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Friday, March 26, 2010

Cap Freeway Ideas Abound

 (image from The Architect's Newspaper.  All Rights Reserved.)
Freeways everywhere and not a cap in sight.  Well, maybe not much longer in Los Angeles.  The Architect's Newspaper provided a great profile of the 4 freeway cap projects under consideration that have the potential to drastically improve the urban character, and re-introduce some much needed open space in LA . Two of them are in downtown, one is in Hollywood, and most recently a new study in Santa Monica has begun near the new proposed civic park awarded to James Corner's Field Operations.  AECOM is handling the all of the conceptual efforts in LA, but the article also points to Don Scott as one of the influential forces behind LA's flourishing efforts to caps some of its ubiquitous freeways.

The cap park frenzy here can largely be credited to Don Scott, an investment banker and former chairman of the Hollywood Central Park coalition, also former chairman of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Scott said that his inspiration for the Hollywood Central Park cap came from an article he read about Boston’s Big Dig. “I remember driving over the Hollywood freeway and thinking about the connection between the two environments.”

After some research, Scott discovered other freeway cap parks in various phases in Cincinnati, Seattle, Phoenix, the District of Columbia, Boston, Hartford, CT, and Charlotte, NC. In LA, a small freeway cap park was built over the 210 Freeway in La Canada-Flintridge; another is under review in Ventura County. The rest of the chamber was quick to support Scott’s idea, and it took off.

Despite the immense cost of decking over freeways, such projects are seen not only as boons to urban planning but also economic development. The lots in pink are potential development sites, which could even help pay for construction.
Although the projects are a long way away from realization, the opportunities to create new, green cores  throughout LA is seductive, especially given the dearth of public space available. Hopefully, funding can be arranged in the near future to push the projects towards reality.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Arid Lands Institute - Spring 2010 Design Workshops

The Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University in Burbank has announced their Spring 2010Workshop series.  Focusing on "Smart Design Strategies for Managing Water + Energy in a Changing Climate," it should be an excellent series featuring a nice mix of design professionals, sustainability experts, and advocates.  The free workshops are designed to introduce laypeople, developers, stakeholders, and design professionals alike to water- and energy-conserving design strategies. While I imagine some of the content may be general for knowledgeable participants, it promises to provide regional case studies, and an opportunity to dialogue about sustainable design strategies for Los Angeles.  Registration information is available on their webpage.

Workshop_1: Smart Buildings: Green Roofs/Green Walls
Saturday, March 27th
9 am – 3 pm
Linda Taalman, Taalman Koch Architecture
Deborah Richmond, AIA, Touraine Richmond Architects
Stephanie V. Landregan, ASLA, UCLA Extension Landscape Architecture

Workshop_2: Smart Landscapes: Yard, Driveway, Sidewalk, Street
Saturday, April 3rd
9 am - 3 pm
Fritz Haeg, Edible Estates
Holly Harper, NorthEast Trees
David Fletcher, Fletcher Studio

Workshop_3: Smart Systems: Rainwater Harvesting + Greywater
Saturday, April 17th
9 am - 3 pm
Leigh Jerrard, California Greywater Corps
Jenna Didier, Fountainhead Design

Water Wise Gardening Resource

I stumbled onto a great resource from the City of Santa Monica for homeowners and residents of LA's Coastal Cities looking to reduce their landscape water usage.  "Los Angeles Water Wise Gardening" plant lists, watering tips, and the ability to create a plant list for your yard.  Perhaps the best feature, though, are the case studies of real gardens.  Each provides a different prototype design for different coastal situations, and includes interactive features that allow you to click on individual plants in the pictures and found out pertinent plant information (including anatomy, cultural requirements, and design suggestions).  Great portal for the amateur and professional alike to get ideas for our coastal landscapes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Modern Outdoor Living" Event

(Image from LA Times. All Rights Reserved)
Sadly I was on a trip this past weekend and missed the " "Modern Outdoor Living," pop-up store and discussion this past weekend in Chinatown hosted by Shibui Designs.  The event was a show and tell of sustainable outdoor furniture and innovative urban gardening concepts.  One of the highlights noted by the LA Times: Greenades, by San Francisco landscape architect David Fletcher and Los Angeles designers Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud. The design is a bubble gum machine repurposed as a seed dispensary for guerrilla gardeners with seed-bomb choices including one mix specifically devised for planting along the Los Angeles River.

Classes on Edible Gardens

 (image from US Forest Service.  All Rights Reserved)
The LA Times shared some exciting news yesterday about the UC Cooperative Extension's new "Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative." Beginning in late-March and early April, they will be offering classes at 11 locations in LA on growing your own food.  The classes run on 4 consecutive weekends, and at the completion of the program, participants will be certified Victory Gardeners. It should be a great opportunity to learn more about tending your urban garden from your fellow citizens.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

UPDATE: The Lawn Police?

 (image from LA Times. All Rights Reserved)
The LA Times brings another update and a wonderful op-ed to the unfolding drama in Orange over the Ha family's decision to remove their lawn and replace it with a less water intensive alternative.  Still no final decision from the city, but the Has will have to appear in court on Tuesday for now.  Below are some of the more telling points from the article:
It's their yard, it's not overgrown with weeds, it's not an eyesore," said Cleek [Has neighbor], whose own yard boasts fruit trees. "We should be able to have our yards look the way we want them to."
. . . .
"Compliance, that's all we've ever wanted," said Senior Assistant City Atty. Wayne Winthers.
. . . .

Meanwhile, the couple said they had reduced their water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009.
I am willing to cut the City some slack, but this is starting to look really bad as whole of LA sits in another year of drought.  While I agree that the Has could easily add some more low-water landscaping to satisfy the city (and perhaps provide some wider landscape benefits from their front yard), how can you argue with their results? (Or the continued support and goodwill of their most immediate neighbors - these are the people that could really complain about it and they don't!)  Their actions have reduced potable water use to over 1/5  their usage when their lawn was installed.  That is remarkable, and would presumably be an action to commend or promote, not punish for lack of compliance.  It will be interesting to see how the city resolves this, and whether they use it as a means to improve their codes beyond compliance to reflect instead landscape performance.