The Water Bearers

Austin Hargrave

Rene Jones, Daphne Zuniga & Harry Chandler

Paris has the Seine. London has the Thames. Los Angeles has, well, the much-neglected, largely anemic, eponymous Los Angeles River. "My first question was, 'We have a river? You mean that cement thing?' " says actress and longtime environmental activist Zuniga, recalling what she said when the city's Deputy Mayor Romel Pascual asked if she'd serve as a founding board member of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation. The not-for-profit development group, which also counts UTA Foundation director Jones and film producer Jordan Kerner as board members, is seeking to make the river, which runs 51 miles from the San Fernando Valley's Canoga Park to Long Beach, a continuous open space that's central to the life of the city. It's a bold plan that includes adding bike paths (nine miles already exist), turning industrial locales into parks, removing concrete to restore natural areas and creating mixed-use opportunities at abandoned buildings, and the nascent group needs funds. A private donor has stepped up with $4 million to build a pedestrian and bike bridge connecting Griffith Park and Atwater Village, due to break ground in six months, and the LARRC is calling attention to the river and its possibilities with its second annual kayak tours. Throughout the summer, close to 2,000 kayakers will paddle a 1.5-mile navigable stretch of the river in Encino. But in order for its next round of government funding to kick in, the LARRC needs to raise $1.5 million in operating funds, and soon. "It's a project that could really move the needle for the whole city," says board chair Chandler, a former TV exec and the son of the late Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler. (His involvement represents a bit of history coming full circle -- great-grandfather Harry was among the group of city patriarchs who benefited from an infamous land grab during the California water wars in the early 1900s.) Continues Chandler: "L.A. has fewer open spaces than any other great American city. It could make a difference for generations."

Photographed by Austin Hargrave on June 27 at the L.A. River in Los Feliz


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