The tributaries of the Upper Los Angeles River have been marred by a racist history of neglect. Today, the hostile concrete landscape offers little in the way of community space, flood protection or nature. Intending to restore all three, the Upper Los Angeles River and Tributaries (ULART) Plan is led by Los Angeles Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, Sarah Rascon of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA, led by Mía Lehrer.
This trio was joined by designers, geographic scientists, information technologists, community advocates and local residents to redefine the tributaries as valuable social, ecological and hydrological players in the fight for equity. In contrast to earlier schemes, which tended to address singular issues (from drinking fountains to cycling trails) on a limited geographic scale, their new collaborative vision, spanning 2,070 square kilometres, considers the watershed as a whole.
After compiling a database of 114 planning studies previously conducted throughout the area, ULART organizers synthesized a wealth of individual necessities into a broad framework and prioritized the initiatives that would have the greatest possible impact.
The solutions are generous in scope — and highly dependent on local context — but united by a drive to reconnect nature and neighbourhoods to the water. Concrete corridors are transformed with community-facing green infrastructure, including gardens, shade trees, multi-use paths, public seating, recreational amenities and space for vendors and small businesses. The ambitious result represents an equitable and intelligent new way of designing.
Team Monica Rodriguez (Council District 7), Mía Lehrer (Studio-MLA) and Sarah Rascon (MRCA) with Jan Dyer and Jean Yang (Studio-MLA); Jaime Sayre (Tetra Tech); Brian Baldauf, Joe Edmiston and Melissa Vega (MRCA)