Beneath all that cement, a 51-mile river is waiting to flow through the heart of Los Angeles. As part of our quarterly Breakfast Roundtable sessions, on Nov. 9, 2016 we invited Eli Kaufman to inform our invited guests about the hopeful future of the L.A. River.

Communications Director for River LA, formerly the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, Kaufman joined us for breakfast at the offices of American Business Bank in L.A. and shared the mission of the non-profit. “With the right design and infrastructure, the 51-mile Los Angeles River can again bring people, water and nature together,” he said. Kaufman started by sharing the importance of proximity to water for so many great American cities, whether for business, transportation, or recreation.

River LA is working to improve the quality of life for Angelenos in four key areas:

  1. Create social and economic value along the L.A. River;
  2. Connect neighborhoods to the L.A. River and accelerate the corridor’s role as an alternative transport route;
  3. Bring people to the L.A. River for recreation, learning, and public engagements;
  4. Enhance the river channel and advance habitat restoration by incorporating green infrastructure improvements.

The non-profit’s plans are optimistic, and it’s making progress already. Beginning in January 2016, River LA had garnered $2.5 million in funding (with an additional $500k pledged) toward its $3.1 million budget for Phase 1. River LA staff and volunteers have conducted extensive public outreach, data gathering and analysis, and they’ve conducted detailed hydraulic analysis. The completion of Phase 1 is summarized on the River LA website (link: RiverLA.org), in the form of its LA River Index.

Phase 1 learnings allow the technical teams to develop the Phase 2 approach for continued discovery, with the goal of maximizing the potential of the river for economic and social benefit, and as a natural flood-control channel. The Phase 2 collaboration involves LA-based architecture design firm Gehry Partners, known for iconic buildings including the Walt Disney Concert Hall.