This Floating Desalination Megastructure is Designed to Combat California’s Water Shortages: “Most recently, the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) asked architects, artists and scientists to conceive sustainable infrastructure projects to improve Santa Monica’s water supply. The competition’s 4th-prize-winning team Bart//Bratke and studioDE developed a raft structure named “Foram” that illustrates the future of floating platforms in sustainable development.”

The Secrets of the Wood Wide Web: “The revelation of the Wood Wide Web’s existence, and the increased understanding of its functions, raises big questions—about where species begin and end; about whether a forest might be better imagined as a single superorganism, rather than a grouping of independent individualistic ones; and about what trading, sharing, or even friendship might mean among plants.”

Tujunga spreading grounds water project is launched: “Tujunga Spreading Grounds, a 150-acre tract of porous soil in the northeast San Fernando Valley, captures stormwater and allows the water to filter into a vast aquifer.”

One Step Closer to Walking and Biking from Canoga Park to Elysian Valley: “…the Mayor’s office has announced the selection of a design team that is tasked to figure out how to complete the Los Angeles River Valley Bike Path from Vanalden Avenue in Canoga Park to Forest Lawn Drive by Griffith Park. The Mayor’s Office has stated “once completed, the greenway will make it possible for Angelenos to walk and bike from Canoga Park to Elysian Valley.”

Solar-powered Pipe desalinizes 1.5 billion gallons of drinking water for California: “Designs like The Pipe demonstrate how the provision of public services like these can be knitted into every day life in a healthy, aesthetically-pleasing way. A finalist of the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica Pier, the solar-powered plant deploys electromagnetic desalination to provide clean drinking water for the city and filters the resulting brine through on-board thermal baths before it is reintroduced to the Pacific Ocean.”

Photo by Yiran Wang

Photo by Yiran Wang

There’s something I’ve always wondered about since moving to Los Angeles: Why are there so many palm trees in Los Angeles?

Many people – especially those not originally from California – might assume that palm trees are native to Los Angeles. These palms are practically synonymous with the city. However, among all these palms found across Southern California, there is only one native species:  Washingtonia filifera (aka the California Desert Palm).

The frond of Washingtonia filifera. Creative Commons photo by Atirador.

The frond of Washingtonia filifera. Creative Commons photo by Atirador.

“There are 2,500 species of palms worldwide, with 11 native to North America. The largest of these, and the only palm tree native to western North America, is the California fan palm. It is also known as the desert palm and the California Washingtonia.” – California Fan Palm – DesertUSA

An old postcard of the Southern Pacific Los Angeles Arcade Depot

An old postcard of the Southern Pacific Los Angeles Arcade Depot

Therefore, almost all of the ubiquitous fan palms growing along streets, the date palms surrounding our most luxurious hotels, and the countless palms growing in front and backyards across Los Angeles all arrived from elsewhere.

The very first palm in the state was planted in the mid-18th century in San Diego by Spanish missionaries as religious symbols. After that, other immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere brought in different varieties of palm seeds. And along with the trend of exoticism promoted by Orientalism in the mid-19th century, Victorians planted numerous palm trees across Los Angeles in an attempt to recreate the Far East.

Furthermore, the Victorian planted rows of palms along roads or in front of grand buildings, their presence representing productivity, piety, and exoticism. Later in the 1800s, when the Southern Pacific Los Angeles Arcade Station opened at Fourth and Alameda, there was a huge Washington fan palm deliberately transplanted right outside the entrance. The formidable plant was to represent Southern California’s salubrious landscape, welcoming travelers  to the Eden in the desert.

Plaque commemorating the Arcade Depot Palm as the "Mute witness to the growth of Los Angeles". Both plaque and Arcade Palm are situated in front of the LA Memorial Coliseum.

A plaque commemorating the Arcade Depot Palm as the “Mute witness to the growth of Los Angeles”. Both plaque and Arcade Palm are situated in front of the LA Memorial Coliseum.

Sadly, it seems the era of the palm trees in Los Angeles may be coming to an end. Populations of palms are dwindling due to fungal disease, age, urban pollution, and the effects of the drought. Beyond that, “palm thieves” have actually targeted and removed the highly desirable plants for profit (valued upwards of $40,000!). City leaders have proposed replacing the stolen or deceased palms with a California native: the oak tree.

