LA Waterkeeper

Practicum Project | 2023

Revitalizing Los Angeles River communities through green space

The Los Angeles River has long been an essential component of communities within the Los Angeles Basin, both natural and human alike. However, what was Once a natural, soft-bottomed river home to numerous species including California’s steelhead trout, for nearly a century the Los Angeles River has existed instead as a highly industrialized concrete channel. While altering the river’s flow has mitigated flooding events to some extent, its channelization has resulted in destructive habitat loss and native species decline, concentrated pollution. Today, the Los Angeles River bisects a number of communities and is home to a significant portion of LA’s homeless population. The river’s conversion to a “hotspot” for urban industrial development over the past century has further increased pressure on – if not displaced – many at-risk communities that lie along its banks.

Efforts to revitalize the LA River have gained traction in recent years. One of the more controversial proposals includes Los Angeles County’s plan to construct a series of artificial platform parks over the river to provide more green space for surrounding communities. While serving a laudable goal of increasing access to park space for otherwise park-poor communities, their pursuit has the potential to be prohibitively expensive, and the addition of even more concrete infrastructure over the Los Angeles River has the potential to block its future restoration. Our team is partnering with Los Angeles Waterkeeper, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the water quality and ecological health of waterways throughout the Los Angeles region, to provide an environmentally-friendly and community-oriented alternative to the proposed platform parks.

A previous practicum team worked with Los Angeles Waterkeeper to identify 17 sites along the LA River that could potentially host small-scale, multi-benefit community parks. This year, we will be working with Waterkeeper and local communities to assess the suitability of these sites for meeting community needs and providing multi-use green spaces, while serving to increase the region’s ecological resilience through stormwater capture, groundwater replenishment, and improved water quality, and leaving the door open for future restoration efforts along the river.

Student Team: Lauren Stack, Jarod Minasian, Skye Sun, Eve Gross-Sable, Joshua Matsuda, and Jacky Aflaki

Client: Los Angeles Waterkeeper

Advisor: Emma Barnosky