Los Angeles River gate

February R-Guide

I'm hopeful for 2021. There's some exciting changes underway in our community. LA County, along with local organizations, are reimagining the LA River. The new LA River Master Plan will bring more parks, bike paths, and a cultural arts center to SELA.

My staff and I are also working with the community to plan the next SELA Arts Festival. Last year, the artists put on an amazing virtual festival with dance and music performances, vendors, and interactive art seminars.

In addition, I'm hosting more virtual art talks with local artists to talk about their craft, culture, and our community. You can find more information and watch previous art talks on my Instagram page @rendon63rd.

I'm also hopeful for 2021 because the legislature is working on important criminal justice reforms, affordable housing bills, and legislation to increase broadband access. There's much more work to be done in helping our community through the pandemic and achieving equity for Southeast LA. This edition of the R-Guide is about the people and organizations working to make change in our community.


Revitalizing the LA River

When you look at the LA River, what do you see? Concrete? A little wildlife? Maybe you don't notice it much at all. To Mark Stanley, Executive Officer of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC), the LA River is much like a living organism. "If you think about the River as one long, 51-mile body of water, it's like a human body, and the River is the spine that connects several communities together," said Mark.

RMC is a state agency that enhances access to parks and open space, protects biodiversity, and builds climate resilience. The Agency is part of the working group for the Lower LA River Revitalization Plan. RMC and the working group have several projects in the planning stages, including the Rio Hondo Confluence Area Project, the Urban Orchard Park in South Gate, the Parque Dos Rios project, and the Southeast LA Cultural Center. The cultural center will be a village of buildings and a series of large and small plaza areas to host art and cultural programs.

The role of RMC is especially critical during the pandemic. "Many people have taken to the outdoors as a way to de-stress and become more in touch with nature as they explore their local parks and trails," said Mark. RMC has continued to serve the community through its park bond grant program. RMC also hosted a virtual working group to provide an update on the Lower LA River Revitalization Plan, funding opportunities for river-related projects, and a virtual open house, which summarizes the plan, as well as other river-related efforts.

RMC hopes the community will continue to engage in these projects as they develop. You can find out more about RMC at http://rmc.ca.gov/ or follow them on Facebook: @Rivers&MountainsConservancy

Speaker Rendon with Juanita Doplemore

Making Our Community A Better Place

Last year, my staff and I were happy to participate in a Long Beach food distribution hosted by the Collins Neighborhood Association. Juanita Doplemore, the Association's founder and President, is a longstanding leader in the Long Beach community. Juanita has led the Collins Neighborhood Association in innovative community beautification programs, a neighborhood crime watch network, and food assistance programs.

Juanita also serves on the California Student Aid Commission, where she has hosted several college fair events and trained staff for Cash for College events. “I'm an advocate for students in underserved communities,” said Juanita, “I strive to promote educational equity by making post-secondary education affordable for all Californians.”

A decorated Army Veteran, Juanita served from 2001-2004 in California and abroad in Wuerzburg, Germany. She also served in the Army Reserve for four years. Juanita currently sits on the City of Long Beach Veterans Affairs Commission, where she works to improve services for fellow veterans.

Juanita enjoys fostering future leaders in her daughter's Girl Scout troop as a troop leader. She also founded the Council Delegate for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, where she mentors girl and adult leaders.

Juanita is a pillar of our community, having served families, students, veterans, and her country. I was truly honored to recognize her as AD 63 Veteran of the Year in 2018, a distinction well-deserved. Through the pandemic, Juanita's stewardship continues to make Long Beach a better place.

Speaker Rendon with Frank Gehry

Renowned Architect Reimagines the LA River

Frank Gehry is an architecture legend, yet he faces a new challenge in reimagining the LA River. Gehry was first approached about the LA River Revitalization Project by River LA in 2014.

Having grown up in LA, Gehry knew that converting a 51-mile flood control channel into recreation space would pose unique challenges. Accepting the challenge, he set out to learn everything he could about the river and the communities around it.

Some of the most densely-built cities in the nation run along the river, leaving little room for open space. There are high levels of asthma and heart disease, which correlate with the lack of recreational space in communities. "I will never forget the day that the mayor of South Gate told me that his zip code meant that his children had a life expectancy of 10 years less than kids growing up on the west side of LA," explained Gehry.

Over the past few years, Gehry and the LA River Revitalization Project team have engaged community leaders and residents for input. "We met with the Army Corps of Engineering, the County of LA, the mayors and the city councils of all of the 17 cities, public health officials, environmentalists, urban impact advisors, water experts, social justice experts, and many, many others," said Gehry.

With the community's vision in mind, Gehry and his design team are reimagining the LA River with open space, restored natural habitats, and a cultural arts center. Gehry's research also led him to develop visual and performing arts programs at elementary schools near the river in Southeast LA.

The LA River Revitalization Project is about more than beautifying the river, it's about our community's health and prosperity. Gehry and his design team are creating a community resource for generations to come.

For more information on the LA River Revitalization Project and how you can get involved, visit http://larivermasterplan.org

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