Tag: Alternative 20

LA Times reveals Frank Gehry as river renewal architect

The river's landmarks are changing. (Peter Bennett)
The look of the river will undoubtedly change under Frank Gehry’s influence. (Peter Bennett)

UPDATE: from the Aug. 11 Letters section of the Los Angeles Times

Others’ plans, please

Re “Gehry’s waterfront vision,” Aug. 8

Having fly-fished the L.A. River for five years, I know that miles of it are a wilderness now. There are so many fish and birds.

When it rains in the mountains, there are giant waves of water that flow into the river. The waves last for a few days, and then there’s finding the fish again — the bass, bluegill, carp and crappie. The Los Angeles River used to be a natural steelhead salmon run — as did Malibu Creek and other waterways south of us. This part of the Los Angeles River is mighty and dangerous, verdant and lush, not to be tamed easily. It is a flood channel.

The embodiment of Gehry’s work is artistic juxtaposition, a life work that stands out from the environment, not integrated with it. The revitalization of the Los Angeles River has produced a wilderness in our midst. Gehry’s participation is odd.

I would like to see proposals other than Gehry’s.


Culver City

Thank you for this story demonstrating that the era of the star architect has yet to sunset. While Frank Gehry, who will draft the master plan for the redevelopment of the Los Angeles River, is certainly one of the most talented and revolutionary architects of our time, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s comparison of him to the greatest landscape architect in North America — and yes, this is a separate credentialed profession — is nearsighted.

Perhaps the best indication of the mayor’s misplaced focus is that although the team of Olmsted and Vaux developed the design for New York’s Central Park, it is Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect, whose work has remained timeless and a model for all other major civic parks. The seamless orchestration of natural systems and infrastructure make Olmsted’s work genius.

If the mayor really believes that we need a sexy star capable of creating a master vision to complement and elevate the work previously accomplished, I would recommend studying this list of the next possible Olmsteds: James Corner, Laurie Olin, George Hargreaves, Adriaan Geuze and Michael Van Valkenburgh. Not only are these landscape architects capable, they also have all accomplished similar work and seen it built in their lifetimes.



The writer is a lecturer in the USC School of Architecture.
Has anyone told Gehry that the continuous flow of the L.A. River in this time of serious drought is about 23 million gallons per day of treated water?

Enough to serve about 85,000 homes, this water originally was intended to replenish the aquifer beneath the San Fernando Valley. We pay for the water, we pay to have it treated, and we dump it into the river.

Why not reduce the dumping until the drought ends and use it as originally planned?


Valley Village


Here’s the biggest story since $1 billion Alt. 20 got the nod earlier this summer: Rock star architect, father of the undulating Disney Hall downtown — arguably the highest-profile living American architect — is at the helm of the river renewal. Read about it here.

And check out the L.A. Times architecture critic’ interview with Gehry here.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

San Fernando Valley chamber of commerce cries foul on $1.1 billion L.A. River revitalization

Troy Davis
Troy Davis

Since late summer, Los Angeles City Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo has asked rallies of river supporters “Who stands against us?” He was speaking, of course, of the city’s bid to get a billion-dollar makeover for 11 miles of the Los Angeles River. That potential makeover has been extensively covered in the media and on this blog. Now it seems some members of the San Fernando business community don’t see the issue  as many local, state and national politicos and environmental advocates do.

In a letter last week posted by the United Chambers of the San Fernando Valley on its website, the group said it seeks to delay the Los Angeles River restoration and to extend the Army Corps’ feasibility study.

Specifically, the group  believes its voice has not been heard by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and asks both the city and the county to request that the corps re-study its plan in light of objections that include:

— water reclamation and taxation

— real estate and eminent domain

— city cost sharing in a time of privation.

You can read the  press release for details.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who grew up in the valley,  spoke to the group at its Ninth Annual Mayor’s luncheon last month. During his 20-minute speech he referenced the Los Angeles River once, and didn’t go into the revitalization push, which has included his recent visit to Washington to discuss the matter with, among others, President Obama. He did, however, emphasize the need to capture rain water by removing concrete.

“The largest natural aquifer reservoir — or manmade, second largest in the state — is called the San Fernando Valley, but it’s pretty dry. We have to clean it up, and we have to figure out a way to unpave our city, to recycle our water,” he said.

According to its website, UCSFV has 21,000 member businesses that provide 387,000 jobs to the area.

The board reads like a who’s who of the wealthy and powerful, and  includes Jacque McMillan of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

In a subsequent Los Angeles Daily News story, the Army Corps, which is the lead federal agency in the revitalization effort, with the city of L.A. as its local partner, replied that the United Chambers and others could submit public comments by Nov. 18.

“To say they weren’t represented wasn’t true,” Army Corps Spokeswoman Kristen Stopeck said. “This isn’t a done deal. The great thing is that they are interested in being part of this discussion — and still have time to weigh in.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick mends: Garcetti takes Alternative 20 to Washington

Then Councilmember Eric Garcetti opens a part of the bike path along the Los Angeles River in 2011. (Jim Burns)
Then Councilmember Eric Garcetti opens a part of the bike path along the Los Angeles River in 2011. (Jim Burns)

Making good on his pledge to push for a billion-dollar makeover of the Los Angeles River, yesterday Los Angeles Mayor
Eric Garcetti pushed the idea to President Obama, whom he campaigned for in California.

