The following represents the views of the undersigned members of the Community Editorial Board.
If you have driven through Bixby Knolls or Wrigley recently, you might have seen this sign: Build The River Park. The Riverpark Coalition has been advocating to stop development of a storage facility and RV parking lot off Pacific Place, the abandoned golf driving range off the 405 and 710 interchange by the LA River. Instead, Riverpark Coalition, along with many members of the local community, are championing a plan to transform the precious land into an open green space for all.
A common misperception about the LA River is that it is not actually a river but is merely a concrete water channel or a storm drain. But if you ask any local environmental advocate or native Angeleno about the river they will happily tell you about the unique bird watching, kayaking, biking, or even fishing. (Though none of us would dare eat the fish.) Many years before the Army Corps of Engineers paved the river in the 1930s, it provided food and water to the indigenous Tongva people.
Within the past 20 years, there have been more and more efforts to revitalize the river, opening up the space for more recreation, restoring wildlife habitat, and increasing public access. Most recently, Atwater Village opened two new pedestrian bridges that interact with the LA River bike path. The architect Frank Gehry has recently unveiled his ambitious and controversial plan that includes a massive cultural center and park on the LA River bike path where the river is joined by the Rio Hondo. But where does that leave Long Beach?
Currently, we have parks sprinkled throughout our city, some of which see more love than others. Most of Long Beach’s shoreline is publicly accessible as well, excluding the port. We also have expansive parks that traverse several blocks and provide welcoming green spaces–in particular Heartwell, El Dorado and Recreation. All three of these parks are east of Lakewood Boulevard. The other five districts west of Lakewood Boulevard are left wanting more.
A map of Long Beach’s parks will show you that West Long Beach is greatly in need of more open green space, even if we count the LA County-owned Dominguez Gap Wetlands, which is a small hidden gem within Long Beach, and the ongoing Wrigley Greenbelt project—both of which are less than 50 acres combined. El Dorado East alone is nearly 400 acres. City parks are essential to the quality of life, health, resilience, and overall well-being of our communities. Increased access to well-maintained parks has been shown to reduce crime, decrease pollution, and strengthen local neighborhoods.
The City Council’s hearing for appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision related to development of Pacific Place will be held on April 13. The city has been given an incredible opportunity to build something vitally important for our local community.
A belated Park Acquisition Feasibility Report released by the City of Long Beach on April 5 attempts to justify the use and zoning of the space for industrial development. As noted in the recent press release by the Riverpark Coalition and included in the City’s 2007 Green Vision Map, however, the land should remain as an opportunity for use as a green space. The city has been negligent in its commitment to serve the needs of our community by instead supporting commercial development of the land.
We must make our voices heard by demanding our councilmembers stop plans for development in order to conduct a full Environmental Impact Report and to continue to advocate for the River Park.
West Long Beach has been left for far too long without accessible green spaces. A beautiful, expansive park could become a landmark along the LA River bike path and an icon for Long Beach. Our communities in West Long Beach also deserve access to parks and green spaces within our neighborhoods. With the proposed River Park, West Long Beach may finally have green spaces that can join the ranks of the other beloved parks of Long Beach. This would be so much more meaningful than a three story industrial building and parking lot.