Posts by Jennifer Salazar

Jardin du Luxembourg in spring. All photos by Jennifer Salazar.

Ask me which garden in the world is my favorite and I won’t hesitate to reply, “The  Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris!” Also known as the Luxembourg Gardens. the park and garden is renowned for its beautiful long rows of large shade trees, array of individual chairs visitors are welcome to move around, its collection of formal fountains, and the network of golden paths of decomposed granite. This public space is as comfortable as it is beautiful – my definition of excellence in design.

Well, during another trip to Paris I may have discovered another fave: Jardin du Palais Royal, aka Palais Royal.

I had heard about this place before, but missed it during previous trips. I was reminded of it again recently while watching the movie Charade (1963) with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant – a movie with a climax staged amongst the arcade columns of the Jardin du Palais Royal at night. I was also reminded of the park by Lauren Elkin’s newly released book, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. In her book dedicated to the “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk,” she cites the Palais Royal as one of her favorite destinations to walk in Paris.

The Jardin de Palais Royal – like the Luxembourg – also includes rows of large shade trees, but has fixed benches, and is surrounded by a tall arcade supported by columns. This structure provides shelter for walking and window shopping along the adjacent high end stores, while also covering outdoor diners at the adjacent cafés.

During a beautiful spring afternoon I observed people picnicking in the open area. Some were playing a wood bowling game of sorts. It was such a great outdoor communal space for relaxing and people watching.

Attached to the Jardin is a smaller courtyard to the south with a reflective ball sculpture at the center of a fountain. Another more interesting courtyard is further south, one that contains Daniel Buren’s 1986 installation,  “Les Colonnes de Buren.” Buren placed 260 black and white vertically striped columns in a grid varying in height. Though formal in their layout, these columns in their unique material and heights allow for a more playful and fun take on the very regimented and formal spacing and material of the 17th century columns that surround the courtyards. These Buren columns prove to be very attractive for climbers of all ages!

I am grateful that these Parisian gardens, designed and built hundreds of years ago, are maintained to retain their beauty. They continue to be enjoyed by so many visitors many years after their creation, the sign of great landscape design.

As landscape architects we are kept perpetually busy with creating drawings, coordinating with other disciplines, and seeking out vendors for products for our projects. It is all too easy to forget what is at the core of why enjoy about our profession: the utter beauty of the natural world and how it changes throughout the seasons.

Photo: Jennifer Salazar

Spring officially arrived in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago on Monday, March 20th, at 3:29am PST to be exact. Springtime’s arrival in Los Angeles is announced by a characteristic and ever-present perfume: the sweet smells of citrus blossom and the aroma of jasmine wafting on the light breezes of warmer days and evenings. “Springing forward” with daylight savings has affords us extra daylight to enjoy these blooms into the early evening in our neighborhood when their presence is at their most palpable.

We were fortunate to finally have enough rain this past winter. Because so, many plants have had proliferate blooms in the last month, inducing the stunning displays of native flowers exploding across the Anza-Borrega Valley and other wildflower regions. Another consequence of the heavy rains was a proliferation of weeds as well. They’ve covered our backyard kitchen beds, as shown below.
(more…)

towards-tunnel-from-ticket-with-people

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…)

araneae_salticidae

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.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-7-39-11-pm

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.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-7-39-23-pm

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.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-7-39-39-pm

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.