Nearly everyone in the world knows the LA River from movies. It's LA's concrete river. It's being re-done with bicycle trails, running trails, landmarks, landscaping, and activities to better enjoy the river. It's called a "greenway." Not all of the river is concrete, by the way. Some sections are still natural, and offer activities like kayaking.
But you might wonder, "Why did such an environmentally responsible city make parts of a river concrete?" Well, LA grew rapidly. There was a tiny river, and homes and businesses went up next to it. But every now and then, it would flood. The problem got worse as more and more of LA got paved, leaving less ground for rainwater to soak into. So, they paved the river. It works! No more floods! It looks weird, though, and in hindsight probably wasn't the best way to handle the environment. So, what now?
Not to worry. They're doing a very nice job. But there's more to the LA River than just the way it looks. Hold onto your seat as we get through some of that stuff... Say hi!
This section is about highlighting desirable, river-sensitive, or "riverly," design characteristics for features that will be built, rehabilitated, or redeveloped on private property and in the public realm along and near the LA River. The Plan set a bold new vision, illustrating that what is now a concrete flood control channel can over time become a dynamic, publicly-accessible natural and cultural heritage corridor running through the heart of LA.
This vision for the river ensures the river continues to serve as a resilient infrastructural resource that both protects and celebrates the Angeleno way of life, as well as bonding people from all over the city together. The Plan calls for an extensive network of trails, parks and wildlife habitat areas along with many other community amenities, such as plazas, gateways, paseos, bridges, green streets, outdoor classrooms, public art, recreational space, and river-sensitive, or "riverly," development.
There are many tourist attractions you can access from the LA River. These are the latest!
- Headwaters Greenway (NEW!), Canoga Park
- West Valley Bikeway, Reseda
- Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area
- Encino Ernie's Walk
- Sherman Oaks
- LA River Village Gardens, Sherman Oaks
- Valleyheart River Park, Studio City
- LA River Walk, Studio City
But you can get recreational, too. Visitors can walk, hike, photograph and birdwatch. Various bike paths are located near the Recreational Zones, from which you can go for a bike ride up or down the river. Fishing is also allowed, but with the usual permits required by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Pedestrians are limited to paved and rocky surfaces, so as not to disturb the wildlife there.
The way the LA River affects people's lives is global. California grows more agriculture than any other U.S. state. Of course, there aren't many farms in LA, but they want more water from the river. And they want it safe to swim in. These issues affect the people who are on the world stage.
There are plans for the LA river in response to floods, droughts, and other issues. It involves landscape architecture, and using the city as a basis for an international discussion.
Climate change affects the LA River. That, in turn, affects drinking water quality, water supply, and even wildfires. So, climate change affects everyone in LA. Forests get dry because of lack of water that is supposed to be draining into the LA River, but the river gets dry, too. Then wildfires burn up the dried out forests.
The health of the LA River can be used as a variable for climate change. So it's worth doing everything you can to take very good care of the LA River, from global climate change to the way the river looks. This will also make a pleasant experience for people who visit it. We're working on it!
Could the LA River survive a major earthquake? Well, it has, but it's pretty old and may need patching up. That's because parts of it are in what's called a "liquefaction zone," and we know parts of it are made of concrete that was installed a long time ago.
Liquefaction isn't a big problem in LA. Liquefaction means the soil is a little loose in some spots, and things sink, slip, or slide during an earthquake. There are soil treatments for it. You could spray rubber into the ground, or use other, more advanced treatments.
This gets us to earthquakes in general. Are the buildings being built right, and can LA do better?
Yeah, for the most part, they're built right, and the soil is alright, but they could do better. LA could make it so you can't feel an earthquake if they wanted. And after I go through the list, we'll talk about why they need to do better...
- Framed buildings: Most of LA's buildings are framed underneath the exterior you see. A wooden, steel reinforced concrete, or steel frame holds the roof up, not the bricks or stucco (mud) you see. They're currently upgrading over 1000 buildings they found that don't have a frame. It's, like, an old building where the bricks hold up the roof. I'd call framing the biggest key to a chill lifestyle, but LA has to do more...
