County wants to spend $41M fighting displacement along LA River

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Los Angeles County is in line to get a surprise $41 million reimbursement for a flood control project completed almost a decade ago, and it’s planning to use the money to help disadvantaged communities along the Los Angeles River fight displacement.

The Board of Supervisors is tasking its public works department with finding ways to spend the money in disadvantaged and “high-need” neighborhoods. That could include land banking for affordable and permanent supportive housing and creating community land trusts to manage the properties that are “banked.”

A motion approved unanimously by the board last week also suggests using some of the funds to invest in job opportunities.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who authored the motion, called the windfall a “unique opportunity” in a statement after the vote.

Efforts to transform the concrete flood channel from eyesore to asset have been met with mixed reactions from residents.

Many neighborhoods and cities along the waterway have, for decades, been working class and lower-income communities. Residents often fear changes, from new apartment complexes to public amenities, will push them out or leave them behind.

Solis’s motion had originally asked the county to look into ways to invest the money in the Lower Los Angeles River corridor, the 19 miles of the river between Vernon and Long Beach.

But on Tuesday, supervisors pushed for the money to be opened up to any and all communities along the waterway that were “high-need,” described by Solis as those that need parks and have a high flood risk.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said she was glad to see the list of areas that could receive the money be expanded,saying it should be spent where it’s needed along the whole river.

“It’s not a zero-sum game,” Kuehl said. “These are collaborative efforts.”

Some advocates who work in areas that would have been excluded supported casting a wider geographical net.

Sissy Trinh of Southeast Asian Community Alliance, which works in Chinatown and Lincoln Heights, told supervisors that her organization had lobbied hard to get anti-displacement strategies included in the county’s ongoing update of the master plan for the whole river.

After all that work on one front, it was “difficult” to imagine that the whole river might not get to enjoy funding from the $41 million windfall. With a wider scope, the money “can benefit all low-income communities along the entire 51 miles,” Trinh said.

But several speakers told supervisors lower river should have the priority, citing high levels of pollution from industry, refineries, and the Port of Los Angeles, active gentrification, and noting that an 11-mile stretch of the river from Downtown to Griffith Park is already in line to get a $1 billion ecological makeover.

“In the northern part of the river, they’re talking about kayaking. In our part of the river [the lower portion], we’re talking about reducing lead poisoning,” said Mark Lopez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

A report on how to spend the reimbursement is due back to the board in about three months.

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