Councilman Cedillo diverts funds away from L.A. River

The Los Angeles River was a pet project for former First District Councilman Ed Reyes, who spearheaded efforts to raise awareness of the river and create more parkland and recreational uses.  In fact,  a few weeks before the term-out Reyes left office in late June, the City Council approved his request to shift $500,000 in funds earmarked for First District redevelopment projects and services into an account for river-related projects.  But Gil Cedillo, the new First District Councilman, apparently has different priorities.

In one of the Cedillo’s first actions as First District councilman, he asked his council colleagues to rescind the $500,000 transfer to benefit river projects.  Instead, Cedillo wants the $500,000 used to  “address community needs in Council District One, inasmuch as Council District One has identified alternate community priorities for these funds,”  according to a council motion. Last week, the City Council voted in favor of Cedillo’s motion.

But what are those “community priorities” that will be funded with the $500,000 once budgeted for the river?   It’s hard to say because so far Cedillo’s office has failed to respond to several requests for details on how that money will now be used.


  1. Constantine Singer

    What a carpetbagging jackass. Cedillo is reason one went term limits aren’t always a good idea…without them he could have stayed in Sacramento where he couldn’t do as much damage.

  2. Please don’t make it sound so sinister. The fact is that Reyes did that to tie up the money for his pet project since his chief of staff did not get elected to succeed him. Gil Cedillo has every right, as the newly elected councilmember of that district, to set his own priorities. With all due respect to the River—which I love—there may well be more urgent uses for the funds that could benefit more people in need.

    • Constantine Singer

      And yet, Cedillo’s office will not identify those uses. I wouldn’t mind nearly as much if three things had been true:

      1. If Cedillo had actually lived in CD 1 sometime in the last twelve years.
      2. If Cedillo’s office could identify a single better use for the money.
      3. If this wasn’t coincident with the folding of the LA River Subcommittee into a catch-all committee that will discuss that will meet only twice each month and is guaranteed to “give some time to the river” every other meeting.

      The fact is that the river is currently at a crossroads — we are on the way to having a usable and sustainable open space, but that is not a guarantee. O’Farrell has taken on the river’s torch in Reye’s absence, but without the consistent support of Cedillo’s office in CD1 and Labonge’s continuing support, it will be a quixotic fight.

      Cedillo has given us only the barest broad strokes as to his priorities in office (chief among them is freeway expansion, btw) and until I know the details of his plans and agenda, I am going to be stuck believing that his intent is not the best interest of the LA River or CD1.

      The long strange nepotistic journey of Gil Cedillo Jr. speaks more strongly to my interpretation.

    • Gil Cedillo has annointed himself “Secretary of the State of Los Angeles. WTF! He has meetings with all the El Presidentes of Mexico, and the Central Americas.”He is their councilman”. They want money. He has just robbed from the river to give to? Here’s a thought.
      Is he setting up a “South of the American border” flee fund for his son, and all of the other corrupteds that he associates himself with? Once Gil Jr. and the Calderons are sentanced to Federal prison they may want to live as ex-pats, on the run. They will need all the money they can get. Robbin’ the Hood is just the guy to help get it for them.

  3. So far Cedillo has plans to move into a building in Highland Park where the owner has blatantly disregarded HPOZ rules, supported the 710 expansion, and now diverted money away from the LA River, money that was desperately needed to make our neighborhood greener and cleaner. Can anyone out there tell us something positive Mr. Sacramento IS going to do for our community????

  4. Cedillo is worse than I expected. Seriously– take money from the LA River? I guess we all have to identify it as a community need to him now so the money can go back there. I understand he wasn’t a fan of Reyes but he doesn’t have to undo or undermine good things Reyes has done for the community. Show us your environmental cred, Cedillo, like you promised.

    From Gil Cedillo’s campaign website: “Gil Cedillo is dedicated to preserving our district’s open spaces, beautifying its parks, and minimizing its environmental impact. Gil knows the importance of the L.A. River to our district, and will work to keep the river as pristine as possible.”

    Let’s see how many other promises he’ll break!

    http://show.simplesend.com/issues.html (yes, bizarre link url but it is the link to his campaign website)

  5. Maybe this money will be used as the CLARTS money was used by Huizar’s office.

    You can’t talk about “jobs” by ignoring the immense potential to turn the LA River into a biking and hiking tourist destination. It may seem like a joke, but link the LA River with N. Figueroa Street and get a quality bike lane into Chinatown and not only is this a key bicycling commuting corridor (which means increased foot traffic for businesses adjacent the Avenue 26 junction) but that also will bring innumerable bike, kayak, and hiking tour companies, small B&B’s, rental equipment shops, and outside money to tour LA’s formerly lost river and a chance to see, up close, the foot print of the older parts of this city.

    Gritty as it is, I’ve taken many and out of town tourist down the river path, down into the confluence, across the local bridges and had them express wonder and appreciation for this town that one would think is only reserved for the Hollywood sign and celebrity houses.

