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Renderings show the dramatic makeover that could be in store for the lower LA River

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Trails, meadows, and access to the riverbed itself

Bridge across lower LA river
Near Cudahy Park, the riverbank would be lined with terraced seating.
Renderings courtesy Perkins + Will

A wide array of projects big and small are now moving forward alongside all 51 miles of the Los Angeles River, and some of the most comprehensive planning is taking place along the river’s southern portion, from Vernon to Long Beach.

Last year the Lower Los Angeles River Working Group released a draft plan for the revitalization of the river’s final 19-mile stretch. New renderings, released last week by architecture firm Perkins + Will, offer a glimpse at what the plan could bring to the river, if executed as written.

“The signature projects are probably some of the largest open space opportunities that LA will ever see,” says Martin Leitner, the firm’s Los Angeles urban design leader.

Though the draft plan includes proposals for projects of varying size at hundreds of locations along the river, the most ambitious would transform segments of its concrete channel into public spaces with new parkland, trails, bridges, landscaping, and paths for walkers and cyclists.

The working group—a collection of community organizations, elected officials, and business coalitions—was convened by the state in 2016 to plan for the future of the lower river.

Key elements of the plan put together by the group are detailed in the renderings, including a project near Cudahy Park that will allow residents and visitors to access the concrete river bed, with terraced seating along the walls of the channel.

Another project at the Rio Hondo confluence in the city of South Gate would include a trio of new bridges, equestrian trails, and lush landscaping alongside the river.

In Long Beach, the stretch of river around Willow Street is shown in renderings with meadow-like landscaping and a boardwalk crossing over the river close to the nearby levee.

According to Leitner, Perkins + Will worked with engineering firm Tetra Tech, along with county officials and the working group itself, to create designs that prioritize communities around the river.

“Los Angeles is not about megaprojects, it is a city of diverse communities, cultures and moments,” Leitner says.

The working group released the draft plan in December and collected feedback from residents until January 11, which it will now use in finalizing those concepts. Eventually, the plan will be encompassed into the broader master plan for the entire river, now being worked on by Gehry Partners and other high-profile architecture and engineering firms.

River trail
A trail near the Rio Hondo confluence
Lower LA river shared street
A shared street concept by the river in Cudahy
LA River Rio Hondo bridge
A bridge at Rio Hondo Park
Lower LA river boardwalk
A boardwalk near Willow Street in Long Beach