Groups file suit over Los Angeles River Master Plan

Two environmental groups filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, accusing officials of violating state environmental laws when they approved the Los Angeles River Master Plan last month.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday, seeks to bar the county from developing any new river projects without conducting a prior assessment of “all foreseeable significant impacts.” to the environment that the master plan will allow”.

The lawsuit was filed by LA Waterkeeper and the Center for Biodiversity.

“Litigation was never our first option, but the master plan for the river is clearly flawed, and we see this as the moment,” said Bruce Reznik, executive director of LA Waterkeeper. important in the life of the river.”

According to proponents, the master plan aims to improve the appearance of the concrete floodplain and improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and address social inequality that has already caused social inequality. for communities along the river long ago. Among other changes, the project includes renowned architect Frank Gehry’s plan to build a cultural park at the confluence of the Los Angeles and Rio Hondo rivers south of downtown.

The plan was unanimously approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on June 14.

However, Reznik said the plan “simply doesn’t have enough information for the public to understand how it will harm and benefit different regions”.

Before last month’s vote, influential nonprofit groups withdrew support for the plan.

They were particularly concerned about Gehry’s vision of “elevated platform parks” – large, bridge-like green spaces occupying government airspace high above the canal floor and four feet above the rims of the canals. channel wall.

Built on giant concrete planks and giant beams, the structures will span nearly a mile across both rivers and support a landscape of trees, lawns, ponds, and horse trails. and walking path.

Gehry and the master plan’s development team see that and others as a way to lift the spirits of some of Southern California’s poorest, most populous communities — and atone for racial injustices. Ethnicity and institutions have hindered their progress since the Second World War.

The river master plan also signals from an increase in extreme weather events due to climate change.

However, the plaintiffs, along with other nonprofit environmental groups including Friends of the Los Angeles River, East Yard Community for Environmental Justice, Heal the Bay, and Nature Conservancy, wanted to see a plan that also explores topics The project aims to naturalize the 51 -long river by removing concrete wherever possible.

County officials were not immediately available for comment. In an earlier interview, Mark Pestrella, director and chief engineer for the Los Angeles County Flood Control County, described the river master plan as “one of those intense, progressive planning efforts ministerial and community-oriented once implemented by LA County.”

“It addresses a range of priorities that have brought us over three years of community involvement, including ecological disparities, homelessness, settlement and limited access to space,” he said. open public and clean water.

County officials point out that the river master plan has no legal authority over land use and does not have the authority to implement its recommendations. The final decisions about what happens along the lower river corridor will be made by the county and its 14 bordering cities, many of which are impoverished working-class enclaves.

The controversial platform park, they say, is an expensive project that could take a decade or more to build.

But the plaintiffs are concerned that the county may be taking steps to streamline the platform park development without considering its environmental impacts, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

The lawsuit asserts that county officials are seeking “federal funding in the amount of $8.6 billion for the LA River projects contemplated in the master plan,” including $2 billion to develop projects.

Meanwhile, there is no clear indication that large-scale improvements of any kind will occur along the river any time soon.

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-07-14/groups-file-suit-against-los-angeles-river-master-plan Groups file suit over Los Angeles River Master Plan

Edmund DeMarche

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