The state Legislature has given full approval to SB 1201, a bill that will make it easier for the public to access the LA River for educational and recreational purposes. According to the LA Times, "The measure requires the Los Angeles County Flood Control District to provide access to navigable sections of the river where it is suitable for educational and recreational purposes and doesn't interfere with flood control and water conservation." The text of the bill is a little more complex than that, however. Basically, the "demonstrated navigability" of the river means that public access to the river is protected under Section 4 of Article X of the California Constitution, "which guarantees the public a right of access to the navigable waters of the state that must not be obstructed by any individual, partnership, or corporation, and to case law protecting the public trust." Because of the river's decades-long commitment to flood control (i.e., paving) at the expense of all other considerations, public agencies have not been ensuring public access to the river.
Therefore, "The current regulation and inconsistent enforcement of public access to the Los Angeles River at multiple levels of government are inadequate to ensure the public's right of access to the river in a safe manner, particularly considering the lack of a comprehensive safety warning system." Now it's up to the Flood Control District to develop specific policies to grant the public better access.
Back in March, the bill would have created a new agency, the Los Angeles River Interagency Access Council, to represent the many state and local agencies that oversee the river. However, the creation of that agency was nixed at an earlier stage of the approval process. The Friends of the Los Angeles River and UCLA's Environmental Law Clinic drafted the bill, which now awaits the signature of Governor Brown.
· State lawmakers push recreational uses for Los Angeles River [LA Times]
· State Bill Would Legalize Public Access to Stretches of LA River [Curbed LA]