Glendale City Council supports L.A. River wetlands plan

It wasn't unanimous, but the City Council approved sending a message of support for a massive $1.08 billion renovation of the Los Angeles River corridor on a 3-1 vote Tuesday with one member abstaining. Glendale would not have to provide any funding for the proposed project.

The council's vote won't directly shape the final decision on the project, which covers 11 miles of restoration work along the river from roughly Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles, but it could influence decision-makers, who are, ultimately, members of the U.S. Congress, officials said.

While Councilman Zareh Sinanyan called supporting the plan a “no-brainer” and Councilman Frank Quintero described it as a “chance of a lifetime,” Mayor Dave Weaver opposed it because he believes adding more vegetation along the river will cause the water to rise and be a flood risk.

Weaver, who used to manage projects along the river for the Army Corps of Engineers, said federal money should be spent fixing failing infrastructure such as bridges, not restoring the river.

“There's no way on God's green Earth that I could put my name on something I find totally infeasible,” Weaver said as other council members tried to convince him to support the plan.

Councilman Ara Najarian abstained from voting because, he said, he didn't know enough about the plan.

The plan that the majority of the council favored, called alternative 20, would restore the wetlands at the Verdugo Wash and Los Angeles River confluence and remove the concrete bed in that area of the river.

Although the proposed green space would be outside Glendale's border, residents in south Glendale could walk there. It is the only alternative that would bring improvements close to Glendale's border, said Marc Stirdivant, a senior administrative analyst.

“This is something that would bring green space right to our front door,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who had called for her colleagues to support the most expensive restoration plan, which could take more than 50 years to complete.

After initiating the river study in 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the river, selected four plausible alternatives for the revitalization of the 11-mile stretch.

In September, the corps tentatively selected the second-least-expensive plan, alternative 13, which would cost $453 million, rejecting the more expansive one favored by the city of Los Angeles, Friends of the Los Angeles River, Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge), Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and other community organizations. In rejecting alternative 20, corps officials cited its substantially higher price tag.

However, the corps can still change course, according to a city report, and proponents of alternative 20 plan to rally supporters to influence that decision. The corps' tentative decision must go through several phases before the U.S. Army Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, makes a recommendation, possibly by spring, for which alternative should be chosen by Congress, said Kris Skopeck, a corps public affairs specialist.

Congress will then decide whether any of the alternatives will be authorized and if so, when it might be funded. The city of Los Angeles plans to share costs with the federal government.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti went to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with President Barack Obama to lobby for his support of alternative 20.

The public comment period on the study ends Nov. 5
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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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