California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

Stephanie Pincetl writes on plans for the L.A. River

1 Comment

In a blog post Jan. 21, 2009, Stephanie Pincetl, Director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment, Urban Center for People and the Environment, discusses current efforts to “restore” the Los Angeles River. Dr. Pincetl asks whether plan for the river constitute a restoration or a reinvention. From the post:

“In the early 1980s, Louis McAdams, a performance artist, had a vision that the Los Angeles River could be restored and returned to life, extricated from its concrete confines, and allowed to flow naturally. This vision, at first ridiculed and trivialized, has become the city’s own. Plans are a-foot to create parks along its long trajectory from the San Fernando Valley to the sea, to build new river-oriented housing and commercial developments along the river, and to remove the concrete lining where feasible, balancing public safety from flooding, cost and ecological considerations.

“But is this restoration or the(re) invention of the Los Angeles River? The river’s flow today is tertiary treated sewage from the Tillman Sewage Treatment Plant and dry weather run-off from urban irrigation. Most of the River’s own indigenous flow is captured by the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the city’s drinking water supply and kept in underground aquifers. Only when it rains does the river have true flow, and since the river is channelized to prevent flooding, most of the rainflow is directed to the sea.”

One thought on “Stephanie Pincetl writes on plans for the L.A. River

  1. (the source blog doesn’t seem to allow comments, so I will post here)

    A question that we creek freaks talk about is what kind of restoration. I don’t expect that we should make a goal of “historical” restoration. For the foreseeable future I don’t expect that we’ll restore a river that swept around its flood plain with its mouth sometimes heading to San Pedro Bay and other times to Santa Monica Bay. What we can restore is functionality. The river served as habitat for the migration of steelhead trout. I think we can restore that, and many other natural functions (groundwater recharge, recreation, etc.).

    Many of the governmental plans avoid “restoration” and instead use “revitalization.” Some environmentalists express concern about this, because it seems to step away from a commitment to restoring natural functions. We worry that the end point could be something that looks like Disneyland
    (more or less like the artificial spur of the San Antonio Riverwalk that runs through a mall.)

    Restoration looks backwards, which may be misleading. The most likely scenarios are the river moving forward to something new, something that the river wasn’t, but something much more natural and much more publicly accessible and much more joyful than what we have today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s