    Let’s hope that on his Highland Park, Elysian Valley, Cypress Park, and Glassell Park stops on his “listening tour” that he gets an earful about this.

    • He won’t, trust me. The “listening tour” is nothing more than his unfriendly staffers identifying the troublemakers in the district and then reporting back to El Capitan, who he needs to watch out for. Listen? Ha ha ha. You can’t even get his office to return a phone call.

  6. For those who would like to ask Mr. Cedillo what alternative uses he has in mind for the funds, the next stop on his “listening tour” is Tuesday August 6 at Mt. Washington Elementary School 7pm. The address is 3981 San Rafael Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90065.

  7. speaking of kyaking and the river, if LA ever plans on hosting the Olympics again the river area seems like a good place for a whitewater kayak facility. plus it would tie in quite nicely with the planned redevelopment.

    That money will probably be spent on more hideous parklets on York.

  8. Aside from this money, I have long worried about a blind approach to these river development ideas and plans. Blind, I say, because they are ignoring and paying no attention to the critical purpose of that river channel. That is a major flood control channel for the city and region generally but most importantly for the areas near the river.

    Gee, just look at Elysian Valley, Glassell Park and Atwater Village — flood plains. If you interfere with the flood control purpose of that channel, then when the big storm it is designed for does hit — and it will — you will see those areas surrounding the river under water when they really should not have been. You will also see that water backed up through all the conduits that empty into it, flooding streets throughout the area. I think anyone would be very foolish to live in those areas if there is anything interfering with the flow of that water — and there already is.

    That’s just an inconvenient truth.

    You cannot do anything that interferes with the flow of water through that channel and expect that will not seriously undermine its flood control ability. I love the idea of letting natural greenery and trees and bushes grow in the river — but that seriously interferes with the flow of the water, and that means it will back up in the major storm it is designed for and flood the surrounding areas. I see no problem in bike lanes and walking paths and other at the top, even greenery added up there, but down in that channel, nothing can be allowed that interferes with the flow of that water.

    That basin is the most major of the region. It is designed for what is called a 100-year storm, which is one so big and violent it occurs only about once every hundred years — but yes, it does occur (and frankly, I think it has been about a hundred years since the last one!). And mind you, it is supposed to handle not only the natural river flow, but also all of the flow from the region that is directed into it via conduits.

    If you want to be like New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, then do things that interfere with the flow of that water. I have neither seen nor heard anyone address this critical and deadly issue when talking about all their ideas about what to do with the river. Instead, from the beginning, they have pushed to allow trees and bushes and other greenery grow in the channel, mud islands to develop and even some other ideas that would block it more, even a dam to intentionally back up the water. But the deadly fact of the flood control purpose of that river remains an inconvenient truth.

    • It needs to be done in concert with low-impact development in the rest of the drainage area. If we can get more green roofs, bioswales, permeable pavement, and other things upstream from here, then that will reduce the need for flood control at this location.

  9. I agree with Constantine – reaffirm current priorities with community then discuss alternatives before you make changes. This is good practice in both politics and business.

    Without input, this comes off as vindictive (a trait he is known for in Sacramento) and perception is key.

    Ecotourism is not just a buzz word. It has brought jobs to many areas and in some communities is the sole form of employment (albeit rural).

    So attend his listening tour, pin him down for specifics and deliverables by a certain date and if he can only offer platitudes, be ready to hit the mattresses and fight for what you want.

    Your alternative? Ignore him, fund your own projects and expect him to show up with a microphone at your ribbon cutting ceremony to take credit and campaign photos – whether he is invited or not.

    Remember, Pottersville from “It’s A Wonderful Life”? – Well CD1 is Gilville now.

    This is the reality of Gil Cedillo’s reign over the next 12 years until a bell rings for a recall.

  10. Mark above is SPOT ON re the true purpose of the LA River — it was channelized to save us. If this is news to you get on the ol’ Google and check out the 1938-39 (believe it was) storm event that wiped out Elysian Valley, flooded most of Bellflower-Long Beach, and killed three or four doz. people. Houses were swept downriver.

    Anybody reading this go to see the river nearly crest its banks in 1984-85, 1996-97, 2004-05? — believe those were last big rain events. I saw the middle event, and it was astounding and totally frightening to see that dark thing about 4′ from overflowing.

    Mark points out “flood plains.” The Los Angeles Basin is one, huge flood plain.

    • Other cities like Houston have been able to successfully do both — maintain flood control protections while improving land surrounding the rivers for recreation. A comprehensive River Plan for L.A. takes this into account and is worth examining.

      I used to live near the Santa Ana River when it nearly crested in ’84-’85, so I share your concerns and even with those concerns, I know risks can be mitigated with proper planning.

