Mayor Eric Garcetti’s appearance last fall at an auditorium across the street from Los Angeles City Hall drew scant attention. It was a gathering of watershed protection specialists, and he’d come with an ardent appeal: Join him the following week at a federal hearing on the L.A. River.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was weighing plans to tear apart some of the river’s “concrete straitjacket,” as the mayor put it, and restore wetlands along the banks. Garcetti was lobbying hard for the most expensive option, a $1-billion proposal that federal officials were resisting.
“Let’s not go halfway on the heart and soul of a great city,” he told the audience. “Cancel whatever plans you have. Take your wife or husband out another night.”
The hearing was packed and the mayor went on to press his fight in Washington. Eight months later, the Army Corps — defying expectations — recommended the plan Garcetti wanted.
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