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City Considering Plan to Start Un-Paving and Spiffing the LA River

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UPDATED: 12/9 3:15 pm: Big news for you river rats who are ready for the Los Angeles River to return to a more enjoyable state: yesterday, the City Council approved the Los Angeles River Implementation Overlay, meant to encourage good river-centric development, reports the Daily News (Update: A spokesperson for Councilmember Reyes tells us via email that the Council did not pass the final ordinance: "The Council approved a Note and File update report on the RIO. Final ordinance will come back to Council in approximately 3 months."). The LA-RIO creates a set of design guidelines for developers looking to build along the river's edges, and it's a crucial step in finally removing some of the concrete currently lining the river. According to city planner Tom Rothmann, this is the first plan for actually making changes along the river, unlike the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, which provided more of a vision exercise. Rothmann told Curbed today that the overlay "requires changes along the river and a quarter-mile buffer around the river."

Those requirements include drought tolerant landscaping and more strategic positioning for the less desirable uses, such as dumpsters and parking. According to Rothmann, "There are no zone changes--up zoning or down zoning. The LA-RIO implements design standards and guidelines." The design standards would only apply to new construction or major remodels; except for the drought tolerant landscaping, they won't apply to single-family homes.

According to the LADN, the LA-RIO identifies "areas where the concrete could be removed to increase public access to the river, while not creating any flooding problems," and not every neighborhood along the river will see the same kinds of development. Councilmember Ed Reyes tells the paper "there are commercial areas where we are going to them to say, 'You can do more here than have a back of a building facing the river'...We want them to look at other possibilities of having parkways and bike paths."

In residential neighborhoods, however, some people worried about people cutting through to get to the river, according to Reyes: "There were areas, primarily in the San Fernando Valley, that are heavily residential and they didn't want to see any change, where people would be trying to get to the river."

Rothmann also told Curbed that when passed the LA-RIO will apply to the LA River, but that eventually the design standards implemented by the overlay could also apply to other watersheds in the city, such as the Tujunga Wash and Ballona Creek. The City Council is hoping that the LA-RIO will be sufficient to convince the Obama administration to fund an Army Corps of Engineers study on getting rid of the concrete. Image via Ron Reiring
· Council OKs plan to revive riverfront [Daily News]
· Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay (LA-RIO) [Council File:09-0590]