These palm trees weren’t the only plants introduced by migrating populations. Schinus molle, the California pepper tree, is another introduced variety still commonly found growing across Southern California. The story of its introduction, proliferation, and eventual replacement by palm trees across LA warrants its own future post…

Everywhere I walk in Downtown Los Angeles, there is construction. Whether it’s a renovation of a historic building or new mixed use retail-residential buildings, it’s always fascinating to see the construction process during my daily commute to work.

The rooftop gardens of the Brooklyn Grange Navy Yard. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 photo by Gonzlaught.The rooftop gardens of the Brooklyn Grange Navy Yard. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 photo by Gonzlaught.

The busy atmosphere of Downtown inspired another idea: Wouldn’t it be great if these new developments planned for the inclusion of pollinator gardens on their rooftops? Lately I been noticing articles about businesses planning and integrating pollinator gardens and bee hotels onto their rooftops. Imagine colonies of worker bees living and working in Downtown!

Creative Commons photo by Susovit

Creative Commons photo by Susovit

Across rooftops in Manhattan, Portland, and San Francisco business have established bee hives to pollinate green roofs and produce honey for restaurants below. Green roofs are installed in many new and existing buildings as a means to reduce the urban heat island effect, treat storm-water roof run-off, and help with the cooling and heating of the building. Various species of sedums are commonly planted in green roof trays; they can take months to establish and fill out the trays. The bees can be a cost-effective way to quicken the process though pollination. Also, the term “locally sourced” takes on a whole new meaning when honey is harvested directly from the roof (excellent for honey-infused cocktails, in my opinion).

CC BY-SA 3.0, photo by TonyTheTiger

CC BY-SA 3.0, photo by TonyTheTiger

In school, my fellow classmates and I proposed pollinator and habitat gardens for our local butterflies, fruit flies, and bees. But plan to introduce the idea of bee hotels for my next rooftop gardens project. Maybe I’ll make an elevator pitch to our building management. It can’t hurt to ask and spread the awareness about the wonderful benefits of bees!

More Related Reads:

Photo: Gary Lai

Photos: Gary Lai

At the moment the Silver Lake Reservoir is a large empty hole. Located 4 1/2 miles northwest of Downtown Los Angeles, Silver Lake was once a working reservoir of emergency drinking water for the city. The body of water was also the signature feature that helped create one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.

Now it’s empty.

After 9/11 – in order to protect our water infrastructure – new federal standards required all open-air reservoirs to be concrete capped or be disconnected from the water system. At the time, the decision seemed a no-brainer. But of course, the neighborhood wants to keep the lake a lake! So we’re here at an impasse, multiple parties trying to determine the future of a manmade body of water in a time of drought.

The initial proposed project was fairly simple: drain the lake, bypass the drinking water system, and then refill the reservoir. Unfortunately, by the time the project was ready to go in the summer of 2015, Los Angeles and the rest of the state were in the midst of one of the worst droughts in a millennia. Filling the reservoir back up was no longer a simple decision. Is it prudent for us to fill up an urban reservoir with potable water that is not meant as a part of the city’s water supply simply for non-essential use?

Even if we fill up the reservoir once, how would we maintain the level for following years? With more potable water? The Silver Lake Reservoir is too deep to be truly efficient for recreation and its concrete sides does not present a natural lake setting. There have been a few competing proposals to refill the lake; the most notable, one reimagines the 96 acres as a public park. There’s a consensus that the 400 to 800 million gallons of water required to maintain the Silver Lake Reservoir’s water levels annually would be a questionable use of drinkable water as a primary source.

But I still believe Silver Lake can become a great urban park. Echo Park Lake, located nearby down on Glendale Boulevard, offers a proof-of-concept of a reservoir redesigned and repurposed as a sustainable outdoor space. Echo Park Lake was once a dilapidated urban park, but with planning and funding it was reconfigured to treat urban runoff with planted integrated wetlands before entering the manmade lake.

Echo Park picture 3 Echo Park picture 2

All of the proposals for the Silver Lake Reservoir suggest some form of bio-filtration to handle urban runoff. But even so, there’s a problem…a big problem. The Silver Lake Reservoir is much larger than Echo Park Lake, and urban runoff alone would not be able to maintain the necessary volume for Silver Lake’s capacity.

