LOS ANGELES (CN) – California leaders and environmentalists hoping to transform the Los Angeles River into parks and open spaces have received a boost after $100 million was earmarked to revitalize and restore part of the 51-mile concrete channel.
At a news conference at Marsh Park on Friday morning, California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said the state would use the funds for river projects that would bring Angelenos badly needed recreational space.
“Expanding access to green open spaces in communities such as those along the LA River corridor has been a priority of mine since I joined the legislature,” de Leon said in a prepared statement. “Children living along the corridor suffer disproportionately from asthma, obesity, and diabetes – conditions we can avoid by providing more healthy outdoor space for recreation.”
De Leon took part in an effort to bring 41 acres of green space to the river north of downtown after the City of Los Angeles purchased the Taylor Yard G2 land parcel on land that used to be part of the Union Pacific Railroad facility, according to a news release from his office. NBC Los Angeles reported Friday that the city purchased the property for $252 million, and de Leon helped raise $25 million in state funding for the project.
River LA’s Executive Director Omar Brownson is dreaming of transforming the entire 51-mile river into green public space. He pointed to the ongoing efforts of city and county leaders to revitalize and restore the river. In 2015 the city announced that famed architect Frank Gehry had joined efforts to help redesign the river for the 21st century.
“There are 2,100 acres of land within the flood control channel that we want to unlock for public benefit. This investment is key to moving this vision forward,” Brownson said.
For now, California expects the $100 million in funding to create jobs and offer an outlet to city residents who do not have access to public parks in their neighborhoods. The state included the funding in its budget for the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year.
Marissa Christiansen, Executive Director of Friends of the Los Angeles River, called the $100 million commitment part of a “historic moment” in efforts to revitalize and restore the river.
“This funding comes at a pivotal moment in the river’s history and will truly make a meaningful impact in its progress forward,” Christiansen said.
Efforts to turn the river, which winds down from the Simi Valley and ends at Long Beach, into a public space have been of interest for almost 100 years. Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscaper who created Central Park in New York, once proposed a plan to turn the river into a system of parks and public spaces.
“Continued prosperity in Los Angeles will depend on providing needed parks,” Olmsted said in a 1930 report. “With the growth of a great metropolis here, the absence of parks will make living conditions less and less attractive, less and less wholesome.”
After several destructive floods, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided later that same decade to encase the entire stretch of river in concrete to prevent flooding and drain storm water runoff.
The cost of restoring the entire river could be prohibitive. Two years ago, the Army Corp of Engineers approved a plan to revitalize 11 miles of the river, which cost $1.3 billion.