The L.A. River is not to Los Angeles as the Seine is to Paris, nor the Thames to London. Its 51 miles of concrete were not designed to become a uniting landmark when they were first poured in 1938, but rather as a functional safeguard against an infamous flood that devastated the city in March of that year. Though it currently provides a handful of narrow parks, bike trails and opportunities for brief kayaking excursions along its winding path between its mouth in Long Beach and the flats of Canoga Park, the LA River has widely been dismissed as little more than a blight in the neighborhoods it divides in half. Only within the last few years, however, has the city funded drastic improvements to the appearance and functionality of the Mighty L.A. Revisiting the loosely organized LA River Master Plan of 1996, the city has most recently focused its attention on Taylor Yard (also known as the G2 parcel), a 42-acre parcel sitting on the river’s midway marker near Mount Washington that was once a hub for the Southern Pacific Railroad freight trains that enabled the city’s growth in the first half of the 20th century. After purchasing the land for $60 million, the city invited firms WSP and Studio MLA (Mia Lehrer + Associates) to collaborate on three separate visions (viewable here and released in June) for the abandoned site’s future as a public park, each of which is distinguished by varying levels of interaction with the river: “Island” would blend the park and the river with the addition of an artificial island (in a formal gesture reminiscent of the Ile de la Cité in Paris); “Soft Edge” would provide a large, flat park set against the river without obstructing its path; and “The Yards” would feature a radial plan with a raised circular platform at its center from which visitors can observe the river and the city from a vantage point. The unifying consideration for each of the three plans, however, is to replace the prohibitive fencing along the L.A. River with amenities which will draw visitors close to its edge. “With Taylor Yard,” Mia Lehrer expressed, “our hope is to create experiences at different scales that are very close to nature and also celebratory of the community.” Whichever plan is selected will have to incorporate a viewing platform to be completed next year by SelgasCano, the Spanish firm behind Second Home and the Serpentine Pavilion currently parked at the La Brea Tar Pits. The Taylor Yards project will be opened to the public in shifts, the last of which is expected to be completed at least ten years from now. “The objective of a phased approach is to address required remediation as funding is available,” said Michael Drennan, project manager for WSP, “while allowing more immediate public use of portions of the site, along with interim site uses for natural flora and fauna.”
Posts tagged with "LA River":
Turnaround Arts: California recently announced a $1 million donation from architect Frank Gehry. A leading figure behind the proposed redesign of the Los Angeles River into a mixed-use district with substantial parkland, Gehry will direct his donation towards underserved communities abutting the river just south of Los Angeles. As he said in a statement, "I have been working on the Los Angeles River, and through this work, I have discovered the great need for this program in the districts closest to the river, especially south of the city of Los Angeles." Founded in 2014 by Malissa Shriver and Frank Gehry, Turnaround Arts: California is the state chapter of a larger initiative championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Coordinated by The Kennedy Center, Turnaround Arts strives to improve academic performance and improve schools through the arts by providing arts education to nearly one hundred underperforming schools in seventeen states and Washington D.C. With Gehry's donation being matched by an anonymous donor, Turnaround Arts: California’s program will be extended to ten more schools in the next five years, with the first of these three participating as of April 16. In total, 17,000 K-8 students in California will now be served by educational programs led by Turnaround Arts. In a statement, Gehry added, "Over the last forty years, I’ve spent time with kids in the classroom using architecture and art to get them engaged, focus their attention, and even introduce mathematics, civics, and other subjects that they might not have otherwise been receptive to."
At the recent Urban Land Institute (ULI) Fall Meeting in Los Angeles, architect Frank Gehry made surprising remarks concerning the future of the Los Angeles River in a wide-ranging interview with Frances Anderton, host of KCRW's DnA: Design and Architecture. During the discussion, Gehry told Anderton, “You can’t build habitat and you can’t build space for recreation in the river,” meaning the removal of the river’s concrete-lined bottom. He emphasized his statement, adding, “I can tell you it will never happen,” before explaining that removing the concrete lining at the bottom of the river—as has already been done along a three-mile-long section surrounding Griffith Park—would drastically reduce the channel’s ability to safely carry away storm waters from L.A.’s periodic downpours. Gehry explained that removing the concrete would only be possible if the channel itself was made much wider, saying, “If there’s grass at [at the river’s bottom] you’d need to make the river seven times wider.” Gehry pointed to the Army Corp’s analysis, which is focused predominantly on the channel’s ability to handle massive storm surges, as the main reasoning for this statement. The comments cast doubt on the ever-growing list of L.A. River-related restoration that see ecological and recreational use as being central to the future of the river. Up and down the length of the 51-mile-long river, various local agencies, landscape architecture, and architecture firms are working on proposals envisioning a lush, socially-activated river. At least three new bridges are in the work, as well as several new housing developments, parks and even, a plan to bring 36,000 housing units to areas surrounding the river. Gehry’s comments raise the question—Is L.A.River in danger of finding itself up the creek without a paddle?
