Earlier this year the Community Redevelopment Agency halted work on a proposed Northeast Los Angeles River redevelopment zone that would stretch from Atwater Village and Glassell Park to Cypress Park and Elysian Valley. While that fate of that far-reaching redevelopment project remains up in the air, the city’s Planning Department has continued to refine a much more modest set of guidelines that would apply to all new construction along the river. The guidelines would require, among other things, that larger property owners provide an entrance or access to the river, hide parking lots and mechanical systems behind screens; and use native landscaping on at least 75% of their land. On Saturday, officials with the Planning Department will provide an update on the what’s called the River Improvement Overlay (RIO) during a gathering of neighborhood council members interested in planning and development issues.
“All these things will help make it more attractive and safer to go down” to the river, said Claire Bowin, the city planner assigned to work on the river design guidelines.
Unlike the NELA redevelopment zone, which included only a 3-1/2 square-mile section near the river, the RIO design guidelines would apply to the entire 32-mile long stretch of the Los Angeles River that flows within the city limits, Bowin said. The guidelines would apply to property roughly about a half mile on either side of the river and would apply only to new construction not existing buildings. The RIO guidelines would not change current zoning laws that dictate the size and height of buildings or parking requirements. In addition, single-family homeowners could chose to ignore the guidelines but larger property owners would have to appeal to the city to get out of the standards, Bowin said.
The Planning Department had previously created a set of river design guidelines but those were deemed problematic by the City Attorney. As a result, the Planning Department created a new version of the RIO guidelines and is in the early stages of getting responses from the public, Bowin said. That’s what Saturday’s presentation is all about, she said. Eventually, the RIO guidelines will be subject to more public scrutiny before it is approved by the City Planning Commission and City Council.