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LA's Challenge: Equitable Development Along the River

Excerpt below from July 23, 2019 Blog post by NRDC Attorney Damon Nagami, "Planning for Equitable Development Along the LA River."

[T]he closer we get to the possibility of a restored LA River, the more we’re seeing the start of a serious problem: rising housing costs and rampant land speculation. These have led to real concerns about new river-adjacent developments displacing people who live in nearby communities like Frogtown and Elysian Valley, and even Chinatown and Boyle Heights – manifesting fears of “green gentrification” here at home.

New residential developments in these neighborhoods with a substantial number of deeply affordable units could help alleviate the severe housing crisis across Los Angeles County. However, any development along or near the LA River needs to be equitable and sustainable, and must meet the following three criteria at a minimum:

  1. Include and facilitate significant green space along, and safe and meaningful access to, the river, which has long been the community’s vision;

  2. Establish structures and policies to protect existing low-income communities from displacement and gentrification; and

  3. Protect critical river and watershed functions.

Two large residential development projects currently proposed along the section of the river north of downtown LA are bellwethers of potential displacement and gentrification of the area, and do not meet the criteria outlined above.

  • Casitas Lofts. The first of these developments is the 419-unit Casitas Lofts project near the border of Glassell Park and Atwater Village, which has the potential to disrupt longstanding river restoration efforts and negatively impact nearby communities. The project is located within the river’s historic floodplain and would restrict access to almost 100 acres of public parkland at the former railyard known as Taylor Yard, including Rio de Los Angeles State Park, the City of Los Angeles-owned Parcel G2, and the State Parks Bowtie Parcel.

  • Elysian Lofts. The second project is the six-building, 14-story Elysian Lofts proposal where Chinatown and Solano Canyon meet, which would tower over and choke off community access to Los Angeles State Historic Park. This project has raised significant concerns of further exacerbating displacement, as community partners including the Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA) have reported an increase in landlord harassment and evictions of long-term residents as development activity has increased in the area.

Read the rest of the blog post here for some tangible, equitable & immediate ideas of how LA can realize revitalization of the LA River for all Angelenos.

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