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Home > Natural Resources > Water Strategies to Preserve Natural Resource Supplies and Quality

Opportunities with LA River Development

Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan - 2007 is just the beginning.

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Los Angeles is known widely as the city of sunny skies...and concrete rivers. But that is changing!

Los Angeles River's Green Revitalization Begins 2007

With vision, dedication and community empowerment, a dedicated band of civic visionaries and leaders have created a movement to remove most of the concrete and develop the historic Los Angeles River as an urban centerpiece. Green. Diverse. And urbanized wilderness at its best.

The Vision for the Los Angeles Urban River Corridor

The twenty-five to fifty year revitalization plan was just released in February '07 for public review. The Plan can be viewed online at And the river now has its own website for updates:

The plan proposes creating a linear park, a continuous greenbelt along a 32-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River from Canoga Park to Boyle Heights.

Business and Economic Development for a Greener Economy

"We would like to attract innovative green, sustainable development along the LA River," says Carol Armstrong, project manager for the Los Angeles River Master Plan. Development of the plan into implementation will need input from businesses as well as civic visionaries.

This is the perfect time for businesses to
share information with the city!" Claire Bowin urges.

"Any new industry in the area is expected to be focused on green, sustainable production processes. We want to encourage the use of more sustainable technologies and more enviromentally-friendly practices. This means an emphasis on green building design. More sustainable urban service delivery is also important to upgrading the corridor and restoring the river -- which is the long-term goal," says Carol Armstrong, Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering.

Mixed residential, commercial and industrial development is being planned to revitalize this 35 mile stretch of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP)

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is expanding its Non-Residential Programs to include the New Custom Performance Program. This program is currently being finalized and will be available soon. For information concerning the Custom Performance Program, email them at or call (213) 367-2308.

LADWP homepage with links to many programs:

CRA - Community Redevelopment Agency/LA

CRA/LA currently operates in 32 redevelopment project areas and 3 revitalization areas in seven regions throughout Los Angeles. You can find specific incentive programs by Project area at the following CRA/LA link:

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

The Department of Water and Power has a new program to roll out with monies for businesses who fit into the green guidelines of Title 24 (energy efficiency). These energy efficiency incentive program is for LEED, solar incentives, water conservation, and case management assistance for the process. Contact Gary Gero, Director, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Solutions, 213-367-2261
The Master plan includes recommendations for a design overlay district, the "River Improvement Overlay" (RIO) that will include public involvement following the plan's adoption. Claire Bowin represents the City Planning Department on the Mayor's Sustainable Practices Cabinet and the Planning Department. She reports that there are no specific location plans, but many opportunity areas along the river where greener economic development can be encouraged.

"There are five highly attractive sites for commercial development --one of the most promising is the Chinatown- Cornfields area adjacent to the new state historic park. This area is rapidly changing and will undergo analysis and specific planning once the plan is adopted," Bowin elaborates.

The five areas of development include:

  • Canoga Park
  • River Glen
  • Taylor Yard
  • Cornfields/Chinatown Area (State Historic Park)
  • Downtown Industrial Area

Business Incentives

The "River Improvement Overlay (RIO) district allows coordinated development along the 32-mile length of the Los Angeles River in the City. It enhances the river with coordinated design standards and guidelines that can be applied through a streamlined review process and it allows the City to link watershed and water quality objectives with land use planning. Design standards are expected to emphasize water quality, connections to the river, building orientation to the river and landscape character.

Nothing is simple in retrofitting a city, and river right-of-way is no exception. This expansive urban river redevelopment requires coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, L.A. County and L.A. City, as well as private property owners. Ongoing management of the project is being planned to incorporate a Joint Powers Authority (City, County), a Revitalization Corporation that will implement land development and project management, and a River Foundation that will raise funds to support the projects.

The Downtown Industrial Area will encourage buildings that face the river and will provide easy access to the river for pedestrians and traffic.

Community meeting places with retail support services along the pedestrian trails will encourage vibrant urban community.

When can you move in? The development timeline spans years -- if not decades. The Master Plan is scheduled for adoption in 2007 by the City and County. The Corps of Engineers' feasibility study isn't due until 2009. Specific Plans are scheduled for 2007-08.

