The Los Angeles River, Redesigned

Charles Williams

Changing the face of the city's once-magnificent waterway.

Los Angeles and freshwater have long had, shall we say, a tumultuous relationship. At the heart of it is the pathetic trickle charitably referred to as the L.A. River, a once-majestic waterway that drew the pobladores to settle in the area 235 years ago. It is now set for a major makeover, overseen by the nonprofit River LA, in consultation with architect Frank Gehry. Dozens of disconnected bike paths and parks already line the river, and there are plans afoot to tear up concrete and sculpt terraced banks, and aspirations to reclaim the millions of gallons of water that wash out to sea every day. Some residents fear the project will exacerbate gentrification, but Omar Brownson, River LA’s executive director, is optimistic. “It’s not every day that you get the chance to change the face of one of the largest cities in America,” he says. “In urban spaces in particular, no matter what income bracket or community you’re in, having access to great outdoor space is so important—that’s what will make us resilient for generations to come.”