L.A. Plan to Turn Concrete River Green Wins Corps Backing

The Los Angeles River, a concrete channel through much of the nation’s second most-populous city, would begin to be restored under a $1 billion plan recommended for approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The project would rebuild the river, straightened and paved for flood control in the 1930s, to bring back wildlife habitat, recreate wetlands and provide access to bikers and hikers on an 11-mile (18-kilometer) stretch north of downtown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said yesterday. It still needs funding from federal, state and city sources.

“Restoring the river is a critical part of moving our city forward,” Garcetti said in a news briefing. “New life on the river will bring new life to the neighborhoods and businesses around it.”

Revitalized riverfronts have energized cities from San Antonio to Portland, Oregon. In Los Angeles, restoration will generate as much as $5.7 billion in development investment over the next 25 to 50 years, according to a 2012 city report. Property prices near the river have been rising in anticipation, said Ben Stapleton, a vice president with real-estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. in Los Angeles.

The plan “will go a long way in transforming the river itself and make it a destination,” Stapleton said in an interview. “The reality is it’s going to take time.”

The decision to endorse the plan was made by Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

The Los Angeles River project will generate 9,000 new jobs and bring open space to communities with a shortage of parks, revitalizing 719 acres (290 hectares) of green space along the waterway, Garcetti said.

‘Queen of Angels’

The river was the source of fresh water that attracted American Indians to the area that Spanish missionaries called “The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels,” a name truncated from the original Spanish to Los Angeles.

The paved riverbed has served as a stage for scenes in movies such as “Transformers,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Grease” and “Chinatown.” Efforts to return the river to a more bucolic state started with local environmentalists in the 1980s.

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