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Can the 2024 Olympics Save the Most Contentious Piece of Land on the LA River?

If Los Angeles wins its bid for the 2024 Olympics, it could finally bring to a head a years-long battle over a key property on the eastern side of the LA River known as Piggyback Yard. Los Angeles's Olympic bid book names Piggyback as the site for the athlete's village; if it all came together, the site would be cleared of all signs of its present use as a rail yard and and a private developer would build housing for Olympians that could later be converted to house regular Angelenos. But river activists have been trying to revitalize Piggyback Yard for years—their time table puts rehab at around 2033—and owner Union Pacific doesn't even seem interested in selling the property to begin with. It's going to take a lot of work to make Piggyback great.

River activists want wetlands, "a flood detention area," and other upgrades that will make the river a more natural, less concretey green space on the approximately 120-acre site, according to the LA Times; the redevelopment has been loosely slated for 2033, so the Olympics would shave about a decade off of that, provided that the city decides to incorporate those features and can even buy the property at all.

Before anything gets built for the Olympics, Piggyback Yard owners Union Pacific, who have held out for a long time, would have to finally agree to a price and sell the property. A letter from UP reps written just last year to the mayor and Olympic organizers stated that UP "has no plans to relocate or close" their facility at Piggyback Yard. UP would also have to find another place to move their active rail yard and operations, as Piggyback Yard is still in use moving about 240,000 containers a year.

Then the city would have to figure out cleanup of any contaminants that might be in the soil. These issues around just the sale of the site—buying the land, moving UP, and cleaning up anything toxic in the dirt—"could easily become a 'budget buster'" that balloons way beyond the budgeted $1-billion price tag for the project, former LA County Supe Zev Yaroslavsky warns. (He likes the idea of housing athletes at USC and UCLA.)

And of course, the entire plan to have the Olympics speed up the purchase and transformation of Piggyback Yard kind of hinges on LA actually winning the Olympics, beating out Budapest, Paris, Hamburg, and Rome.
· L.A.'s Olympic ambitions could boost river restoration – but at what cost? [LAT]
· 7 Very Big-Deal Plans in Los Angeles's New 2024 Olympics Bid [Curbed LA]
· LA Metro Wants to Speed Up Two Rail Lines So They're Ready By the 2024 Olympics [Curbed LA]