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A whopping new, $252M price tag for LA River's 'crown jewel'

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The 40-acre property is the centerpiece of the river restoration plan

A new report from the city administrative officer’s office says the total cost of buying, cleaning up, and transforming a big piece of land that's supposed to serve as the centerpiece of the restoration plan of the Los Angeles River could cost as much as $252 million, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The 40-acre site, called the G2 parcel, has been called the "crown jewel" of the river's restoration. Vacant since 2006, it was once part of a rail yard for Union Pacific, where it was used for fueling and maintenance operations, says the Times. That industrial past is jacking up the cost of rehabing the site and turning it into useable park space. City analysts say the most expensive part of overhauling the parcel, which is still owned by the Union Pacific railroad company, will be "soil cleanup" to remove lead, arsenic, and other contaminants. The process is expected to cost $120 million alone.

Everything along on the river’s going to be pretty pricey, apparently:

Thursday’s report makes clear that the 11-mile river project, which stretches from the northern end of Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles, will be considerably costlier than it was billed two years ago. The price tag for the overall initiative — purchasing land, ripping out concrete, adding water cleanup features, reintroducing native habitat, among other things — is expected to reach nearly $1.6 billion, the report says.

Federal funds probably aren’t going to cover much of the costs; the analysts say that the city could end up carrying 76 percent of the costs.

The city council voted in May to set aside $40 million to buy the roughly 40-acre parcel. But not everyone is excited about a potential purchase. The president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association isn’t sure that the hefty price tag is fair considering the total acreage of the land, and is also concerned that this might not be the most park-needy neighborhood, considering "There are areas of the San Fernando Valley that have been asking for parkland for decades," he said.

City officials are going to have to make up their minds whether to begin the process of acquiring the land pretty soon. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council only have until October 31 to start escrow on the property. Failure to do so by then could mean that a new appraisal would be required. And that could result in an even higher price tag for the property.