Los Angeles River Revitalization: A Master Plan Gone Awry

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EcoJustice RadioEnvironmental and social justice groups speak with EcoJustice Radio on the lack of vision and environmental, land use, and community protections in the LA River Revitalization Master Plan

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Los Angeles River

Photo Credit: William Preston Bowling

LA River: How to Revitalize an Urban River from a Flood Control Channel

The 51-mile Los Angeles River, more known for its barren stretches of concrete, is undergoing a long-term Master Planned greening and revitalization. Big questions remain about how to restore biodiversity, provide water resiliency in the face of climate disruption, and protect the local neighborhoods from green gentrification that has already presented problems along sections of the river.

On this show, our host Jessica Aldridge is joined by representatives from a coalition of organizations, Friends of the Los Angeles River, Heal the Bay, and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ). The coalition has concerns with the plan’s vision, lack of community input, human rights, and environmental protections.

Katherine Pease from Heal the Bay stressed that while the Master Plan states that it utilizes a watershed approach in its research and analysis, the focus on the main stem of the LA River precludes the inclusion of systematic, nature-based solutions that would allow for a more naturalized, resilient, and multi-beneficial River. She asserted if we do not look at the entire watershed, tributaries included, we cannot make informed decisions about how best to protect residents from flooding and where a more naturalized River may be possible. Only by examining the entire watershed will we be able to understand where we can make targeted and strategic improvements that will support all communities.

STORY: Los Angeles River Revitalization: A City Rediscovers its Flow

Jessica Prieto from EYCEJ spoke on how just the mention of large-scale environmental investment sparks gentrification and displacement — called Green Gentrification — in historically low-income neighborhoods. She is concerned the plan does not adequately address how land speculation will affect Southeast LA cities along the lower River.

As East Yard’s Community Stability Policy Organizer, she asserts that the County and river-adjacent cities must invest in anti-displacement programs, and adopt enforceable policies now, so that they may be implemented before any real project planning is underway.

STORY: Flood Control to Free Rivers: The Tale of Water on Tongvalands

*Liliana Griego serves as Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Engagement for Friends of the LA River. As she grew up along the Arroyo Seco in Los Angeles, she has had an intimate relationship with it’s living waterways and uses her story and scientific background to advocate for a healthy, resilient, and equitably accessible LA River.

*Katherine Pease, Director of Science & Policy for Heal the Bay, has a background in biology, receiving her undergraduate degree from Barnard and her PhD from UCLA. She became passionate about protecting our local rivers and streams through her graduate research on tadpoles in the Santa Monica Mountains and visits to the LA River. Katherine has been at Heal the Bay for nine years, working to make our coastal waters and watersheds safe, healthy, and clean.

*Jessica Prieto, Community Stability Policy Organizer for EYCEJ, was born and raised in East Los Angeles and has a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA Luskin. She has extensive experience working at the grassroots level on various planning issues and their impact on communities of color. She has been an EYCEJ member since 2015, and currently leads EYCEJ’s community stability efforts throughout Southeast LA cities.

-Comment portal for the Master Plan: https://folar.org/county-plan/
-Link to Facebook recording of advocacy training by HtB, FoLAR, EYCEJ: https://www.facebook.com/295656805868/videos/3706811629406761
-Guardian piece highlights how CBOs like East Yard need to hold polluters and agencies accountable. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/19/citizen-regulators-epa-pollution-environment
-LA Times write-up on the action at the federal courthouse after the Exide bankruptcy was announced: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-10-19/exide-cleanup-bankruptcy-march
-Article: http://folar.org/county-plan

Podcast Website: http://ecojusticeradio.org/
Podcast Blog: https://www.wilderutopia.com/category/ecojustice-radio/
Support the Podcast: https://socal350.org/contribute-to-socal-350-climate-action/

Los Angeles River, EcoJustice Radio

Host and Producer: Jessica Aldridge
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Episode 95
Image: William Preston Bowling

Updated 12 April 2021

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist and designer, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Partners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt