Neighbor Spotlight: Atwater Village woman focuses neighborhood attention on L.A. River

Karen Barnett | Daniel Nerio

Karen Barnett | Daniel Nerio


ATWATER VILLAGE– Karen Barnett stumbled upon Atwater Village out of pure luck. She was house hunting and happened to find one that offered everything she wanted, a neighborhood with a walkable lifestyle. After moving into the neighborhood in 2012, the business owner became involved in her community and sits on the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council Board and is the Chair of the AVNC River Committee. She was selected as “Atwater Woman of the Year” by Congressman Adam Schiff and also named “Villager of the Year” by the Atwater Chamber of Commerce, because of her hard work in preserving the neighborhood’s section of the Los Angeles River.

Barnett tells us about her work, life and current challenges.

What’s your home [or workplace] like?
My home is near the river…very casual, open and small.

Tell us about what you do.
I have company, Urban Aid, which creates fun, clever and useful products that celebrate life and solve the problems many experience away from home.

Where do you like to hang out in the neighborhood and why?
There are so many places to go in Atwater Village! I don’t really want to discriminate … I usually go to places on Glendale Boulevard because I can walk there.

What’s the biggest challenge of living/working here?
The biggest challenge is really two fold right now, one being traffic and lack of infrastructure upgrades. The other being development [along the] L.A. River …. which isn’t necessarily in character with the neighborhood and it’s limited infrastructure.

How did you get involved in river issues and what are the major challenges?

I got involved in river issues when Sunnynook River Park was built. The public outreach materials didn’t match what was built. It lacked a working “noise deflection berm”, which was included in “public” plan materials. There was an increase in noise and dirt in my neighborhood when it was built – due to the older dense brush and trees being removed and replaced by a chain link fence along the 5 Freeway. Afterwards, upon meeting with [Bureau of Engineering] to discuss the issue, we found out there was never any intention to include “working” sound berms [because] “the land area too narrow/” It was at that point that I got frustrated with disingenuous public outreach and the lack of transparency along the river especially as I learned more.

The major challenges along the river are…?

  • Separating fact from media hype.
  • Public safety – the river has been hyped by the media and by city folks, therefore more people come out to enjoy the river. Patrols, signage, hours, rules and regulations, lights and the like have not followed the increased usage, creating an unclear and messy situation of what the L.A. River is and isn’t.
  • Developers trying over build in small residential communities

What this neighborhood needs is a ….?

Connected path along the east bank of the L.A. River! We are working with National Park Service to get community input on what folks think. (Connected i.e. like the bike path: bridges, underpasses and/or crosswalks so one can walk the entire 4 miles of the LA river in Atwater)

What kinds of people have you met here? Anyone standout?
I have met so many great people here! While they may have different interests… they all love Atwater Village.

Jacqueline Fernandez is a Los Angeles-based reporter who’s written for various media outlets such as Los Angeles Wave, The Miami Herald and WLRN-Miami Herald News.

Daniel Nerio is a photographer living in Highland Park. He self published Sign of the Times, a two-part zine documenting business signs in Highland Park.

One comment

  1. Thank you for working for our neighborhood!!!

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