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Revitalizing the L.A. River was never going to be cheap. The city should close the deal on Parcel G2

Revitalizing the L.A. River was never going to be cheap. The city should close the deal on Parcel G2
An overhead view of the 247-acre former railyard with over two miles of Los Angeles River frontage located opposite Elysian Park. (Los Angeles Times)

Reclaiming the Los Angeles River won't be cheap. For instance, just the purchase of an important stretch of river-adjacent land — 44 acres of old rail yard near Cypress Park known as Parcel G2, owned by Union Pacific — will cost the city almost $60 million.

Under the terms of the deal, Union Pacific would use some of the sale money to begin remediation of environmental hazards that accumulated during the many decades in which the area was used to service and switch freight cars and diesel engines. At that point, though, the city would own acreage suited only for industrial purposes. It would take millions more — for a total project cost of $252 million, according to a recent staff report — for the land to meet the ecological and recreational vision established long ago by dedicated river advocates. Even that number could inch higher once the city puts down a deposit and begins a 90-day review to determine how it can finance its costs.

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So should L.A. go forward with the purchase?

Yes. Parcel G2 is a key piece of land along the portion of the river that even now has no concrete bottom. Because of its location and the hydrology of that portion of the river, and because the parcel separates the water from a large park that was acquired precisely to link the river to the city it runs through, it's an irreplaceable piece of the restoration puzzle. It is one of the last large undeveloped pieces of land near the river or, for that matter, within the city. Failing to acquire Parcel G2 means that it would likely be sold for large real estate developments, creating a permanent barrier between the waterway and Rio de Los Angeles State Park — and the park-deprived portion of the city that lies to the north.

After decades of using the river as a storm drain and back alley, city leaders long ago concluded that restoring it and gaining a wildlife corridor and string of green parkland through the concrete city was a worthwhile project. State lawmakers have come forward with funding, and the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday gave a thumbs-up to providing hundreds of millions of dollars for the river project. Union Pacific is ready to sell the land. L.A. should close the deal.

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