The Los Angeles River, 52 miles of engineered concrete, flows from its origin in Canoga Park, through the Glendale Narrows, beneath the historic bridges of downtown LA and onward to Long Beach, where it empties into the Pacific. It passes through multi-ethnic communities, through a landscape that ranges from suburban to commercial, from residential to industrial. Yet for all its length and prominence, the L.A. River, like the Southland it traverses, is largely misunderstood.
As the original source for L.A.’s water from the pueblo days to the turn of the 20th Century, the river is part of the region’s history. Thanks to periodic floods, some quite severe, the Army Corps of Engineers turned the river banks to concrete in the 1930’s. The river, once a riparian paradise, became an eyesore and the City turned it back. Railroads ran beside it. Cars raced upon it. Hollywood used it for action sequences. Other than during winter’s rains, when the waters ran high and could not be ignored, the Los Angeles River remained hidden and neglected.
It wasn’t until the mid-1980’s, thanks to a group of visionaries who saw the rivers’ potential, that a movement was launched to reclaim the channel and turn it back into a real river. Today, the push to reclaim and revitalize the Los Angeles River been adopted by city, county, state and federal agencies. It has spread from its roots among activists and environmentalists to real estate developers and business owners, and to neighborhood groups that represent a broad cross-section of Angelenos. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent to clean up the LA River’s waters, to remove trash and build bike paths, walks and parks. Today, hundreds of people use the river each day, enjoying its paths and sights and even fishing in its waters.
For many in Los Angeles, the rebirth of the river is a symbol of hope. In the coming years, revitalization efforts will dramatically transform the river and its adjacent lands with recreational spaces, the restoration of riparian habitats, the building of shops and businesses and even housing.
We are transforming the Los Angeles River into our largest civic space, turning it into a vibrant corridor that will connect the city and truly bring its residents together.