Blumenfield establishes enforcement and outreach partnership pilot program with MRCA for LA River in the West Valley
LOS ANGELES, CA – Today Councilmember Bob Blumenfield’s initiative to revolutionize environmental and law enforcement along the headwaters of the LA River unanimously passed the LA City Council. This program will establish a pilot program giving authority for the area to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA). Currently the River is a confluence of jurisdictions which has led to a number of difficult to resolve environmental and quality-of-life issues. Blumenfield’s plan will cut the immense red tape and bureaucratic hurdles that currently exist around solving these issues and improve the environment and safety of the area. Rangers who regularly spend time on the river will be able to respond to any vandalism, illegal dumping, or problems in the area that discourage families from using the path.
“After years of finger pointing and lack of action, we will finally have one tested, competent and trusted governmental agency in the MRCA to handle the complex issues facing the LA River in the West Valley,” said Blumenfield. “This isn’t going to be easy but we needed to do something bold to help resolve these humanitarian and environmental issues.”
“As a community, we’re very excited about this pilot program, because it’ll address many of the challenges we’ve faced on an ongoing basis over the last four years,” said Evelyn Aleman, co-founder of the L.A. River Walkers and Watchers. “We're grateful to the councilmember for his bold leadership and collaboration toward finding short and long-term solutions to an issue that affects our community’s ecosystem and will impact others as the bike path is extended across a 51-mile stretch. It is our hope that this program becomes a part of the L.A. River masterplan."
For the past few years, Blumenfield has worked closely with the LA River Walkers and Watchers, a group of Reseda neighbors committed to preserving the LA River bike path, on a number of quality-of-life issues. On clean up walks together they commonly find needles in shrubs and along the bike path, soiled clothes, fires, vandalized structures, drugs stashed under bridges, as well as people on drugs sprawled out and completely blocking the paths and parks. Recently, drug and gang activity appear to have increased in the river area, resulting in at least one homicide. Additionally, downstream bacteria levels can reach unsafe heights if waste enter the river at the headwaters.
Numerous proposals for improving the recreational opportunities along the River have been proposed, including the City’s LA River Master Plan with ambitious designs for new parks and amenities for communities. The investment of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in river improvements is a worthwhile goal, however, to provide the best value to the public these investments must be well planned and include practical solutions to environmental and other hazards and nuisances that will prevent the river vision from being fully realized. Conditions that will prevent the public from taking advantage of river amenities include perception of unsafe conditions, including but not limited to: public safety, response to incidents in and along the river, lack of care for natural resources, maintenance, pollution, illegal dumping, trash and obstructions to biking and walking paths.
One serious and complicating factor for enforcement, outreach, and cleanup along the Canoga Park and Reseda areas of the LA River is the multijurisdictional responsibility for different sections of the channel, paths, adjacent green space, underpasses, and access points. The US Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles County Flood Control District, and various Los Angeles City departments (Bureau of Engineering, Recreation and Parks, Transportation, Bureau of Street Lighting, LAPD, Sanitation and others) all have responsibility for some aspect of river area maintenance and enforcement, but there is no one coordinating entity among them with primary responsibility for this Canoga Park to Reseda stretch of the LA River.
As an established, trusted joint powers entity, the MRCA will have full enforcement capabilities that cross jurisdictions. The MRCA would take responsibility for the river environment in this pilot program to patrol the area, enforce relevant ordinances, ensure safety, assist with maintenance and operations, reduce hazards, offer interpretation and educational resources to the public, provide outreach to unsheltered individuals in the area, and ensure that the river is an amenity for the local community. As a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) agency whose Rangers are Sworn California Peace Officers with swift water, EMT, naturalist, and wildland firefighter training, MRCA can contract to work on all areas of the river regardless of which governmental entity has ownership for a particular area.
Blumenfield will allocate district specific funds to operate the pilot program for the first year.