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Architect Gehry may help design L.A. River plans

LOS ANGELES — Architect Frank Gehry’s involvement in an effort to revitalize the entire 51-mile length of the Los Angeles River is still in its early stages, and the process for creating a plan has not yet begun, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday.

Gehry has only offered up a broad set of ideas, but it’s not yet a plan “that’s going to replace the plan that we have,” Garcetti said.

He added that he is “very pleased to have someone with the genius of Frank Gehry” to help identify opportunities along the river for transportation projects, affordable housing and economic development.

Garcetti said he received a call earlier this year from Gehry, who wanted to know that there was a strong interest in revitalizing the Los Angeles River before he would help with a project to create a new regional plan for the river.

“I got a call from Frank Gehry about 10 months ago saying, “Is this revitalization of the Los Angeles River for real?” Garcetti recounted during City Hall news conference on a different issue.

Gehry told Garcetti he gets “hundreds” of queries to do projects from around the world, “but Los Angeles is my home” and he was approached by a nonprofit, the Los Angles River Revitalization Corp., to work on expanding an existing plan that applies only to the 32 miles flowing through Los Angeles to outside the city limits.

Garcetti told the 86-year-old Gehry that “It’s very real — we’re very serious about the Los Angeles River.”

Gehry “volunteered his time” and services “to think about the river,” as a result, according to Garcetti.

He added “there’s always, always been the idea of let’s do some technical work, then we can have a conversation with everybody including stakeholders,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti said the new master plan would only create a blueprint — and not individual projects — for the Los Angeles River, and overlap with a proposed $1.4 billion ecological restoration of about 11 miles of the river that the city has been pushing.

The Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp. was formed by the City Council about six years ago, following the 2007 adoption of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan, to help fundraise and come up with projects along the river, according to City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

The current master plan applies only to the 32 miles of the river that flows within Los Angeles city limits, and any replacement master plan would need to come before the Arts, Parks and River Committee that he chairs, O’Farrell said.

He said a few months ago the nonprofit brought Gehry and his architects to speak to him about some ideas for re-envisioning the river, which included “initial, very broad-stroke renderings,” statistics and numbers.

But no plan was presented and if one does exist, it would be putting the “cart before the horse,” O’Farrell said.

In a story on Gehry’s involvement with creating a new master plan for the river, The Los Angeles Times highlighted concerns raised by the Friends of the Los Angeles River that the renowned architect’s plans — which have been kept under wraps and shown only to a few people — represent a “top down” approach and does not include input from the public.

The Los Angels River Revitalization Corp. released a statement saying they were looking for someone who could help them “bring a more integrated framework to the entire river.”

The corporation said their pre-requisites included the ability to “think about and assimilate an array of very complex challenges at both a city and regional level” and being a long-time Los Angeles resident, and “it was clear that Frank Gehry could be our only choice.”

Gehry has so far spent nine months “all pro bono” poring over “numerous river-related plans,” gathering data on “flood control, hydrology, water flow, land use, public health and the myriad other complex issues relating to the river.”

The river corporation also said that Gehry’s work “will complement” other projects along the river, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Alternative 20 plan, by contextualizing them in a larger framework, showing how the entire river can work as one ecosystem.