One serious and complicating factor for enforcement, outreach, and cleanup along the Canoga Park and Reseda areas of the L.A. River is the multijurisdictional responsibility for different sections. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles County Flood Control District, and various Los Angeles City departments all have responsibility for some aspect of river area maintenance and enforcement, but there is no one coordinating entity. A few years ago, when meeting with community members, we shared a picture where in one 20-foot stretch of the River there were five different jurisdictions surrounding an encampment. The lack of a unified command with responsibility for the River contributes to the community’s frustration that problems along the river are not addressed.

It is time to bring the L.A. River under one, competent, and proven agency. This is why we are proposing a pilot program in the West Valley to give full enforcement and outreach powers along the River to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. The MRCA is a local government public entity forged under the Joint Powers Act as a partnership between the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and several other governmental bodies. MRCA has offered to take the helm and enforce relevant ordinances, protect public safety, reduce environmental hazards, provide outreach to unsheltered individuals in the area and ensure the river is an amenity for the local community. Furthermore, it is a unique JPA in that it has a park/environmental mission but its rangers have full law enforcement authority and peace officer status, unlike the city’s park rangers.

Although this offer has been extended and discussed for several years, other strategies have been prioritized for the River to address the various issues by City departments and others. Since the problems reported by our community have increased despite these other strategies, a pilot project with MRCA taking responsibility for the first section will demonstrate that a unified command provides better value and service to address the needs for environmental and public safety and programming in the area.

We want to improve the River with natural areas, paths and recreational opportunities, but our goal can best be accomplished with strong, environmental advocacy and with consistent enforcement to ensure taxpayers’ dollars are well spent and the area is a community amenity rather than a blight.

City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield represents the 3rd Council District, which includes Canoga Park, Reseda, Tarzana, Winnetka and Woodland Hills. Evelyn Aleman is an activist, writer and public affairs professional who is co-founder of the L.A. River Walkers and Watchers, a group of Reseda neighbors committed to preserving the L.A. River bike path.