Frank Gehry’s controversial L.A. River plan gets cautious, low-key rollout

Frank Gehry's controversial L.A. River plan gets cautious, low-key rollout
Landscape architect Laurie Olin, left, and architect Frank Gehry, in Long Beach, contemplating their new master plan for the Los Angeles River / © Omar Brownson

The design team working with architect Frank Gehry on a controversial new master plan for the Los Angeles River has begun to introduce its work to the public — but in a noticeably cautious and low-key way.

River LA, the nonprofit group that began collaborating with Gehry’s office more than a year ago, isn’t ready to unveil any design proposals by the architect. Or any rough sketches, for that matter.

Instead it has been holding upbeat, informal “listening sessions” in neighborhoods near the river, in an apparent effort to build goodwill. The new website it developed with two of Gehry’s partners, expected to go live Tuesday morning at, is stuffed with maps and charts but similarly short on architectural detail.

The quiet rollout suggests that River LA is less interested in giving a clear picture of what Gehry’s plan eventually may include than in tamping down charges that it has been born of secrecy — and worries that it may operate as a Trojan horse, a kind of high-design architectural cover, for rampant real-estate speculation in communities along the river.

At the same time, as the river takes on new shades of economic and political meaning — becoming a magnet for attention and investment after decades of near invisibility — the race to reimagine it is growing more crowded. River plans are moving forward at the federal level and in Sacramento, with little clarity about how they ultimately might relate to the Gehry effort. […]


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