Public may have to pay millions more for a “free” L.A. River bridge in Atwater Village

2013 rendering of La Kretz Crossing / Courtesy River LA

ATWATER VILLAGE — It seemed like such a great deal. Back in 2011 officials announced that landowner and philanthropist Morton La Kretz had agreed to donate most of the funds to build a graceful, $5 million cable bridge over the L.A. River for equestrians, pedestrians and cyclists. The approximately 300-foot-long span would then be turned over to the city at no cost. But by 2014, construction estimates had jumped to more than $9 million, prompting bridge proponents to secure state and other public funds to cover the rising costs.

Now, according to a city report, the estimated costs have been revised upward again to more than $13 million, leaving officials to either find millions more in public funds or come up with a less inspiring but cheaper bridge.

“In 2011 we wanted a $5-million bridge,” said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who represents Atwater Village.”Now we are looking at a $13-million bridge …. therein lies a huge gaping issue.”

O’Farrell made his comments after he and other council members were briefed on the most recent and rising cost estimates for what had been called the La Kretz Crossing,  which would span the river between North Atwater Village and Griffith Park.

River LA, a nonprofit charged with helping guide development of the river, had spearheaded the project and promoted it as one of the first philanthropically-funded or privately-funded L.A. River bridges that would be open to the public.  Now, instead of turning over a completed bridge to the city, River LA now wants to provide the plans and grants it has amassed so far but leave the job of building the bridge — as well as filling the budget gap — to the city. The city would also get stuck with the annual maintenance costs, which were included in the original gift but later rescinded,  said Shirley Lau with the Bureau of Engineering during her presentation before a council committee

Lau said that the most recent estimates, which include the cost of managing the project, contingency funds and other fees, means the city would have to scrape together an estimated $3.8 million to get the span built.  However, the true cost of the bridge would not be known until  contractors bid on the project, she said.

Meanwhile, Lau said her department is talking to other vendors about lower-cost alternatives, including a pre-fabricated bridge.

The members of the public who addressed the committee said they would welcome a simpler and less expensive structure to replace the current design for the La Kretz Crossing, which was supposed to have been completed this year.

“I’m very glad that you are considering an alternative design,” said river advocate Karin Flores.  “I don’t think we need another iconic design. We [already] have these amazing historic bridges …. We need to stay to human scale and let the river be the main point of attraction.”

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  1. This bridge would be nice, getting people across to Griffith Park and closer to the heart of the park at that crossing.

    However, I note, there was nothing philanthropic about the offer from the stables. That horse bridge would HUGELY inflate the value of the properly and business there! It would have made their business THE number 1 equestrian location in Los Angeles., reaping them benefits that over time would reward them a lot more than their $5 million INVESTMENT. Yes, that was nothing but a business investment — and presented as it was, it saved them a bundle because they would not have to pay for the right-of-way to build it.

    Nothing wrong with that – -perfectly fine if the taxpayers like it. However, if they really want to claim title as being philanthropic, perhaps they actually should pick up the full cost. If not, there are plenty of other places that might be preferable for the city to spend taxpayer money to build a bridge, and other locations should be considered first if the city is going to pay. After all, that bridge is not very far north of Los Feliz Boulevard, where that bridge will take pedestrians and bicycles over to the park anyway. This bridge simply saves them a couple blocks of distance, but even that, depending on where they are starting.

    This bridge should not become a matter of city taxpayers being philanthropists for the private equestrian center. If the city is going to pay, the city first should decide priorities for that money and prioritize locations for a new bridge. This location, with another just a short distance away, would unlikely be the top priority.

    • I agree. Tax payers should not have to foot the bill when they can just foot it up the road to the Los Feliz bridge crossing.

  2. There has to be a better design at a more reasonable price. This looks to be just another money grab.

  3. I will add, even the “donation” of the completed bridge to the city is not really that. That is just another way to cut their cost at taxpayer expense, as they will get a tax writeoff for that, and at a “retail” value of the bridge, not at the cost of building it. (I have no idea how you can establish a retail value of a bridge, but they will use that vagueness to really pump up the value of the “donation.”) At a $5 million construction cost, that would bring their cost down to maybe $2-$3 million.

    Again, nothing is wrong with any of that — but let’s see it for what it is — and so before we kick in one cent, let’s make sure that is really the best thing for the taxpayers, who might actually find much more benefit from spending the money they otherwise would spend on this bridge instead on a bike and footbridge someplace else.

    But if the equestrian place really does want to pick up the FULL tab, as originally touted, fine by me to build this — as long as it is not ugly. (I happen to find this drawing of the suspension bridge to be very ugly.)

  4. Thanks for enlightening us JW! What’s next? Donuts are round? The sky is blue? Ice is cold?

  5. iirc, the reason the cost inflated so much in the first place was because the city workers that would be maintaining the bridge required that it be able to support vehicles. So instead of a trimodal bridge it would be just a full on vehicular bridge wich is just a ridiculous requirement.

    The bridge has been in city plans since the 90s but they didn’t have a donor until Mia Leher got La Kretz on board. So it’s not like this was solely a plan to increase property values. It’s a private/public partnership that realizes a former public plan that would have been completely funded by the city by granting some tax benefits to the donor. The balloning costs are the problem, not the public/private partnership.

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