However, the Silver Lake Reservoir might provide an opportunity for Los Angeles  to create an Eco-District for water – or in sustainability parlance, create an area of “Net-Zero Water”. An “Eco-District of Net-Zero Water” is designed to recapture and reuse any rainfall or pumped water brought into a neighborhood (or district).

The organization Silver Lake Forward envisions the Silver Lake Reservoir as a public space celebrating access, native flora and fauna, and conservation. Image via Silver Lake Forward

The organization Silver Lake Forward envisions the Silver Lake Reservoir as a public space celebrating access, native flora and fauna, and conservation. Image via Silver Lake Forward.

This has been particularly difficult to do because most urban neighborhoods do not have the area required to treat water from beginning to end. Silver Lake does not have this problem. As a self-sufficient water district, the neighborhood could use many of the most current technologies to create a great urban recreation area, while underneath and around the lake, a system could be designed to treat water from urban stormwater, reclaimed waste water, recycled water from treatment plants, and any additional runoff water from surrounding residential properties. Clean water from the Silver Lake Reservoir could in turn be used to irrigate expanded recreation facilities around the lake’s perimeter, and perhaps in the future, be polished to fully potable status.

Echo Park picture 1

In the end urban parks provide a great service to the surrounding community. Many Southern California parks use water as their centerpiece feature [see: MacArthur Park and Magic Johnson Park]. But even so, we need to remember these large artificial bodies are filled with potable water that must be maintained, serviced, and refilled. Echo Park Lake proved these bodies of water can be used to do work other than just providing a naturalistic backdrop. With a little imagination, the Silver Lake Reservoir could become more “lake” than “reservoir” for generations to come, and perhaps in time simply be known as Silver Lake.

Made in L.A. 2016 (Ending Soon)
“As part of an ongoing series, Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only addresses Los Angeles as a center of activity inseparable from the global network of art production and reveals how artists move fluidly between contexts and respond to their local conditions. Subtitled by the minimalist poet and writer Aram Saroyan as his contribution to the exhibition, Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only extends into such disciplines as dance, fashion, literature, music, film, and performance…It features condensed monographic surveys, comprehensive displays of multiyear projects, the premiere of new bodies of work, and newly commissioned works from emerging artists.”
When: Ends Sunday, August 28, 2016
Where: Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles

MEDIAN at WUHO in Hollywood
“Created by David Hartwell and Bill Ferehawk, MEDIAN is an immersive video and audio installation on both walls of the LA FORUM exhibition space, projected nearly life sized, that renders everyday collisions of contexts that make Los Angeles endlessly surprising and challenging. But concealed behind the familiar frame of Los Angeles, lies a potentially disruptive and subversive canvas, positioning the viewer in the most privileged and uninhabitable location in Los Angeles—the middle of the road. From here, MEDIAN presents a peculiar moving image view of the social and material proximities of Los Angeles, exploring a myriad of urban audio­visual­scapes, and draws out new perceptions and interpretations of the urban experience.”
When: July 14-August 25, 2016 (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays), Noon-5pm
Where: WUHO Gallery, 6518 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles

Fast Forward: The Architecture of William F. Cody
“William F. Cody (1916 – 1978) was a legend in his own time. His architectural practice was prolific, diversified, and engaged a celebrity clientele that included Walt Disney, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby. His projects ranged from residential homes and condominiums, to commercial centers and industrial complexes, to city and community master planning. Although a majority of Cody’s built work was concentrated in California and Arizona, he had commissions in Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Hawaii, Mexico, Honduras, and Cuba. This exhibition is the first comprehensive overview of Cody’s architecture based on primary archival research. It is a tribute to one of the giants of the midcentury modern movement and celebrates Cody’s centennial.”
When: July 10-September 25, 2016
Where: A+D Museum, 900 East Fourth Street, Los Angeles

“In preparation for Los Angeles Times’ The Taste event, the LA Times will be taking over our weekly game night for a special evening of ‘Taste Bingo’ with a chance to win a pair of tickets to their Sunday Block Party. Noelle Carter, LA Times Test Kitchen Director, will emcee and provide a custom bingo card with phrases and images representing local food culture and trends. It’s free to play and prizes will, of course, be included! Plus, a handful of our vendors will be showcasing special $5 dishes as a way for people to have a ‘Taste-like’ experience while exploring the Market.”
When: Thursday, August 25, 2016, 6pm-10pm
Where: Grand Central Market, 317 South Broadway, Los Angeles


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