Golden Gate University Law Review


During the past decade, the L.A. River has become a subject of intense re-examination, a major topic of policy debate, and a new kind of environmental icon. It has increasingly come to symbolize the quest to transform the built urban environment from a place seen as representing violence and hostility for communities and for Nature, to one of rebirth and opportunity." To re-envision the Los Angeles River as a place of community and ecological revitalization rather than an exclusive and dangerous flood channel fenced off from the communities that surround it provides a powerful message of renewal for urban rivers and the quality of urban life. It also provides lessons of how institutional and policy changes can be influenced by the ability to frame an issue, whether in relation to its historical context, its environmental and economic aspects, or its relationship to the broader discussion of land use at the local and regional level. This article explores some of the influences on that process of reexamination. It includes a discussion of the roles of a community-oriented academic entity (the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute) and a non-profit organization (theFriends of the Los Angeles River) whose long-standing mission has been to enable policymakers and residents alike to rediscover this urban River. We also reflect on how the changing discourse around the River helped advocates mobilize support and influence policies in support of community and ecological revitalization.