The Piggyback Yard Conceptual Master Plan, conceived on behalf of the non-profit organization Friends of the Los Angeles River, is a plan for revitalizing 125 acres of river-adjacent land.  The project seeks to reclaim the Union Pacific’s Mission Yards located between East Los Angeles and downtown, expand public access to a revitalized Los Angeles River, and create a new nexus for living, working and playing at the city’s center.


The master plan addresses four major principles: fostering smart growth for a diverse, vibrant community; creating significant public space as an amenity for this new community and the surrounding city; connecting adjacent neighborhoods while maintaining existing rail use and anticipating high-speed rail connections; and restoring the river at the heart of the city, promoting access and sound water management.


As the largest single-owner site in downtown the Union Pacific’s Mission Yard, an isolated plot of land situated between East Los Angeles and downtown, quickly became the focus for this urban investigation. The proposed plan provides a viable course of action for reclaiming the rail yard and expanding public access to the adjacent river. The urban development will celebrate the river’s presence and improve the quality of life for the city as a whole by creating a new mixed-use development that relates to key transit corridors and the city’s planned Clean Tech corridor to the north. It will further enrich and capitalize on the site’s strategic location and its connections to the adjacent neighborhoods of downtown, East LA, the Brewery, and the USC Medical Center.


The project incorporates a wide range of typologies, including residential towers along the river to the northwest connected to the planned Union Station District; a creative campus for living and work adjacent to the Brewery on the site’s northern edge; a large-scale public park with spaces for active recreation extending the landscape of the river to the east; and commercial and industrial development along its southern edge, connecting the Clean Tech corridor to the adjacent medical campus. The project further enables a new future for the River and its relationship to the city, promoting sustainable water management, including flood control, aquifer recharge and biofiltration, and offer people generous access to a unique, urban, riparian landscape.


The PBY Collaborate team was created by a multidisciplinary team that include Michael Maltzan Architecture, Chee Salette Architecture Office, Mia Lehrer + Associates Landscape Architects, and Perkins+Will. The collective team was motivated by the belief that activism in Los Angeles must first begin with an initial idea for change. Over the course of seven months, the team engaged numerous public agencies, area stakeholders, and government leaders on issues such as light rail, high-speed rail, clean air, and development of a Clean Tech Corridor. Technical advisors included the City of Los Angeles River Office, Tetra Tech, Restoration Design Group, and Weighbridge Productions.

LOCATION / Los Angeles, California
TYPE / Conceptual master plan
SIZE / 125 Acres
STATUS / Completed 2010
ROLE / Architect, member of the Piggyback Yard Collaborative Team

AWARDS / AIA California Council Design Merit Award for Urban Design, 2011