A PowerPoint overview demonstrates the range of economic development opportunities that could result from the visionary river revitalization plan. SEE SLIDE PRESENTATION

Quality of Life Incentives

Jessica Hall views the unimpressive little swamp called North Atwater Creek as an opportunity to return a piece of Los Angeles turf, most of it rigorously engineered against every whim of nature, back to its native state. Here behind the fence, she sees a natural monument, a vestigial trace of something Los Angeles once had and lost: a vibrant network of free-flowing streams that ran through its basin -- and may again if Hall gets her way. JUDITH LEWIS (LA Weekly staff writer and environmental protection agent)

Tributaries to the Los Angeles River are part of Los Angeles' diverse coastal desert and mountainous ecosystem and many participants in the citizen involvement program hope that these vital watershed elements will be given revitalization as well.




To learn more about green business development opportunities in the City of Los Angeles, contact the following:

Los Angeles Mayor's Office, Housing and Economic Development Department:
Krista Kline, 213-978-0771
Bud Ovrom, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development
Mayor's office:

To explore future possibilities of the River Improvement Overlay (RIO) district and efforts to encourage green building and design, contact:
Department of City Planning's: River Unit,
Tom Rothmann: 213-978-1370
Claire Bowin, 213-473-9987

Community Development Programs: State Enterprise Zones

Los Angeles Minority Business Opportunity Center ... Los Angeles Minority Business Opportunity Center is operated by the City of Los Angeles and is federally-funded: For updates about the Los Angeles River Redevelopment Programs, visit their websites:

Urban river projects have been known to revitalize the core of cities such as San Antonio, TX. That's the dream for Angelinos.

Los Angeles City Council Member Eric Garcetti speaks proudly of creating functional green spaces. Council Member Ed Reyes has long been an advocate of bringing back freshwater marshes around the Los Angeles River. The Santa Monica Baykeeper has filed critical lawsuits. And Friends of LA River has dedicated its volunteer power to fostering restoration of the river through education and hands on experience with the river. Not to mention the City employees who are continuing to shepherd the vision and help find the funding and citizen advocates to keep the plan moving.

Rivers are a natural link in the ecosystem's filtration and biodiversity chain. "...the toxic accumulation of our lives -- our fertilizer, our dogs' poop, our plastic wrappers -- speeds down our streets and through our storm drains toward the sea, only to wash up on our beaches every rainy winter," points out Hall. Rivers are also the breeding grounds for beneficial insects, fish, crawdads, frogs, algae, cattails and a host of other beneficial members of the community. Rivers matter to our quality of life. They filter water, They filter air. And they provide links in the food chain for all plants and animals...including humans.

Rivers are also a natural link for human activities. The 18-month planning process had multiple goals: improve environmental quality, improve public access to the river, expand recreation and open space, enhance flood control, encourage community reinvestment and increase awareness and pride in the Los Angeles River.

The practical feedback from the community included:

  • Green the river
  • Treat the tributaries
  • Create off-line habitat
  • Green streets to connect to the river
  • Activate commercial streets to the river
  • Consolidate rail to make the river accessible
  • Address homelessness and security.
Streets fronting the river will be designed to face and improve river access and amenities. River's edge trails and ecology will support storm water runoff reduction and filtration. Porous paving and other materials will balance green structures with natural environmental function. Bike paths, trails and sidewalks, traffic lanes, parking, water quality "filters" and vegetation will all be worked into the river's more sustainable edge.

Regional gateways will provide highly attractive entry points to the river with artistic gateways, ADA compliant access to bikeways and the river, public education facilities, way-finding signage, public art, performance space, native vegetation and staging areas/parking.

All this takes time. And it takes business support with the visionary building of green commercial and industrial facilities, bringing green services to residents and tourists who will frequent the riverfront. Green economic development will make this community vibrant and sustainable.

The revitalization of the Los Angeles River is a green vision worthy of the earth-shaping muscle available in the most diverse city in the world!

NOTE of Appreciation: Images are copyright City of Los Angeles, 2007 Draft Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan

California Green Solutions Newsletter -- Mar. 2007

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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