AECOM has a bold, transformational vision for the areas immediately surrounding the Los Angeles River in Downtown Los Angeles. The firm’s recently-published Los Angeles River Gateway proposal envisions a dense web of newly interconnected neighborhoods and recreational areas surrounding a four-mile stretch of the river between Elysian Park and the Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, Arts District, and Civic Center neighborhoods. The plan calls for nearly 300 acres of publicly-accessible riparian areas surrounding the river. Those recreational and flood-control areas would be joined, according to the plan, by 36,620 residential units, including at least 7,874 affordable homes. The plan calls for making 100 percent of the riverfront areas accessible to the public by absorbing the surrounding industrially-zoned lands and converting those parcels to park areas. The unsolicited study seeks to join “the city with [the] river and nature” by physically connecting the neighborhoods surrounded by the L.A. River with the river itself. It also works within the confines of existing neighborhood plans and leans on already-approved proposals to paint – not a radical vision for the future – but something more akin to a visualization of what the built-out area might eventually look like under current plans. AECOM proposes a series of approaches for bridging over privately- and publicly-owned rail yards surrounding the river’s banks on either side, including plans for underground tunnels that would serve high-speed rail, public transit, and private freight trains. Other potential options include the erection of an elevated trestle system for trains that would allow pedestrians to walk below the tracks and a fill-and-mound system of terraforming to span over the tracks. The River Gateway proposal also calls for adding nearly 150,000 jobs to the area, a 200% increase over the existing number of jobs currently contained within the study areas, according to the authors. Under the plan, 97% of the area’s jobs would be located within a 10-minute walk from the handful of existing and forthcoming light rail stops that serve the area. Renderings for the scheme depict sweeping, tree-filled vistas of the areas surrounding the river, with the areas around Union Station particularly transformed by new structures. The renderings show the City’s brutalist Piper Tech records and police facility being replaced by mixed-use housing towers, for example. Low- to mid-rise apartment blocks would flank the riverbanks on both sides and ultimately bleed into realized visions projected under the new Civic Center Master Plan. The Los Angeles River Gateway plan calls for a 40-year implementation schedule, with many of the improvements either begun or partially completed in time for the 2028 Olympic Games. Under the plan, the downtown section of the L.A. River would act as a “gateway” for Olympics visitors. A full version of AECOM’s proposal can be found here.
The list of potential pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly bridges coming to a stretch of the Los Angeles River in northeast Los Angeles continues to grow with the recent announcement of a new $20 million span. The latest bridge would cross between the City of Glendale and L.A.’s Griffith Park, connecting over the L.A. River bed and Interstate-5. Designs for the proposed pedestrian link by T.Y. Lin International Group and the City of Glendale call for a winding, board-formed concrete span topped by distinctive white metal trellises. The trellises would be surrounded by integrated seating areas and planting beds. Plans for the exact location of the bridge are currently under discussion, and the city has released three potential sites. The bridge would only be built if a statewide voter referendum is approved for the ballot this year and is majority-supported in 2018. Laura Friedman, a local California Assemblyperson backing the project, said in a press release: “The bridge isn’t just a link between neighborhoods, it’s connecting people with open space, miles of bike paths, and economic opportunity, all while creating jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and congestion on our streets and freeways.” The bridge joins a pair of other proposals, including a $16.1-million scheme for the North Atwater Multimodal Bridge roughly a mile south that is also being developed by the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering (BoE) on behalf of the City of Los Angeles. Funds for the bridge include a donation from developer Morton La Kretz, a grant from the Caltrans Active Transportation Program, and City of L.A. funding, among others. The bridge, designed by Buro Happold, is 325-foot-long and utilizes cable-stayed technology to span over the L.A. River. The bridge was initially donated by La Kretz, but project costs have spiraled out of control and now far exceed the initial donation amount. It is expected that the cost of the bridge will now be borne by taxpayers. The bridge is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in 2019. The Taylor Yard Bridge—designed by Studio Pali Fekete Architects— and is also planned for a nearby stretch of the river. The 400-foot-long $19 million bridge would span between the Elysian Valley neighborhood and Taylor Yard, which is currently being vetted for redevelopment. The bridge features a metal truss frame and contains an outlook at the center of the crossing. The bridge is expected to enter construction in 2018. Once these projects are completed, traveling between northeast Los Angeles and all points west of the L.A. River will be much easier than it is today. This post has been updated.