- Brackets: So, framed buildings can shake around, and even if the bricks fall off, the roof is still there. Brackets are just pieces of metal you attach to a wood or other frame that helps it shake without the risk of nails pulling out. As far as I can tell, brackets have been in the California building codes for awhile, but not everyone has brackets...
- Liquefaction treatment: LA is lucky in that this usually doesn't matter, but on loose soil, you have to treat it so it'll be more solid. And they have spots with loose soil. This is somewhere in their codes, but it's obscure... It needs doing before we make it so you can't feel an earthquake...
- Base isolators: It's like some springs/shocks/sliding plates under a building, or under a floor. The ground shakes (and you have to have make sure you got treated for liquefaction if needed), but the building or floor stays still because of the base isolators. Now you can't feel the earthquake...
Why do it? Well, kids are hiding under their desks in "earthquake drills" in California and Arizona public schools. It's kicking off PTSD, anxiety, and depression in students, and is a major stress factor for parents. So, LA needs to cut that shit out, go through the list, and get the schools functioning with base isolators. Then you're not shoving the kids under their desks in drills. They know everything is alright, and will appreciate that as adults...
Suppose you want base isolators today so you can't feel an earthquake, or at least won't feel it as much? You might try going to a hardware store, home center, or arts and crafts store and try it right now. Without spending a fortune. It's an experiment, though...
- Pull up any carpeting or carpet padding. An existing hard floor is fine.
- Clean the floor.
- Place small metallic balls/spheres on the floor. Use a pattern to support the floor you are installing on top. Do not use the balls closer than 1 foot/0.3 meters from the walls.
- Spray "removable tac adhesive" (or some other adhesive that stays sticky) over the balls and floor, working your way out of the room, not into a corner. This provides the "resistence" to make the balls roll slower, like a heavy spring, and it won't dry out.
- Place planks of environmentally responsible hard flooring over the balls, adding additional balls as needed to support the floor.
- Leave about 1 foot/0.3 meters of space around the edge of the room.
- Use foam flooring/safety tiles around the edges for an accented edge. This also provides "padding" for the floor to "shake around" in the room.
This is what the LA River looked like back in the day. Parts of it still look like this, probably because movies would be less fun without these parts of the river. The scene below is from the movie Grease (1978). You know this river...
Numerous films, television programs, music videos, and video games have featured various sites along the Los Angeles River. Since the River is a trickle for much of the year and the culvert is dry, it is often used for races, car chases, gang rumbles, and other scenes requiring an open, deserted setting within the city.
Perhaps the most memorable such scene involving the river is the extended, three vehicle chase sequence in 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Others include Transformers, Last Action Hero, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, The Gumball Rally, Chinatown, Them!, The Core, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, In Time, It's Alive, LA Story, Grease, Point Blank, Repo Man, 24, Fear the Walking Dead, The Italian Job, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Point Break, Gone in 60 Seconds, To Live and Die in LA, Blood In Blood Out, Cleopatra Jones, Blue Thunder, I Got The Hook Up, Earthquake, and Drive.
Video games include the racing game Midnight Club: Los Angeles and the action-adventure games Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto V (both of which feature depictions of the river within the fictional city of Los Santos).
The band Maroon 5 filmed for their music videos "Payphone" and "Wake Up Call", as well as Rudimental for "Waiting All Night", Sonic Youth for "Youth Against Fascism", and Sigala for "Sweet Lovin'"
The seventh and sixteenth season of Hell's Kitchen featured the blue team cleaning the LA River as punishment for losing the team challenge.
The house used for exterior shots of the Brady home on The Brady Bunch at 11222 North Dilling Street in North Hollywood has the bank of the river as the edge of its backyard.
- Hancock, Paul L. and Brian J. Skinner eds. (2000). The Oxford Companion to the Earth. New York: Oxford University Press.
by T.J. Newton.
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