Posts by Jennifer Salazar

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All photos: Jennifer Salazar

What are the requirements for a city’s public transit system to operate successfully? We want connections between the city’s main train station and the local sports stadiums, lines between residential cores into areas of entertainment, and connections between different modes of transportation such as main stations for rail, air, and bus travel. But we also benefit from smaller, smart connections too – ones of shorter length offering more direct routes on existing transit systems to shopping and places of work. (more…)

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This species of salticid spider was found on snow slopes on Everest. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Aeolian” sounds like the name of a distant solar system from a Star Wars movie, doesn’t it? Alas, it is a real word, one used to describe the geological influences formed by wind. Dunes at the beach or in the desert are obvious examples of an aeolian geology.

1529675I recently read about the discovery of aeolian ecosystems in Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped Life, Myth and the Land by Jan DeBlieu. These aeolian ecosystems include terrestrial, aquatic, and nival land types. Nival (pronounced ˈnīvəl) being of, pertaining to, or characteristic of perpetual snow (how about that for some new words for our vocabulary?!?).

Therefore, the aeolian biome is that of the snow-locked. This word was coined by biologist Lawrence Swan after numerous trips on foot exploring the Himalayans after World War II. Swan wondered about a population of salticid spiders he found inhabiting Mount Everest at an elevation of 22,000 feet. What could these spiders be surviving on four miles above sea level? After some literal digging around, under and in the rocks and crevices at this elevation, he found pieces of plants, pollen, seeds, and bits of insects that provided a food source for the spiders. These sources of food could have only arrived here carried by the strong winds that moved across the harsh region.

This aeolian biome – named for Aelous, the Greek god of wind – exists in the most oxygen deprived landscapes on earth. This biome exists just above the tundra zone within isolated areas where wind currents blow with such speed and force, it delivers with it algae and insects. Aeolian areas can turn green or pink from the accumulation of wind swept microscopic life, and are characterized by non-flowering plants, such as mosses, that in turn attract hardy scavengers like the salticid spider and specialized worms that can survive in this harsh environment. Lizards, salamanders, rattlesnakes and some birds then feed on those smaller scavengers.

It’s interesting imagining a landscape so inhospitable – severe cold temperatures, strong winds, without apparent vegetation even above a barren tundra landscape – where life still finds a way to survive. The resiliency of some species to scrape out life in these conditions can only be considered awe-inspiring.

More information here.

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According to the Metro website, there are currently 10.2 million people in L.A. County with an expected increase of 2.3 million in the next 40 years. Also according to their website, commuters spend an average of 80 hours in traffic each year. Thus, the need to address current and future transportation gridlock as well as provide additional public transportation options.

What: Countywide November 8th, 2016 ballot measure that would increase sales tax by a half cent and extend the half cent sales tax approved by voters in Measure R in 2008 (due to expire in 2039) both in perpetuity. This sales tax extension and new tax would pay for various Metro transportation projects and programs across the county. The revenue would be allocated as follows:

  • 65% for public transit, including new and extended rail lines, bus and rail operations and maintenance
  • 17% for freeway upgrades, major road improvements and bicycle lanes
  • 16% to every city and county for local road, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian projects and programs
  • 2% for bicycle and pedestrian facilities

A list of the specific projects and timeline for construction can be found here.

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How: The projects identified to be paid for with this tax were selected by Metro based on projects submitted from the cities in the County.

Economics: Countywide, the sales tax rate would increase to 9.5% with 2% of that appropriated for transportation. It has been estimated that the average LA County consumer would pay an additional $24 per year for each half cent increase. It is expected this measure will raise more than $120 billion through 2057, with average annual raised at about $860 million. An independent oversight committee and regular audits are part of the measure to provide funding protection.

Supporters of this tax increase state that this tax would expand and improve public rail and bus transit, fund much needed freeway and local road improvements, and fund bicycle lanes and programs throughout the county.

