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Let’s talk about the Los Angeles River. With 13 members of Congress signing a letter urging President Obama to include funding for the L.A. River in the Administration’s FY17 budget last week, alongside the LA 24 plan for the potential Olympic Games in 2024, it feels like it’s an opportune time to reimagine the city by transforming our old concrete river into an green open space center with multiple uses.

“Nobody knows Los Angeles without knowing its river.” – Joan Didion

Under this LA 2024 plan there would be three main clusters. At its heart is a primary cluster based in Downtown Los Angeles, containing 12 venues, hosting 19 sporting events, and potentially the Olympic Village with the International Broadcast Centre. Amongst all the proposals, what caught my eye was a line about “the revitalized LA River forms the spine of the plan”, connecting the newly built Olympic Villages on the east side of the river with the Downtown hub.

Piggyback Yard site plan

Piggyback Yard site plan

This new Olympic Village was proposed for the Piggyback Yard, an empty section of riverfront land of approximately 125 acres used as a railroad yard. Currently the redeployment of land use of the Piggyback Yard has been loosely slated for 2033. However, with the potential for the 2024 Olympic Games being hosted in Los Angeles, maybe it is time for the city to reconsider and accommodate the industrial land to foster a new multi-purpose landscape compatible for urban residential use.

London Games 2012

London Games 2012

For an example we should be looking at a past project called the Thames Gateway, a development created for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The Thames Gateway was a strategy for development of a former industrial site located along of the Thames River. New buildings and different types of housings replaced the abandoned industrial sites and ports. According to the planning and spatial development strategy of great London, the Thames Gateway was one of the most important developing axes for London, creating mixed-use land types along the shore of the river. The 2012 London Olympic proposed the first phase of the Thames Gateway, focusing on the Stratford City and Lower Lea, the new Olympic stadium areas, and a new city center in the future. Some dissent was voiced after the games, noting, “the gateway was not thought out properly and has now been quietly dropped”, but the transformation of the city and the river was still appreciated, and the legacy planning for the London 2012 is still in the works.

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It is probably too early to judge the Thames Gateway, since it is an ongoing planning project, but it will never be too early to imagine what the Olympic Games would and could bring to our own Los Angeles River, as well for the city described as place of “dreams and dreamers.”

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