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1996 Master Plan Summary

The LA River Master Plan is an update of the LA County 1996 LA River Master Plan

In July 1991, the LA County Board of Supervisors directed the Departments of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Regional Planning to coordinate all public and private parties interested in the planning, financing, and implementation of a master plan for the LA River. The planning team consisted of an advisory committee comprised of cities, agencies, and citizen group representatives in addition to advisory subcommittees which were tasked with developing objectives. In February 1995, an implementation team consisting of members of the advisory committee was formed to help develop strategies for implementing recommended projects among cities, agencies, and community groups.

The 1996 Master Plan organized key issues under six general topics and eight goals. The 1996 Master Plan went on to develop a list of objectives, recommendations, and suggested policy changes for each of the six topics and their related goals.

The topics and related goals were:


  • Improve the appearance of the river and the pride of the local communities in it.

Economic Development

  • Promote the river as an economic asset to the surrounding communities.

Environmental Quality

  • Preserve, enhance, and restore environmental resources in and along the river.

Flood Management and Water Conservation

  • Ensure that flood control and public safety needs are met.
  • Consider stormwater management alternatives.

Jurisdiction and Public Involvement

  • Ensure public involvement and coordination during Master Plan development and implementation among jurisdictions.


  • Provide a safe environment and a variety of recreational opportunities along the river.
  • Ensure safe access to and compatibility between the river and other activity centers.

1996 Planning Frames

The 1996 Master Plan mapped existing facilities and recommended improvements along the entire 51-mile length of the LA River and 9-mile length of Tujunga Wash. The rivers were divided into six reaches, beginning at the river mouth in Long Beach and continuing upstream through Downtown LA to the San Fernando Valley. The Master Plan Advisory Committee recommended improvements varying in size and specificity along each reach, with input from the respective communities. Each reach included a description of that reach, a summary of issues, recommendations for cities within the reach, and a list of other previously planned projects.

1996 Planning Frames
LA County Map
1996 Planning Frames. The 1996 LA River Master Plan had six planning frames.
LA County Public Works, 1996 LA River Master Plan.

Demonstration Projects

In addition to the reach recommendations, the 1996 Master Plan developed a list of 17 potential demonstration projects. The purpose of these demonstration projects was to implement short-term projects that deliver the long-term goals of the Master Plan, while revealing potential problems that might be encountered in future projects. The 17 demonstration projects were ranked by site availability, availability of funding, community support, number of Master Plan goals the project would meet, project implementation timeframe, and willingness of a jurisdiction to maintain.

Two demonstration projects form the 1996 plan have been completed thus far and two are currently in development as of the Master Plan.

Completed Projects

Los Feliz Riverwalk

North East Trees, in partnership with the City of LA Recreation and Parks Department and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, received funding from the 1992 LA County Safe Neighborhood Parks Proposition to construct the Los Feliz Riverwalk from Chevy Chase Drive to the Sunnynook Drive footbridge in Los Feliz. Completed in September 1999, improvements included walking trails, native planting, picnic areas, river rock walls, and Anza Trail signage. The project also involved the installation of a steel gate designed and fabricated by local artist Michael Amescua at Los Feliz Boulevard and the river.

Dominguez Gap Environmental Enhancement

Eventually named the Dominguez Gap Wetlands, the project converted an existing, 37-acre spreading basin into multi-benefit wetlands. Since completion of the $7.1 million project in 2008, flows from the LA River and local urban runoff are routed through the basin to sustain a year-round habitat for plants and native wildlife. The open space provides increased opportunities for public recreational amenities, such as an equestrian trail, bike paths, and walkways.

View looking north across the Dominguez Gap Wetlands, one of the 1996 LA River Master Plan Demonstration Projects, river mile 4.9.
OLIN, 2018.

Projects Currently in Development

Tujunga Wash/Hansen Dam Interpretive Site

Located at Hansen Dam, where the Big and Little Tujunga Washes meet in the San Fernando Valley, this project would develop a series of interpretive signs at the crest of Hansen Dam, which is owned and operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The signs would educate and inform the public on various water conservation resources. This location is included within the Design Area of the Upper LA River and Tributaries Revitalization Plan that has proceeded from AB 466, which may advance the concepts proposed by this project.

Wrigley Greenbelt Trail Enhancement

This project, which is currently in development, comprises the excess land owned by Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFCD) outside the LA River levees between Wardlow Road and Willow Street in Long Beach. The project is designed to improve the trail along the LA River with signs and fencing, as well as connect to the LA River Improvement Overlay District (LARIO) trails. The Port of Long Beach and LA County Public Works implemented the northern section of the improvements in 2007.

In addition to the four demonstration projects that moved forward, the 1996 LA River Master Plan’s Advisory Committee continued to convene into the early 2000s to develop additional LA River projects–large and small scale–that aligned with the goals of the plan.

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