The Bedrosian Center on Governance and the Public Enterprise hosted a panel discussion on the government and nonprofit sector efforts in revitalizing the Los Angeles River on Thursday night.
The panelists in attendance discussed the various projects involved in the L.A. river revitalization as well as the methods of working with different organizations and the issues that arise throughout the process.
The discussion was moderated by Raphael Bostic, director of the Bedrosian Center and former professor at the School of Policy, Planning and Development.
Prior to coming to USC, Bostic served for three years in the Obama Administration as the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Carol Armstrong, director of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s LARiverWorks team, explained that the L.A. river revitalization movement began with the residents of Los Angeles.
“The river revitalization plan really started with the community as a natural heritage resource, and then it took formal form through an ad hoc committee in the city council,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong also spoke about the bureaucratic structure of the master plan.
“In terms of governance, we needed a three-tier governance structure that engaged groups outside of the government,” Armstrong said.
Omar Brownson, first executive director of the LA River Revitalization Corporation, discussed the project plan and the need for non-profit organizations to get involved in the government effort.
“I think we’ve had the fortune of having a master plan, and we were looking for progress — not perfection. The L.A. river is something of a baton that’s carried forward,” said Brownson. “As a non-profit organization, we were created because the government alone can’t do it. We’re always looking to see if we could bring the right people and the right players together.”
Brownson also explained why the revitalization project from the perspective of increasing public transit should occur right now.
“Now, we can think a little bigger. We tax ourselves $40 billion to invest in public transportation, and we’re at a time when we can make a bigger case. We have an opportunity to make the case as to why we can invest more in infrastructure,” Brownson said.
Mia Lehrer, an internationally recognized landscape designer and founding principal of Mia Lehrer + Associates, discussed the perception of the project and how it is progressing in the public eye.
“People come to L.A. and they want to see all the projects along the river. Let’s face it — there are no big projects yet,” Lehrer said. “In my world, my cohorts all want to have the covers of magazines, and this isn’t it. This is a legacy project, and we’re all in Southern California being really engaged in this effort.”
Ziyu Ouyang, a junior majoring in geodesign, explained what drew her to attend the panel discussion.
“I’ve heard a lot about this project in my classes, and this discussion has been going on for a really long time now,” Ouyang said. “When I saw this event, I thought it would be beneficial to hear from different experts and the people who are actually working on this project.”