    • The LA Basin is not a big flood plain. It is an alluvial plain, meaning it was formed from deposit of sediments from the mountains to the north (see John McPhee’s essay, “Los Angeles against the mountains”, collected in his book, “The Control of Nature”). Some of the areas within it are floodplains, but most of the LA Basin is not within the 100-year floodplain.

      Your general point is true, though — people forget that the river does flood.

      The McPhee piece is really nice in that it points out how exceptional our area is regarding rainfall rates (among the highest ever measured) and in terms of proximity to large and very steep mountains. We have struggled to account for the effects of rain. For instance, the Devil’s Gate dam (on the 210 fwy going north from Pasadena) was originally designed as a reservoir for flood control (some historic photos: http://www.arroyoseco.org/DGDam.htm).

      Then it filled with sediment and boulders, eroded from the mountains. Basically, it is impossible to keep the reservoir clear for its original purpose, and now it is a debris catchment basis, not really a reservoir (e.g., http://dpw.lacounty.gov/lacfcd/sediment/prj.aspx?prj=1 )

    • the Army Corps of engineers has been involved in the planning of the LA River project since the beginning and they are committed to maintaining it’s function. You don’t seriously think that the only possible configuration that can work is a big concrete channel do you? That was just the cheapest and easiest solution at the time.

      • Given the periodic El Ninos and 100 year floods the concrete configuration may be about the best it can be. And really, how does one plan for ‘unplanned natural events’? Like a ‘200 year flood’?

        Given the wild swings of weather we’re seeing (see today’s LAT for really bad drought news for West/NM) the present channel may not be enough, chew on that one for a mo.

        Have to ask re mention of Houston — is what they experience in rainy months what LA Basin experiences?

        Have also to ask if there really is a measureable — har, har — diff between a coastal river’s flood plain and an alluvial plain. Sorry but the net effect is the same, spreading of materials from higher elevations all over the place.

      • cheapest and easiest compared to what?

        OK, sure. It was the cheapest and easiest solution in the 1930s and 40s because widening the river channel even then would have involved purchasing and relocating lots of very expensive real estate (i.e., private property) as well as the railroad infrastructure and rights-of-way.

        Unfortunately, that’s still the case today, except that there’s also an 8-lane freeway (I-5) hemming in the river on the other side! I would LOVE to see a configuration other than the concrete channel that would allow for more green space and restored river function, etc., but it’s going to take a lot of money, and planning, and political will. Of course, waiting longer to start will just raise the price more, so why not start as soon as possible? Reyes got that, Cedillo doesn’t get it. Reyes had a long-term vision for the River, and got real results during his time in office. Shame on Cedillo for working so quickly to undo that progress.

        Anyway, thanks to the Eastsider for reporting this. As far as I can tell, this story is nowhere on the LA Times’s radar, but it’s stories like this that prove that elections have consequences, for better or worse. More people should have gotten out to vote in that election. If you read the Eastsider’s coverage before election day, you’re probably not surprised to hear about this from Cedillo…

        • Sorry, but you’re vague and lacking any depth in what you say. Painting broad strokes without any foundation for them doesn’t do it. Vision? What is it — to interfere with flow of the water and leave the entire area prone to flooding? If the vision is nothing other than we like green, then it is without foundation. I like green, but I also would like to live rather than be flooded out and maybe die in the flood, or see that happen to others.

          I have no problem adding something to that area — providing it does not interfere with the flood control. The entire region around the river was developed on the pretense that it is safe because of that flood control. When you interfere with that flood control, you interfere with people’s safety. And I have heard no one addressing this, only insisting that all that matters is greenery.

          Again, greenery or whatever else on top along the bank, fine; but interfering with the flow of the water in the catch basin, as already is being done, not smart, very dangerous, irresponsible.

          • Nature is the best flood control. We should restore the LA River if we want it to thrive. We shouldn’t be building so close to the river, we should restore the adjacent wetlands. This will be better ecologically and better for us.

  11. This guy is nothing but a gangbanger in a suit. Its just peel back silk veneer and you’ll see M tattooed on his back. He’s got 0 vision 0 class and 0 integrity.

    • We need to stop comparing every latino politician to “thugs” or “gangbangers”. What he is doing is much more in line with what white politicians have done for centuries in this country, which is consolidate influence and power. And yet you never hear white pols compared to street criminals. I’ve had enough.

  12. Upon further examination, you will see that the motion also wants to recind $900,000 from Central City Neighborhood Partners, an organization that serves the poorest people in his district.

    • Yeah, it’s one of Gil’s shell games. Who knows what he is up to? Everybody in the “Fightin’ First” district better stay on your toes.

  13. Has anyone tried to contact Gil Cedillo’s office today to complain or find out more information about his planned use of the funds? I’ve called the number on his website a few times and receive an error message that he’s not taking calls?

  14. Yeah okay clearly this guy’s a jerk for raiding the river fund. But what’s up with the Council for letting him get away with it? Surely we should be mad at them, too, right?

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