Long Beach city officials have agreed to work on a plan to turn the polluted Los Angeles River, which is usually overflowing with trash and toxins, into a waterway clean enough for kayaking, recreational activities and flourishing wetlands.
The Long Beach City Council voted 7-0 at its Tuesday, Nov. 12 meeting to have City Manager Pat West begin talks with Los Angeles city officials on the possibility of the two cities collaborating to restore the river. The city manager was directed to report back to the Council within 90 days. Vice Mayor Robert Garcia and 5th District Long Beach Councilmember Gerrie Schipske were absent.
Garcia and Second District Long Beach Councilmember Suja Lowenthal brought the item forward. According to a staff report, for many years the Los Angeles River has been one of the region’s most “significant environmental challenges” and has contributed to Long Beach’s poor water quality since the river collects waste from upstream cities that empties into the harbor.
“We in Long Beach have an interest in any improvements to the LA River since it empties into our beaches,” Lowenthal said. “It does all flow here.”
Recent efforts to add bike trails, restore wetlands and “activate” the riverfront have attracted interest from residents, preservationists and business leaders, according to the staff report.
“The LA River still carries snowmelt from the Santa [Susana] Mountains, just as it did 200 years ago, but it has been neglected throughout the region,” according to Long Beach city staff. “Residents wishing to engage in recreational activities along its banks or in its currents will find many obstacles, including trash and other pollution, overgrowth, potentially unsafe individuals loitering or living along the river and a variety of bureaucratic and legal barriers.”
A movement to clean up the river has recently taken hold, throughout the region, particularly in the city of Los Angeles, as residents, environmental advocates and elected officials have started to show interest in restoring the river’s natural habitat as much as possible.
This effort may involve: “maintaining a water level more appropriate for recreation; cleaning the trash and pollution in the river; adding additional public-safety resources to the river’s publically accessible areas; maintaining the landscape more consistently; and allowing recreational use on a regular basis,” according to the staff report.
In Long Beach, Mayor Bob Foster has already led a charge to install catch basins and other technology to capture trash and prevent it from reaching the city’s beaches. Long Beach also has a 10-year-old River Link plan that serves as a blueprint for future restoration and development along the river. The plan, according to city staff, “is in need of an update” to include “new restoration efforts, wetlands projects, changes to the I-710 Freeway Project and the adaptive reuse of the Shoemaker Bridge.”
The City of Los Angeles, in collaboration with Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) and other community groups have also started efforts to “reclaim” the northern stretches of the LA River and its surrounding lands for use by kayakers, hikers, birdwatchers, educational groups, cyclists and others.
Garcia is hosting a “Restore the River in Long Beach Forum” on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 11am at the Jenny Oropeza Community Center at Cesar Chavez Park located at 401 Golden Ave. The forum is expected to serve as a kick-off event to encourage residents to clean up the Los Angeles River and better utilize it for recreation and education. The forum is open to the public and will explore the river’s current conditions, potential reclamation methods, projects and the benefits to the public.