and Director of NRDC’s Southern California Ecosystems Project, shared the histories of Chinatown Yard and the Taylor Yard G2 Parcel, now Los Angeles State Historic Park and Rio De Los Angeles State Park, respectively. (You can read more on the Cornfield’s storied history in this excellent KCET article by Carren Jao, “Field of Dreams”)
What do these narratives have in common? Both started with post-industrial railyards slated for industrial development until a diverse community coalition mobilized with an effective alternative vision, gathered the momentum for a legal challenge, and changed the political landscape surrounding decision-makers. (And a little political public art didn’t hurt.)
“Something really critical to that fight was having a vision and then getting some really smart and creative people together to make that vision a reality and something that people can see and understand,” Damon said of the Chinatown Yard Alliance’s grassroots movement.
The reason these stories matter is because a new fight is brewing for the soul of another post-industrial, river-adjacent parcel, currently on track to become the Casitas Lofts Development.
It’s complicated because, at first pass, the Casitas Lofts Development sounds like it’s doing some good things. If you’re a housing advocate, you probably like the idea of some riverside high-density housing with 11% designated low-income units. Unfortunately, a few key issues make the proposed development problematic, including its too-close proximity to the CA-2 freeway and the associated public health risks, as well as its location in the river’s historic floodplain and the associated threat to the adjacent section of river slated for wetland restoration.
This fifth Policy at the River event marked the official launch of our Casitas Campaign. We hope you’ll join us in the fight ahead to ensure an equitable and ecological alternative to this proposed development.
Thank you again to everyone who attended and participated, especially our guest panelist Damon Nagami and all the truly excellent audience members who asked such great questions.
Missed this Policy Talk? Keep in touch – we’re planning 2018’s last Policy Talk in December. We’ll have food and beverages. We’ll have Spanish language interpretation. Most importantly, we would love to see you there and listen to what you have to say.
To those who were able to make it, or have attended our Policy Talks in the past, please feel free to share your thoughts and feedback! Your input will help us continue to improve these important discussions. You can contact Stephen Mejia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323.223.0585.
FoLAR is a member-supported organization. If you like what we do here, consider becoming a sustaining member or training to become a river docent. Every bit you give counts. You can also now book a private corporate Clean-Up with our new River Makers program! Pick from our River Makers menu to assemble a one-of-a-kind experience that’s right for you and your team.
A final and sincere thank you to the Mountains and Recreation Conservation Authority for hosting the event at the ever-stunning LA River Center and Gardens.
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.