RIVER REVIVAL: WILL IT FLOW SMOOTHLY?
CANOGA PARK -- The dull gray concrete and fetid water of the Los Angeles River could eventually be transformed into a green corridor covered in vines, lined by trees and flowing with clear water.
Ambitious plans are under way to spruce up 32 miles of the L.A. River, and city officials chose Canoga Park as one of five ``opportunity sites'' slated for green space, recreation and economic development.
At a community meeting tonight, officials will unveil conceptual drawings that show a terraced waterway where people can walk among the trees and reeds along the river, and bikers can ride on a path on the raised bank.
It's a lush plan that city leaders hope will transform blight into beauty and help revitalize the surrounding community.
But some low-income residents and small-business owners worry they'll be priced out of the residential market when the river is improved. Others fear that gang members could take over the park space.
``The community hasn't really been involved in this process, which is frustrating,'' said Michael Cortez, president of the Canoga Park Neighborhood Council.
``This would be a great thing but it's really about walking the community through this plan to revitalize the river, and doing it in a way where the community is involved every step of the way and knowing why this is important.''
City Engineer Gary Lee Moore hopes residents will step forward at the public hearing and share their concerns.
``The whole thing I've done through this process is listen. If this isn't a plan for the people there's no way it's going to succeed in implementation,'' Moore said. ``I want people to feel it's Los Angeles' river.''
Consultants are beginning the final stretch of the 18-month Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan study and expect to release a draft blueprint in January.
So far, they've held community meetings, sketched designs for the full river and selected the five sites that have more thorough design plans.
Canoga Park is the only site in the San Fernando Valley. The others include: Verdugo Wash and the L.A. River where the Golden State and Ventura freeways cross, Taylor Yard in Glassell Park, The Cornfield near Chinatown and a stretch of river downtown near First Street.
The Los Angeles River begins just east of the Canoga Park High School football field, where Bell Creek and the Calabasas Creek merge. High- density apartments, offices and single-family neighborhoods line the river, which is now a fenced-in concrete trapezoid.
Most of the year, there's a trickle of water and neighbors complain the dank flow stinks. During storms, rain and runoff transform the concrete channel into a fast-moving river.
Initial proposals envision a riverfront park from Canoga Park High School to De Soto Avenue, with terraced concrete walls and pedestrian bridges so neighbors can exercise by walking up one side of the river, crossing the bridge and looping back on the other side.
Long-term plans recommend a soccer field or ballpark along the river.
Councilman Ed Reyes has led the effort to restore the L.A. River to improve water quality and provide more green space for city dwellers. He believes reviving the river will spur economic development in the area.
``This is a working-class area that has high density. We want to change and soften the feel of the neighborhoods around the river. The way to take off the pressures of density is to soften spaces and create green space,'' Reyes said. ``Hopefully, people will see the economic viability.''
Parts of the Canoga Park area already are being transformed. Westfield's Topanga mall is in the midst of a $500 million renovation that will bring Neiman Marcus, valet parking and gourmet dining to the neighborhood.
Canoga Park also was honored last year as an All-American City, thanks largely to redevelopment by the city and mom-and-pop shops on Sherman Way.
But the neighborhoods on the north side of the river have few trees and are filled with largely older homes and crowded apartment buildings that are affordable to low-income families.
Irma Munoz and her group, Mujeres De La Tierra, or Women of the Earth, walked the streets around the river and hosted a meeting in Spanish to encourage residents to weigh in on the river revitalization.
She said she found more concern than enthusiasm for the project.
``They think that if this gets beautified, it's not going to be meant for me,'' Munoz said.
``The city needs to figure out a balance. This is an opportunity that as they redevelop the river, that the sense of life will spread to the nearby community.''
IF YOU GO:
City officials will take comments and ideas on the Los Angeles River revitalization at 6:30 tonight at The New Academy gymnasium, 21425 Cohasset St., Canoga Park. Spanish-language translation and kids activities will be provided. Other hearings: 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at DWP headquarters, 111 N. Hope St.; 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday at Chevy Chase Recreation Center, 4165 Chevy Chase Drive, Atwater Village.
The Los Angeles River near Canoga Park High School is scheduled to be part of a green corridor renovation.
Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
IF YOU GO (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 26, 2006|
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