Here's What The LA River Will Look Like In 20 Years, According To LA's Chief Architect

(Photo by steve lyon/Flickr CC)

To see the future of the Los Angeles River you'll need to look into the crystal ball of Deborah Weintraub. She's the Chief Deputy City Engineer at L.A.'s Bureau of Engineering, and for over 15 years she's designed ways to zhoosh up the banks of our beloved and baffling concrete waterway.

We spoke with her about the latest developments on three big projects.

WHAT WILL THE L.A. RIVER BE LIKE IN 20 YEARS?

First of all, one ought to be able to start at the headwaters in the far West Valley and ride a bike all the way to Long Beach.

All along the river, I could see a necklace of gems: open spaces, pocket parks and places you could stop at with cafes and performances.

I see it as an open space and habitat and a nature-focused link for people.

I think in 20 years that will exist. We will have opened it back up to the people and we'll have a public amenity that didn't exist prior to this river-focused effort.

This rendering shows one design idea submitted as part of the city's Los Angeles River Revitalization plan. (Image courtesy of the city of Los Angeles)

HOW DOES THE REPLACEMENT OF THE 6TH STREET VIADUCT FIT INTO THE PLAN?

This was an exciting opportunity to bring a new bridge to the suite of historic bridges downtown, and we have an existing tunnel that goes from the Arts District into the river.

So we're using that to create, under the bridge, an arts plaza.

We have a wonderful donation from the Leonard Hill Charitable Trust to create a performance space.

And that leads to what we're calling the River Gateway which takes you into the river channel under the new viaduct, and ultimately to a bike path that Metro is in the early stages of planning that will take you all through downtown.

In addition, we're creating 12 acres of open space under the viaduct that will have landscaping and materials relating to the river.

BIKE PATHS FOR THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY. HOW'S THAT PROJECT GOING?

So that's really exciting. We've completed stretches of the bike path through the Valley and we see that they do get used, for recreation and even commuting.

We've recently completed a study of what ought to be the exact route through the Valley and we're about to start the first two phases to fill the gaps in the far west Valley between existing segments.

When we had funds available we grabbed them. So we're not waiting for the big chunk of money.

One design idea submitted by engineering company AECOM as part of the city's Los Angeles River Revitalization plan. (Image courtesy of the city of Los Angeles)

NORTH OF DTLA IS WHAT USED TO BE THE UNION PACIFIC RAILYARD. WHAT'S THE LATEST?

The city purchased it a little over a year ago. It had been identified years ago as a key site for an open space for people to walk and nature to flourish. So we're in the early stages of planning this site.

It was also part of a study we did with the Army Corps of Engineers because it's an area where we can really widen the river and lay the riverbanks back to create wetland and habitat environment.

That stretch of the river through Elysian Valley is already soft-bottom because the Corps couldn't line it there since the groundwater is too high, so you already see lots of birds and nature. It's really a wonderful place to walk.

The site is contaminated but we're fully responsible to clean it up and make it accessible to the public in a safe way.

The other thing is it's adjacent to the Rio de Los Angeles State Park and another undeveloped site that is state parks-owned.

Put together, that makes a hundred acres in the heart of the city of new open space with different activities.

The goal is that it be habitat-focused, nature-focused, to bring people to nature.

But that doesn't mean we can't have family-focused activities as well, such as performance space or a cultural center.

We're just starting to dream about that.

So we hope to be back before the public this fall to give some alternatives and get some feedback.

What we're all about at the Bureau of Engineering is building those public amenities that public dollars are being used for.

So we're thinking more holistically about those dollar investments and how to improve the public realm.

Editor's note: A version of this story was also on the radio. Listen to it here at KPCC.


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