All photos by Jack Coyier

After many seasons of consecutive drought, numerous landscape architecture teams have begun addressing solutions to mitigate Southern California’s water needs. Landscape architects are designing and implementing various methods creatively, including stormwater capture, reuse systems, and other means, like concrete lining removal from Los Angeles River tributaries to allow groundwater to recharge. These type of solutions have become standard design elements throughout our city in the last few years.

But almost 10 years ago, back in 2008, AHBE had already completed a water-wise project: the first Downtown Los Angeles Green Street project.

Our client – developers, The South Group Partnership – were building mixed use housing with retail attached on the block between 11th and 12th, and Hope and Grand. Their plans envisioned revitalizing the neighborhood, with one of the central components of the project a voluntary inclusion of a wider public right of way for pedestrians, alongside other streetscape upgrades from all sides of the property.

Infiltration planters were designed in collaboration with civil engineering specialists, KPFF. The planters were designed to permit stormwater to enter through cuts in the sidewalk curb from the street and flow through specially designed planters. The flow through these planters was slowed down by specifically chosen plants picked for their natural ability to filter roadway toxins. Additionally, water flowing into the planters were designed to feed the plants before flowing out back onto the curb and into the adjacent series of planters further down-slope. The toxin-absorbing plants would need replacing approximately every 5 years, while street trees planted in separate tree wells did not require such replacement. A permanent irrigation system was also installed, maintained by the developer to provide water to the plants year round.

Other streetscape improvements of the first Downtown Los Angeles Green Street project included lighting, shade trees, drought tolerant planting, bike racks, and bench seating. Corner curbs were extended to increase pedestrian visibility and decrease crossing distances across the busy downtown street, helping to slow down vehicular traffic.

We’re proud recognizing the city of Los Angeles has since incorporated the details of the flow-through planters noted above into their Green Street standards, where they’ll be used for other public streets projects. This original project also garnered a number of design awards, including the Honor Award for Urban Design in 2008 from the AIA CC, the Honor Award in 2010 from the ASLA Southern California, and also the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 2008 Award of Excellence for Residential Landscape. These infiltration planters are now being proposed for the Alameda Promenade as part of AHBE’s 1st and Central TIGER Grant streetscape project scheduled to be constructed in the next few years.

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