LA River: A Concrete Basin with Opportunity for More by Dejanae Davis

With concrete walls, a slow stream, and visibly polluted water, the Los Angeles River looks like anything but a river. In fact, I grew up close to part of the LA River, yet it was not until I was in high school that I realized that it was in fact a river. Running through communities that struggle to find accessible natural space, the LA River presents an opportunity to bring green space to these areas.[1]

Initiatives have attempted to restore sections of the LA River, but overall, the majority of the river remains 100% concrete[2]. So, access to green space remains an active problem in the Los Angeles area, a problem that the restoration of the LA River was aimed at solving.[3] Unfortunately, these efforts that have been made for restoration, all have fallen short of fulfilling this storm drains potential.

The Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP) was passed in 2005 by the state in Assembly Bill 530.[4] It planned to rejuvenate 32 miles of the LA River with paths, green spaces, open areas, and more to help with environmental justice and bring natural spaces to people in communities without easy access. Fifteen years later, and the vast majority of the LA River still looks like a concrete basin. Other plans and goals have been adopted by the city of Los Angeles and even the state of California, yet little movement has been made to develop more green space along the LA River.

Because of the river’s length, various communities, and even landscapes that the river “flows” through planning the revitalization has continued to be an issue.[5] Organizations from the county and city level such as the Department of Water, to state level agencies have all created and worked on different projects and ideas regarding the LA River. Unfortunately, because of a lack of communication and unification among these stakeholders and entities, barely any work has been made on the LA River, especially in some of the most vulnerable communities.[6] For progress to be seen on reviving the LA River and bringing green space to communities with little access, a single, comprehensive and united plan is needed at all levels interested in the LA River.

A plan that I believe will adequately address the problems I have described above, should highlight the entire length of the river, integrating upstream and downstream efforts of restoration and public accessible green space. Learning from other restoration projects like that completed on the Napa River, will serve public officials well in creating a new and successful project for the LA River.[7] One of the main reasons for the success of this proposal was the cumulative efforts of public and private entities. While funded by federal and state grants, local people also supported the project, their voices were heard and the goal of bringing the river ecosystem and human community was accomplished. Forming the plan on the LA River around the idea of bringing humans together with nature will help with bringing more accessible green space to these in need communities.

With this, there is and will be a need for extensive funding that will go towards a number of efforts for creating green space along the LA River. For instance, funds will be needed to pay engineers and other experts to create firm plans that are sustainable and economically friendly. Additionally, a budget large enough to implement these plans and care for the newly developed areas will be essential. Measure W is a part of the “Safe, Clean Water Act” in Los Angeles County and was passed in 2018.[8] It is a property tax in Los Angeles County that specifically pays for programs and projects that have to do with the capturing and recycling of stormwater; making it a perfect way to allocate funds for the LA River project.[9] Another source of funds for tackling this issue is a sales tax created by Measure M, which already has $365 million in funding for part of the LA River.[10] Creating a comprehensive and unilateral plan to tackle the revitalization of the LA River will provide the opportunity to not only enhance the wildlife and water quality but create accessible green space for communities that lack it.


[1] Ginger, L. (2020, November 12). Changes are coming to the l.a. river. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5]  Zhu, K., Irwin, J., Tanverakul, S., & Gulden, T. (2020, February 04). Los Angeles River Revitalization: Taking inspiration from near and far. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from

[6] Nagami, Damon. “Planning for Equitable Development along the LA River.” NRDC, 25 Sept. 2019,

[7] Ibid

[8] Barragan, B. (2018, November 05). Measure W: La’s parcel tax for STORMWATER recycling, explained. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from

[9]  Ibid.

[10]  Linton, J. (2019, October 02). Metro committee OKS moving forward with dtla L.A. River Path environmental studies. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from



One thought on “LA River: A Concrete Basin with Opportunity for More by Dejanae Davis

  1. Great blog post! After reading your blog, I looked up an image on the LA River and would agree that it looks nothing like a river. It looks more like the underpass of a bridge that has collected stormwater. There’s so much potential for the LA River to bring joy and wildlife to the community that it’s sad it is taking long for any progress to be made. A project like this could help unite different communities and add value to their properties. It’s difficult to do a cost-benefit analysis of the project because a river would bring many intangible benefits to the community, such as access to green space. I think the sales tax by Measure M is a great starting place for funding the project, but as you mentioned it takes a plan of action for change to occur. Hopefully, elected officials will prioritize this project so the communities can enjoy the outdoor area.

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