From Metro’s website on their past projects:

“Thanks to revenues from Proposition A, Proposition C and Measure R along with local, state and federal funds, Metro has extended the Gold Line to run from East LA to Azusa; opened the Silver Line from El Monte to Harbor Gateway Transit Center; opened the Expo Line Extension to Santa Monica; extended the Orange Line to Chatsworth; added ExpressLanes on both the 10 and 110 freeways; started construction on the Crenshaw/LAX, Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension rail projects and expanded bike and pedestrian programs throughout the county. But the region has more unmet critical transportation needs than there is money to meet them.”

One criticism of the measure is that funded projects are not distributed fairly throughout the County. It is not clear how the individual projects submitted by cities were decided on, but they may not be based on trying to building projects based on equity, unlike what Measure A is based upon (LA County Parks Needs Assessment).

Another criticism is that this is more out of pocket money needed to be paid by county residents, many of whom are still struggling financially to recover from the recession.

Opponents include the Cities of Carson, Rancho Palos Verdes, Torrance, and Signal Hill, Santa Fe Springs, Commerce, Norwalk, as well as the South Bay Council of Governments, the Mayor of Beverly Hills, and the Bus Riders Union.

Why the Bus Riders Union is against the measure can be found here.

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The southeast cities are against the measure because the main project in the measure, a freeway widening project, isn’t scheduled for decades and their residents are then paying for the rest of the county’s transportation plan. More details about their arguments can be found in this article.

Proponents include the AIA-LA, AARP CA, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, and TreePeople, amongst others.

Because this measure involves a tax increase, it will need not just need approval by the voter majority, but approval by two-thirds of voters, to pass.

Of course, any additional funding for projects involving landscape architecture services provides work and funds for those in our profession. These type of public projects also present opportunities for landscape architect professionals to lead and be a member of design teams. Many of these projects (see link to full list of Metro M projects above) include elements of Landscape Architecture design and planning – landscape renovation along renovated highways, new plazas or corridor design along new or renovated at-grade transit corridors, at new bus and rail facility yards or maintenance facilities, and for pedestrian projects as well. Long-term revenue will be available for use for both Metro projects, and directly from City projects as part of their local return revenue to all the cities.

This ambitious measure would increase public transportation access and choices throughout the county. The various types of projects funded would help individual vehicle users by improving repairs to roads as well as fund public transportation and provide funds for alternative, non-motorized transportation as well, though that percentage is small at only 2%. And though many groups have lobbied for more funding for alternative modes of transportation as part of this measure, this money can still be significant to build and create more of these active transportation opportunities for the county’s residents.

As a citizen I believe this measure can expand public transit options to the various populations in our county. All citizens – regardless of age, income, or physical abilities – need accessible public transportation options to get to work, school and to visit family and friends. And this needs to happen throughout the county, not just in my own work or home neighborhoods. I understand that the County is a large place and we need to implement various modes of transportation throughout the county to help all residents improve their quality of life.

So, I am encouraging my fellow County citizens to join me in voting Yes on Measure M.

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Photo: Jennifer Salazar

Yesterday marked the Autumnal Equinox, the seasonal transition when the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west. Starting from today, the sun will rise and set further and further to the south. In the northern hemisphere, this means fewer hours of sunlight and less direct sunlight. Autumn marks the transition between the hot days of summer and the cooler days of winter.

Some of the AHBE staff shared what they are looking forward to during this autumn season in Los Angeles:

Creative Commons Photo: (Floss Silk Tree) 美人樹 | by Hildegard_Chen

Creative Commons Photo: (Floss Silk Tree) 美人樹 | by Hildegard_Chen

“Love seeing the orchid-like flowers blooming from Floss Silk Trees for fall; crisp fall mornings, pumpkin patches sprouting up randomly in the city.”
Wendy Chan
Associate

“Fall gardening: removing plants that are dead/don’t work, clipping plants, weeding, soil amending, and, of course, shopping and planting new plants.”
Linda Daley
Managing Principal

“I just love the eerie autumn sound of the Santa Ana Winds as it blows through the San Gabriel Valley canyons and through its valley floor. Not sure how the winds do it, but at night, the houselights, street lights and stop lights around the valley seem to sparkle as if they were reflection of the stars above. Cannot wait to brew some hot coffee late into the night just to sit back and enjoy the show.”
Katharine Rudnyk
Urban Horticulturalist

