Los Angeles River. via Wikimedia Commons
Los Angeles River. via Wikimedia Commons

There’s good news in the battle to turn the much-maligned, polluted Los Angeles River into a pristine recreation experience.

An agreement to pay $59.3 million for a piece of Union Pacific Railroad property in Glassell Park that has long been considered key to the city’s Los Angeles River restoration goals has been finalized.

The city has plans to turn the Taylor Yard G2 plot — currently 42 acres of industrial rail yard land — into recreational and passive park space, and restore a wildlife habitat to a river that has more of a reputation of being a storm channel.

City leaders had asked staffers to negotiate the purchase of the parcel, at 2850 Kerr St., in anticipation of the $1.5 billion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to revitalize an 11-mile stretch of the river running through the Elysian Valley.

The Army Corps plan focuses on widening the river next to the yard, but does not actually detail improvements on the Taylor Yard G2 plot, which is being seen as a complementary project.

The city would need to pay nearly $1.2 billion of the Army Corps plan’s river restoration cost, as well as $2.5 million annually for ongoing maintenance and operations, according to estimates released today by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana. City leaders had initially hoped the costs would be split between the city and federal government.

The City Council will begin hashing out the details of the proposed purchase agreement for the Taylor Yard G2 parcel in committee, starting Monday, said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the Arts, Parks and River Committee.

Under the tentative deal, the purchase amount would include setting aside $14.7 million for soil remediation costs.

The city is also counting on the state providing $25 million of the purchase cost, which would need to be funneled through a potential agreement with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, according to the CAO.

The state’s portion would likely not be available to the city when it comes time to purchase the land, according to the CAO.

The CAO’s report also gives City Council members the option of forgoing purchase of the property at this time.

O’Farrell said that if council members agree to open escrow on the purchase, they would still have time to look more closely into the deal, and if necessary, back out before the end of the escrow period.

O’Farrell said while the rail yard parcel is tied to the Army Corps project — which has increased in cost since it was first proposed — the plot of land has also long been the “lynchpin” of the city’s own Los Angeles River restoration plans.

“What I want to do is make sure we don’t get distracted by what is sort of an abstract exercise” of contemplating the city’s estimated $1.2 billion share of costs in the Army Corps plans, he said.

O’Farrell said he plans to consider the immediate costs of improving on Taylor Yard itself, which is estimated to be about $252 million, of which $120 million would be for remediation.

The purchase of the yard would be “an enormous investment in a space that has a high value for the future of the Los Angeles River,” he said.

–City News Service

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