By Ted AYALA
Approval for a massive plan that could potentially have far-reaching effects on the local scenery and economy was discussed by Glendale City Council on Tuesday night.
The Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Report (LARERIR), which had been opened up for public comment on Sept. 13, seeks to restore and revitalize upwards of 11 miles of the Los Angeles River closer to its natural state. The report, which was produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Los Angeles, took seven years to develop and cost $10 million.
Twenty alternatives for how to move forward have since been whittled down to four options. The most ambitious of these options, known as “Alternative 20,” would revitalize 719 acres of land, including the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk and the Verdugo Wash, both of which lie within Los Angeles but are adjacent to Glendale.
Marc Stirdivant from Glendale Community Services and Parks called the project “the single greatest opportunity we will ever have to restore and revitalize the Los Angeles River.”
“It is the only alternative that provides a significant benefit to the residents of Glendale,” he said of Alternative 20. According to him, that alternative would include the creation and reestablishment of riparian and marsh habitats along designated stretches of the river. It would also help foment an increase in the populations of wildlife and permit opportunities for passive recreation compatible with the restored environment.
“[This] plan will become the largest federal local investment partnership in the river’s revitalization to date,” he added.
Alternative 20 has gained wide support across the region, receiving endorsements from the Los Angeles City Council, Congressman Adam Schiff, State Senator Carol Liu, and Assemblymember Mike Gatto, among other officials and organizations.
Funding for Alternative 20 would come from a partnership between Los Angeles and the federal government and would be funded over decades. The plan would be implemented piecemeal over a period of up to 50 years and would cost $1.08 billion. Glendale, though benefiting by being adjacent to lands expected to undergo restoration, is not required to provide any funding.
“Put it another way, this is the chance of a lifetime,” said Councilmember Frank Quintero. “I think this is essential and I support it 100%.”
Stirdivant answered Quintero by saying that the city stands to gain much from the project and would not have to pay a single cent for it.
“Benefits to Glendale [would be] that we get a park that we neither pay to develop nor maintain,” he said. “Our residents would get the benefits of that without being asked to put up the funds.”
Properties currently existing on land slated to be revitalized and restored would be purchased at fair market value. The project has funding set aside for real estate acquisitions.
Members of the public in attendance spoke unanimously in favor of supporting Alternative 20. Mark Kenyon, executive director of Northeast Trees, was among those urging the council to support it.
“We believe all of us in this region ought to speak with one voice to have [Alternative 20] supported by the [Army Corps of Engineers],” he said.
Mike Mohill praised the plan as a “Rolls Royce project” and added his approval.
“This will be a green belt that would affect South Glendale and I hope the city supports it,” he said.
“This is something that would be green space right to our front doors,” Councilmember Laura Friedman said. “It’s an incredible vision.”