A walking tour along the Bowtie Project in the Glendale Narrows section of the Los Angeles River was followed by a discussion of the river’s emerging role as public and park space for Los Angeles. 

The future of the revitalized Los Angeles River as a watercourse, as a recovering ecosystem, and as a driver of new development in the heart of the city was the subject of the sixth and final session in the popular Third Los Angeles series at the Clockshop just a block from the river in the Elysian Valley.

No part of the city is more emblematic of the city’s progression through the three stages of its development than the river, said series organizer Christopher Hawthorne, architectural critic for the Los Angeles Times – first as a wild river, then as a concrete channel, and today as a rediscovered space as the city turns back into itself. “The river was just a figment of my imagination that I turned into something that actually exists,” poet and river activist Lewis MacAdams said in a videotaped interview shown at the start of the program.

Questions about the future of the river are really questions about the future of the city, said architect Michael Maltzan, designer of the new Sixth Street Bridge. The bridge isn’t just a transportation link, he said, but “potentially more about the knitting together the city, not just geographically but socially and culturally … and reestablishing a relationship with the river.”

Real, positive change is possible, panelists agreed – what is needed is the political will to make them happen. “We’re at a time when everything is aligned,” said Barbara Romero, the city’s newly appointed deputy mayor for city services. “Now is the time,” agreed Carol Armstrong, director of the city’s LA RiverWorks office. “Oklahoma City citizens agreed to tax themselves and now their riverfront is beautiful. If they can do it in Oklahoma City, we should be able to do it here.