Community Meetings and Surveys
A cornerstone of the engagement strategy was community meetings and surveys. The meetings and surveys were split into three rounds of engagement:
Each community meeting started with a brief presentation, followed by an open house. The open house included various informational and feedback stations. This format allowed participants to review materials and offered opportunities for them to have one-on-one conversations with LA County staff and members of the consultant team as well as representatives from local elected offices, who were in attendance at many of the meetings. All materials were presented in English and Spanish.
The youth in LA County are our communities’ future leaders, and transformation of the LA River must include their perspectives. Eight hundred students from high schools along the river attended a Youth Summit, where they had an opportunity to network and learn from their peers while they discovered how their everyday life experiences relate to the LA River Master Plan. The goal was to have students learn about opportunities for civic action within their communities through the following topics: access and mobility, art, community science, hydrology, LA River watershed, Native Peoples, planning and design, and recreation and safety.
Students took a survey before and after the event to gauge changes in knowledge about and interest in the LA River. Before the summit, 71% of students were interested or somewhat interested in the future of the LA River, and 80% were interested or somewhat interested in helping make the river better. After the summit, these numbers rose to 91% and 90%, respectively.
In addition to the various means of engagement that LA County organized directly, the County also involved regional and local community partners to personalize stakeholder and neighborhood engagement events and to reach additional residents who are part of their networks. The community partners’ unique events included pop-up sidewalk and park activations, educational activities, data gathering, and other events. The following community partners led events, a selection of which are summarized below.
Flow: A Community's Relationship to Water
Las Fotos Project is a program that helps teenage girls from communities of color express themselves through photography. In connection with the LA River Master Plan, Las Fotos participants investigated connections between the LA River, surrounding communities, and the LA region’s relationship with water. Traveling up and down the river and examining their own as well as community connections to water, the participants interviewed key stakeholders and chronicled historical lessons and cultural stories through their camera lenses, journals, and an online map of each of the locations they visited. The culmination of their work was an exhibition titled “Flow: A Community’s Relationship to Water.”
Native Communities Discussion
The history of Indigenous Peoples and Tribes in LA County was largely lost due to Spanish missions and, later, American settlers who took over the land, changed place names, stifled cultural practices, and overwrote the history. Much of this history is not written. The contemporary issues facing tribes today and their current work to address these issues, which include cultural practices that involve the LA River and the larger watershed, are either unknown or ignored by the general public. The Native Communities Discussion offered an opportunity to hear directly from tribal elders and leaders about the failures of previous planning efforts to practice deep engagement with their communities. They recommended ways to practice deep engagement as well as how to build relationships, collaborate, and provide spaces for tribal ceremonies and religious practices along the river.
Anahuak Community Event
Organized by the Anahuak Youth Sports Federation, this community meeting reached elders, young families, and high school students who participate in the federation’s youth sporting events. The meeting was conducted entirely in Spanish and facilitated input on access, cultural events, and a vision for the LA River. Despite the many time-consuming commitments to the recreational activities already organized by Anahuak each year and even earlier that day, attendees filled the community meeting room where the meeting was held to discuss opportunities to engage with the LA River. Common themes included safety, programming for youth, housing advocacy, and opportunities to highlight Mexican culture.
Pacoima Beautiful Community Event
Pacoima Beautiful is a grassroots environmental justice organization that provides education, impacts public policy, and supports local arts and culture in order to promote a healthy and sustainable San Fernando Valley. The organization hosted a community meeting that was well attended by high school students who were participating in a 3-week leadership academy. Following the memorable activities involved in their leadership academy, many of the students expressed a continued desire to engage with the LA River through Pacoima Beautiful by developing programs at their high schools or attending future events and programs along the river. Across the breakout group discussion, common themes included addressing safety, incorporating art and food along the river, and organizing river cleanups.
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice Community Event
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice is a community-based organization that advocates for and prepares community members in East LA, Southeast LA, and Long Beach to engage in decision-making processes that impact their health and quality of life. The organization led a community meeting attended by seniors, young families, and high school students to learn about the LA River Master Plan and brainstorm about impacts of the plan on their communities. East Yard facilitated group discussions organized by geography to discuss housing stability and community stabilization.