Advocates of the movement to "green" areas around the Los Angeles River are in a battle with a Miami Beach-based developer proposing to build an industrial park and commercial/retail center on a portion of the old Taylor Yard rail depot near Glassell Park a project that environmentalists say will undermine use of the park.

Friends of the Los Angeles River, backed by several environmental and community groups, is vowing to appeal to the City Council a decision by the Planning Commission last week that upholds approval of the project by city staff.

Lennar Partners is planning to develop 650,000 square feet of light industrial space, as well as a multiplex movie theater, shops and restaurants, totaling 118,000 square feet, on a 41-acre parcel no longer in use by Union Pacific Railroad.

But the river group and its allies contend the project's warehouses would destroy views from an adjacent 62-acre parcel on the river's banks that the state wants to develop into a park. Lennar's proposed industrial project would isolate the park from the surrounding neighborhood, environmentalists say.

They want the Lennar site, which the developer is in escrow to buy for $20.7 million from Union Pacific, to instead be set aside for soccer and other ball fields. The planned river park could then be dedicated to open space, passive recreation and wildlife habitat restoration.

"The community for years has been asking for balanced development at Taylor Yard, and so far that has not happened," said Melanie Winter, the former executive director of Friends of the L.A. River, who is representing the river group in the matter. "The community is incredibly under-served in park space, and needs more."

The battle is shaping up as somewhat of a replay of the "Cornfield" controversy, in which community activists opposed developer Ed Roski Jr.'s plan to build an industrial park on a former railroad and freight depot near Chinatown. That plan has now been slowed after an environmental group sued over it.

Like the Cornfield, Taylor Yard is also one of Mayor Richard Riordan's Genesis sites inner-city areas he is targeting for economic redevelopment and the Lennar proposal itself has strong backing from the Mayor's office.

But while opponents like the analogy, Lennar says it is unfair to compare the two projects, since its plan was developed after community meetings and has support from area Councilman Mike Hernandez.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.