“I am looking forward to cooler weather and I keep praying for rain.”
Jenni Zell
Project Manager

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Photo: Jennifer Salazar

“Picking pomegranates from our backyard shrub and making grenadine; cooler morning weekend hikes with my family in the hills with clearer views of the city and beach; and hopefully some more rain!”
Jennifer Salazar
Senior Associate

All photos by Jennifer Salazar

All photos by Jennifer Salazar

I cannot speak for all landscape architects, but I think many of us found our way to the profession initially through a shared passion for plants. Large trees with their huge trunks and long branches are inspiring for their longevity – beyond so many human lifetimes. Tiny, dainty pansies, mere inches tall are so beautiful with their lively colors. And then there are all the plants in between: flowering vines with lovely smells, colorful orchids with stunning shapes, and my favorite – the ones that provide us culinary spoils – herbs, seeds, and produce.

Back in January, I posted about our backyard kitchen garden. Well, I am back with an update. As they say, it’s the cobbler’s children who don’t have shoes! My dreams were of a lush, overflowing garden of kitchen ingredients that I could use as an endless pantry all summer and autumn for backyard fêtes, like those seen in magazines.

Rosemary with sunflowers

My garden has since offered  a few culinary treats thus far. My biggest challenge is keeping everything watered after planting while the roots are getting established. In the usual morning rush, I often leave the house without watering newly planted plants and seeds, causing them to prematurely perish during warm or hot days.

I remember joking one time with others in my profession that it’s not that landscape architects are superior plant people. Instead we tend to know which varieties are lower maintenance because we spend so much time at the office working on OTHER people’s plants and gardens instead of our own.

Meyer Lemon panoramic

Since January the sugar snap peas have grown up the cages. I left them on the vine beyond their time to enjoy the shells too – shelled and frozen for a lovely, fresh, and crisp side dish for Easter supper with the family. After the peas, I planted tomato seeds on two different cage enclosures, caging two “wild” tomatoes that began to grow in another kitchen bed. I think some of the tomato seeds died because they were not watered, OR perhaps they were picked up by the small resident birds in our neighborhood that we see every morning foraging for food in our backyard.

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Eaten sunflower leafThere is also one wild sunflower that miraculously continues to grow upward. I say “miraculously” because the smallest birds perch on the plant’s lowest stems and eat the leaves! When I witnessed this behavior last year, I believed an aggressive worm or family of worms were eating the plant’s leaves. But, lo and behold, one day I caught sight of the little brown birds perched on the swaying leaf petiole, each picking away at the green leaf. I feel okay that these plants are being eaten by another creature that truly needs them if I do not get to them first. Thus, my culinary kitchen has doubled up into a wildlife food source, and it’s really not so bad (at least I am not feeding pigeons!).

There have also been so many other successes since January: more Meyer Lemons continue to ripen, fantastic for making fresh squeezed lemonade, whole lemon bars (recipe from the Smitten Kitchen), and generous amount for homemade lemoncello. A new single sprig of Mexican Tarragon survives amongst my other French specimens. A whole row of sunflowers have – despite bird nibbles – continued to reach upward to the sky, with a single pumpkin growing larger and establishing a couple of heavy leaves. We’ll always have the perennial rosemary, attracting the happy buzzing song of industrious bees, and oregano and mint contained in their containers, thank goodness. And the pomegranate has many promising blooms and flowers now, promising another autumn batch of homemade grenadine.

In thinking about my garden in part and in its entirety I am reminded of Alexander Pope’s famous poem, Essay on Man:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast; 
Man never Is, but always To be blest. 
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home, 
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Eastern beds

From ground level Missing or dead tom seeds Only-surviving-pumpkin-sprout Tom seedlings with sunflowers Toms_sunflowers plan

Like the unending cycle of the seasons, so too do my hopes and dreams of edible plants continue to evolve every year as I look forward to the coming seasons, aware that Mother Nature’s cycles do not wait for anyone. Not even a very busy landscape architect.