12 Nov Community Workshop Addresses Scale and Impacts of Proposed Casitas Lofts Development
“How will such an expensive project solve the housing crisis?” “How will we protect scenic views of the Verdugo Mountains on the River?” “What will happen to this building when the floods come?” asked community members on a cool October morning on the 26th as community stakeholders, river advocates, and members of the general public collected at the Bowtie Parcel for a Community Workshop on the proposed Casitas Development.
Gathering on the site of the future state park allowed participants to visualize the impact and weigh all the factors of permitting a private development to impose upon the state park, and what influence it would have on realizing a resilient and healthy Los Angeles River.
Many of the 100 attendees arrived with existing awareness of the project, following a notable LA Times article last month that laid out community concerns and demonstrated the growing coalition that stands in opposition to this development on the grounds that it is inappropriate given the location and potential impacts to this future park and river restoration. Opponents of the development – including FoLAR, NRDC and Clockshop – indicate that this luxury development at the north end of Bowtie Parcel will unduly burden park visitors and adjacent neighbors, and allow private interest to profit off of public lands.
The proposed development (in blue) sits at the north end of 100 continuous acres of open space on the LA River (in green).
A series of red balloons tethered 85 feet in the air encouraged attendees to imagine the building scale and its possible dominance over the future state park. Aside from illustrating the scale of the proposed development, event facilitators focused on educating the public at learning stations on the breadth of River planning in this stretch of the River, and the process for registering their formal comment to the forthcoming environmental impact report (EIR). Each station was staffed by community partners like Atwater Village and Glassell Park Neighborhood Councils, or coalition members like FoLAR, NRDC, Clockshop, Glassell Park Improvement Association, Northeast Trees, and LA River State Park Partners.
Manny Gonez, FoLAR, addresses community members, sharing the future restoration plans for sites adjacent to the proposed development.
Attendees of the event were as diverse as the city itself. One poignant moment occured when a community member named Sergio Aguirre, an architect who has lived in Atwater Village for four decades, shared, “My children were the youths who benefited from the opening of the Rio de Los Angeles Park, which provided them places to play. My daughter now studies environmental policy and wants to dedicate her career to protecting the environment and new open spaces.” He added that it is uncertain if she could even afford to move back into her childhood neighborhood. This family’s story underscored the importance of open space to the development of young people, and that the neighborhoods impacted by the proposed Casitas Lofts development direly need public resources and open spaces. A recent UCLA study shows that over 150,000 residents — 48% of which are in disadvantaged households, and 18% are youths — live within walking or bicycling distance of the Bowtie Parcel. The question is – once they arrive there, will the park feel accessible and welcoming to them and will the river be a wild and healthy one, or one that has been further constrained by encroaching development?
Looking ahead, the coalition opposing the development is hopeful these engaged community members will continue to participate in shaping the ultimate future of this site and their river. Dedicated advocates and community members together indicate that the parcel’s ultimate inclusion as part of 100 continuous acres of river-adjacent open space and remains zoned as a Public Facility is the best benefit for nature and surrounding communities alike. The coalitions ultimate hope is a re-wilded Los Angeles River, a healthy ecosystem, a thriving park and a resilient neighborhood.
In the coming weeks, the City is expected to release the Draft EIR, formally documenting the various impacts the project is expected to have on the surrounding environment and community. This will provide workshop attendees and other community members the opportunity to comment and make their voices heard in opposition to this proposed luxury lofts. As the coalition of neighborhood stakeholders and environmental organizations continue to encourage this site’s inclusion in broader River park development, this site remains a touchpoint for those who challenge the City to deliver better solutions to communities in need.