Here’s a report from KPCC, and another from Los Angeles Magazine.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Crowd sees ’20/20′ for Corp’s Alternative 20

THE EYES HAVE IT: craw daddy fly posed on a piece of found river glass. (Jim Burns
THE EYES HAVE IT: craw daddy fly posed on a piece of found river glass. (Jim Burns)

The river looked beautiful today, baking sun shimmering on the Glendale Narrows. I haven’t had a chance to fish this fall, so I headed to my favorite spot for carp, across from Betty Davis park. It’s fun to watch the riders gently walk their horses toward the stables, which are almost adjacent to the park. Their hooves land with little dust clouds in contrast to the thick, green grass and voluptuous sycamores inside the park. Plus there are plenty of holes in the fence that separates the park from the river. This is, after all, the terminus of the soft-bottom section before the river is corseted by concrete forming a “Y,” as it heads deeper into Burbank.

I was anxious to plop my craw daddy fly with its heavy eyes into the water. I could already see hungry carp in my mind’ eye, and just where I would put the fly in, so it would gently ripple into my favorite pool on the river.

Only one problem: between the last time I was here and today, our river guardians had come in and changed the subtle flow of the river, stripping foliage, so that the water into the side channel increased. Just like that, my sweet spot had disappeared. Just like that, the carp I’d watched so vividly in my mind were, in reality, just a mirage.

Which, if you’ll indulge me, is the problem of our age: What was solid yesterday is quicksand today. What appears to be terra firma during daylight, folds into the shadows of the moon at night.

What will our outlaw river, a place of ragged fence openings, sudden danger, and equally friendly encounters, become?

At Thursday night’s USACE public comment meeting, almost every person who spoke, echoed the one before, 20-20, a vision of the future with Alternative 20, and its billion-dollar makeover of 11water miles. A few concerned themselves with flood safety, the reason we Angelinos asked for the Corps help some 80 years ago. No one argued for the other three lesser alternatives.

This blog has received only one comment that questions the entire endeavor, wondering if there would even be a river without its concrete girdle.

So, it would seem that if the voice of river advocates is heard by the local Corps, it will switch its tentative choice from 13 to 20. It also seems that locally, the top brass is as enthusiastic about 20 as are the mayor,vocal councilmembers, elected officials in adjacent cities, a smattering of state representatives, and a few powerful allies in Washington, itself.

Mayor Eric Garcetti noted Thursday night with some 4,500 names of signees to his petition for 20 scrolling on a screen as he spoke to the standing-room-only crowd at the River Center, “I can’t remember the last time that many people agreed on anything.”

If we were to score the river’s political will versus everything from voter apathy (15 percent), to Congressional approval rating (9 percent), the people have already won. In this time where precious little rings with optimism, the river’s song has captured many of us, and called for us to be better than we were.

Will Washington listen?

I’d like to know that someday the hole I love will actually still be there the next time I’m on the water.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: O’Farrell takes river baton from Reyes

Newly elected Council-member Mitch O'Farrell. (Courtesy City Council District 13)
Newly elected Council-member Mitch O’Farrell. (Courtesy City Council District 13)

Even though termed-out river champion Ed Reyes’s district went to Gilbert Cedillo, the new self-proclaimed keeper of the flame is newly elected Council-member Mitch O’Farrell.  And front-and-center is the most important decision to impact the Los Angeles River since it was channelized last century.

“We have some alternatives that are being entertained right now by the Army Corps [of Engineers] and the Feds,” O’Farrell recently told The Los Angeles Downtown News, referencing Alternative 20, which is the most extensive and expensive of the revitalization plans. “We all support that, but it has a $1 billion price tag. There are some [alternatives] that are a lot less than that.”

Meanwhile, the Corps can’t officially comment on the details until the report containing the four alternatives (not three, as was widely reported in the Los Angeles Times last week) is released in early September, according to a spokesman. But sources close to the process say that Washington balked at the Alternative 20, billion-dollar price tag and will push for the cheapest of the alternatives. When released, the report will also identify the Corps tentatively selected plan (TSP).

“The TSP is ‘tentative’ and not a final agency decision,” said the new Los Angeles District Commander Col. Kim Colloton. “We will ask for public and agency comments on all alternatives, and consider all comments before we make a final decision. Transparency and community involvement are vitally important.”

In a press release, Colloton said the Corps, City of Los Angeles and stakeholders have jointly developed the alternatives, and the purpose of the collaborative effort has been to find ways to improve the L.A. River ecosystem in a constrained funding environment.

“Hundreds of ideas were explored, and the best of these were combined to come up with the final array of alternatives in the draft report,” she said.  “The ultimate goal is to maximize ecosystem benefits relative to costs.”

Once released,  the action will trigger a 45-day public comment period that will help inform a final report, which will include a recommendation to Congress.

See you on the river, Jim Burns