A partnership between the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, AECOM, Gruen Associates, Chee Salette, WSP, CH2M, Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA), and Tetra Tech has produced preliminary visioning plans for a segment of the Los Angeles River running through Downtown Los Angeles. The dramatic proposals aim to reconfigure a several-mile stretch of the concrete-lined river running from the southern tip of the Frogtown neighborhood north of Downtown to the Redondo Junction at its far southern end. Each of the seven teams was given a separate segment of the river to reconfigure and asked to take into account river-adjacent projects currently under development like BIG’s 670 Mesquit, among others. The teams were also asked to anticipate future planning approaches, including private-public partnerships and a potential extension of the Red Line subway to the Arts District. The proposals, according to a project website, are meant to focus on increasing pedestrian connectivity to the river while also “embracing bold, world-class design.” Gruen Associates, Barclay to Spring Street: Gruen Associates’ scheme seeks to reconfigure a narrow stretch of riverfront between Interstate 110 and the northern border of Chinatown by covering over an existing rail yard with a meadow and elevated public paths. WSP, Spring Street to Cesar Chavez Avenue: WSP’s proposal aims to create a series of stepped terraces that gradually meet the existing river bottom. The terraces expand as they reach the river, creating a broad, swoopy promenade. CH2M, Cesar Chavez Avenue to 1st Street: CH2M’s scheme creates a dramatic creek just south of Interstate 101 that rises up to meet the northern edge of the Arts District neighborhood. Renderings included with the proposal showcase broad bicycle and pedestrian paths as well as integrated seating and meandering trails. Chee Salette, 1st Street to 4th Street: Chee Salette’s proposal calls for a densely-packed sculpture garden sandwiched between Michael Maltzan Architecture’s (MMA) One Santa Fe complex and the L.A. River. The scheme features a river crossing that traverses the L.A. River’s bottom. Like the previous concepts, the scheme envisions placing a broad, stepped cap over the existing Metro rail yard that runs parallel to the waterway, where the Red Line extension would go. Mia Lehrer + Associates, 4th Street to 7th Street: MLA’s proposal extends work the firm has proposed for the adjacent 670 Mesquit project—MLA is landscape architect for that project, as well—by adding a riverine forest, wetlands, and stormwater filtration pools to the eastern banks of the river. The scheme also envisions creating a connection between the forthcoming 6th Street bridge park underneath the new MMA-designed 6th Street bridge and the nearby Hollenbeck Park. AECOM, 7th Street to Olympic Boulevard: The AECOM proposal aims to utilize a network of new pedestrian bridges over the river to connect the western and eastern banks of the river around a segment of the Arts District that has seen several new development proposals in recent months, including a new SoHo House outpost and an 110-unit live/work complex by Studio One Eleven. The AECOM scheme proposes a series of elevated park islands resting on diminutive feet and focuses on improving a Department of General Services-owned lot with demonstration gardens and a new solar farm. Tetra Tech, Olympic Boulevard to 26th Street: The scheme for the final leg of the study area includes the grounds surrounding the vacant Sears, Roebuck & Company Mail Order Building, which is currently slated to be redeveloped by Izek Shomof into a mixed-use complex. The Tetra Tech scheme envisions a new bridge at East Washington Boulevard over the river as well as a series of terraced gardens along the western banks of the river as well as a covered promenade along the eastern banks. No word yet on which, if any, of these proposals will actually be built. A budget for the bridge-heavy collection of ideas has not been released. See the LA River Design Dialogue (3D) website for more information.
The City of Los Angeles recently closed escrow the G2 parcel, a 42-acre strip of land adjacent to the Los Angeles River that will be revitalized as a publicly accessible nature preserve and flood control area as part of the L.A. River’s long-term restoration. The parcel represents the last sizable holding leftover from the 250-acre Taylor Yard site along the river’s eastern banks adjacent to the Cypress Park neighborhood and across from the bustling Frogtown neighborhood. Taylor Yard, a large, river-adjacent industrial lot formerly owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, has been systematically disassembled over the years. Those other portions of Taylor Yard have been turned into the Rio de Los Angeles State Park, the Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies, and the Taylor Yard Transit Village. Acquisition of the G2 parcel allows the city to connect two adjacent, State-owned parks: the Rio de Los Angeles State Park and the Bowtie parcel. This will create, once the G2 Parcel’s revitalization is complete, a roughly mile-long riverfront access frontage for the surrounding community. In a press release celebrating the G2 Parcel’s acquisition, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “We’ve always considered G2 to be the crown jewel in our vision to revitalize the L.A. River, and that’s why I have been committed to fighting for the resources to finally return this land to the people of Los Angeles and the wildlife that call it home.” The parcel marks a key step forward for the complex and contentious L.A. River restoration projects that aim to revitalize the concrete-lined flood control channel. It was announced last year that Mia Lehrer and Associates, Oyler Wu Collaborative, and Gruen and Associates would extend the river-adjacent bike path that runs along the banks opposite from the G2 Parcel into the San Fernando Valley. That project would add about 12 miles of riverfront bike paths and further the city’s goal of developing bicycle trails along the river’s entire 51-mile length. Gehry Partners has also been working on a master plan for the river since 2016. Gehry’s planning efforts are being pursued in tandem with the city’s adopted Alternative 20 plan, a proposal that calls for the restoration of an 11-mile stretch of the river north of Downtown Los Angeles. The Alternate 20 plan relies on stitching together a series of river-adjacent plots—including the G2 Parcel and Piggyback Yard in Downtown Los Angeles—in tandem with the restoration of the river channel itself. Next steps for the restoration of the G2 Parcel include site remediation in coordination with the State’s Department of Toxic Substances Control as well as planning efforts aimed at making the site more accessible to the public.