An existing tree farm south of Wardlow Road that is currently on a parcel of Los Angeles city-owned land that could become part of an open-space pedestrian walkway. Photo by Jason Ruiz.

A new riverfront walking path could be built in East Long Beach along the western bank of the San Gabriel River if the city is able to find funding outside its own budget.

The project, approved in an 8-1 vote by the City Council Tuesday, would run along a 3-mile stretch of the river from Carson Street in the north to Atherton Street in the south.

The stretch already has a bike path, but proponents said the open space concept could provide a safer environment for pedestrians as well as keep the area free of debris and encampments.

Councilwoman Suzie Price, who co-authored the motion, was adamant that she would not support using city funds to get the project built but would instead push for state or county dollars. Price previously said she envisions a simplistic design with organic vegetation and a dirt walking path for pedestrians to put space between them and experienced cyclists who travel at high speeds along the river’s bike path.

It’s unclear how much money the project would cost, but a recent report released by the city detailing the cost of creating new open space suggests a project of this scale could cost tens of millions of dollars to develop.

“It actually would be a city resource saver,” said Councilwoman Stacy Mungo Flanigan, the other member who proposed the project. “Considerable resources continue to be necessary to modify and clean up the areas adjacent to these properties because of inappropriate uses. Activation of this space has been something the residents in my district have been requesting.”

The bicycle path along the San Gabriel River and adjacent land two City Council members want to use for a pedestrian path. Photo by Jason Ruiz.

Mungo said the property has recently become vacant because a tenant was removed for “multiple violations.”  The proposed walking path would be built on land owned by the city of Los Angeles, parcels that Mungo said could be leased for as little as $1 per year, according to early negotiations.

“This could really become a reality and we need to be prepared for what that is and we need to quickly put together a feasibility of what’s possible and then from there identify what the community is interested in,” Mungo Flanigan said.

The proposed river walkway runs through the city’s three easternmost council districts, an area that is already flush with park space. Councilman Daryl Supernaw, who represents a portion of the proposed path, voted against the item in part because he wasn’t consulted on the idea prior to it coming to the council floor.

A similar plan was sought by advocates in West Long Beach along the Los Angeles River, where the Riverpark Coalition fought city hall’s approval of a storage facility, arguing it undermined a previous plan to create park space along the river. The city instead identified 11-acres of Los Angeles County property adjacent to the facility that it could build into pedestrian space.

The estimated cost to develop that land is $27.5 million, according to the city, not including the cost of acquiring the land.

Councilman Al Austin, who represents that area of the Los Angeles River bed, supported the East Long Beach path, saying that anytime there’s an opportunity to develop along the city’s rivers, it’s an opportunity the city should pursue.

“We can’t get enough open space, green space that is actually programmed for active use or passive use in our city,” Austin said. “I think this is an opportunity for advocacy groups around river projects to jump on board with projects on both sides of the city.”

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.