LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles River is the “next frontier” for creating more jobs, providing housing for workers and improving the livability of surrounding neighborhoods, now that plans are underway to spend $1 billion to restore the waterway, according to a new UCLA report.
Industrial and polluted sites along the river could be revitalized by building 8,000 units of workforce housing each year around the river, which could be done without drastically increasing density, according to Paul Habibi, UCLA professor and author of the report.
If built over six years, the number of units would help the city reach nearly half of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s goal of building 100,000 additional units, the report found.
The Los Angeles Business Council commissioned the report, titled “L.A.’s Next Frontier: Capturing Opportunities for New Housing, Economic Growth, and Sustainable Development in L.A. River Communities,” ahead of the business group’s Sustainability Summit that was held at the Getty Museum April 24.
“It is essential that we expand the supply of housing for middle-class workers who do not qualify for subsidized housing, yet cannot afford market-rate housing,” said Mary Leslie, president of the Los Angeles Business Council. “This is crucial to our city’s efforts to retain and recruit growth companies to the region.”
The report also found that 37 percent of census tracts near the river are considered some of the most polluted areas in California. Habibi said efforts to restore the river’s ecosystem and add park space nearby “would improve the quality of life for thousands of the city’s most disadvantaged residents.”
“A restored river ecosystem, including plenty of new plant life, will cleanse the air of harmful chemicals and reduce the heat island effect,” Habibi said.
Garcetti, who spoke at the Sustainability Summit, said projects to restore the river are “a transformative opportunity for the city of Los Angeles,” and the report “challenges us to think about how the river’s revitalization can be advanced in ways that will also help us achieve the city’s long-term housing and economic development goals.”
“I believe such collaborative efforts will help ensure the sustainability of our city and the livability of its neighborhoods,” he said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to recommend a $1 billion restoration of 11 miles of the Los Angeles River, but there is a need to raise funding through other means, according to the report.
One method is to set up an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District in which a portion of taxes generated in the area are dedicated to paying for projects that benefit the public along the Los Angeles River, the report found.
The report also found there are already signs of growth along the river.
The report also suggested that the city look into creating financing programs and incentives for development, such as ways to allow developers to skip certain processing steps if they follow a specific set of regulations.