Master Planning & P3 Financing the LA River

Jack Baylis: Barbara, share the Mayor and City’s current vision for the LA River and the G2 parcel.

Barbara Romero: Before I joined the Mayor’s Office, I worked at the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Authority. We were involved in projects all over the county: in Pacoima, the Tujunga Wash, Compton Creek, and the LA River. I loved my job, so I was torn about leaving to work for the city.

But the mayor said, “I want you to do what you are doing at the MRCA, but at a broader scale for the city and the river. I want you to use your perspective as a kid who grew up in Boyle Heights, and who thought the river was an infrastructure barrier. Help me elevate the vision of what the river could mean, both for connecting communities and for using our water resources in a different way to create value.”

Our vision at this point is to secure land along the river to provide opportunities to create the multi-layered value that cannot always be monetized. When I first arrived in the Mayor’s office, I was asked what our metrics for success would be. I said that unless we were able to secure this parcel of land that had been in the LA River vision for over 20 years, people would not think we were serious.

We have now secured the G2 land for $60 million from Union Pacific. It took more than four years to acquire, but it created the platform for a multi-benefit project that cleans and captures water, and most importantly, connects the community. For me, G2 is the exemplar of what we want to do across the entire 32 miles of the river in the City of Los Angeles.

We have a responsibility to get people to understand the value of our water system. The river is one vehicle to help people understand how we can become more sustainable as a city. We can use the river as a metaphor to achieve that goal.

Jack Baylis: Dan, is the county in alignment with Mayor of LA’s vision for the river?

Dan Lafferty: Many people don’t realize that housed within Public Works is the Los Angeles County Flood Control District. As Assistant Deputy Director of the county Department of Public Works, I’m also the Chief Planner for Flood Control.

Our agency, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has the primary responsibility for operations and maintenance of the flood control right-of-way for the LA River. We did our last Master Plan in 1996 and are just beginning a revision to that process, which we expect to be completed by 2020.

This plan will be, not just a compilation of all the plans that have been done since 1996, but also a vision for the entire corridor—both the right-of-way and the adjacent land. We will be soliciting input from the city of LA and the lower LA River municipalities. That effort will require a lot of collaborative input, and we are excited to help shepherd in a shared vision for the river, whatever it may be.

Learn more at The Planning Report