Posts by Wendy Chan

Welcome to our ongoing series of Cal Poly Pomona Coastal Resiliency posts, featuring the observations of 4th year undergraduate students in the Landscape Architecture program.

The students finished their mid-term review last week, presenting their research, inventory, and site analysis for the city of Long Beach. After forming into five teams, each group explored both soft and hard infrastructure strategies, as well as adaptation and mitigation tactics towards coastal resiliency. It is predicted that in 20 years our sea level will rise by 1 foot. How do we prepare our coastal communities NOW to be resilient towards this climate change? We can no longer respond with familiar strategies and technologies, but we also need to explore new solutions that goes beyond our comfort zone by imagining what resilient urban infrastructure can be.

Students researched mitigation strategies such as the establishment of a living breakwater, a structure designed to shield the coastline and offshore breakwaters by slowing and lessening the impact of sea level rise. Techniques range from artificial reefs, oyster-culture, wetland restoration, and artificial tidal pools. Other strategies for adaptation considered by our student-collaborators included the creation of infrastructure to aid communities prepare and integrate rising sea level through natural system barriers such as wetlands; re-thinking our transportation infrastructure by creating canal-oriented communities was another explored possibility.

Diagram produced by the Cal Poly Pomona Landscape class

Diagram produced by our student collaborators of the Cal Poly Pomona Landscape Architecture program.

Alex W. writes:

As landscape architects, we may be able to implement strategies that do not negatively impact the culture of the coast while also mitigating storm surges and tidal incursions to the communities that live along the shore. The research we have gathered individually and as a class has prepared us to step up into the landscape architect’s number one responsibility: safety toward the user. The difficult challenge we face in attempting to meet this goal is facing nature at the height of its intensity. This will be no easy task.”

 


See our first Cal Poly Pomona Coastal Resiliency post “Sea Level Rise and Foreseeing the Future” here.

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All photos by Wendy Chan

I grew up living in Los Angeles, but I hardly ever ventured into Downtown LA while growing up. I remember visiting the Central Public Library, being in awe by the architecture. I also remember taking the bus with my mom to the Fashion District to get fabric. So when our office moved into Downtown Los Angeles on 7th and Hope over 2 years ago, I was surprised by the walkability and energy that Downtown offered.

I decided to take my camera and walk straight down 7th Street as far as my one hour of lunch allowed to document my experience. I chose 7th Street because it takes you through various neighborhoods and districts within Downtown – from the jewelry, theatre, fashion districts, then finally to the Los Angeles Flower Market before turning back. There are some great finds and artifacts along the way that deserves a double take.

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Photo: Wendy Chan

Photo: Wendy Chan

I was on my way back to the office after visiting a project site when my navigation app Waze guided me to an old community landmark. I found myself in Boyle Heights, standing across a cemetery. The cemetery looked like one straight from the movies, but situated in the center of a residential neighborhood. I parked my car, in awe of the field of tombstones before me. I felt a tinge of spookiness, this I was too scared to walk inside. Instead, I peered through the fence, noticing one area of the cemetery was definitely older, its age demonstrated by apparent weathering and the Victorian-style tombstones. There were various tombstones, some even dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. I was intrigued by this historic cemetery sitting in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood.

Bridget “Biddy” Mason died in Los Angeles in 1891 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Bridget “Biddy” Mason died in Los Angeles in 1891 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Evergreen Cemetery has a rich history as one of Los Angeles oldest cemetery. Established in 1877, the current occupants of the 67 acre cemetery and their tombstones tell the story of generations of immigrants and various cultures that added to the fabric of this community. Unlike most other cemeteries of the time, African Americans were allowed to be buried at Evergreen Cemetery. Many prominent African American citizens like Bridget “Biddy” Mason can be found here. The cemetery was also popular with first generation Japanese that called Boyle Heights home; there is a memorial dedicated to the 442 Regimental Combat Unit which was comprised of Japanese-American soldiers were served during WWII. The Garden of Pines was also dedicated in 1966 in memorial of the early first generation Japanese pioneers. During the Obon festival relatives of the deceased would gather at the cemetery to clean their ancestor’s graves and perform the Bon Odori folk dance to welcome the spirits of the dead.

Illustration: History of Los Angeles County, California, Thompson and West, 1880

Illustration: History of Los Angeles County, California, Thompson and West, 1880

The cemetery was also home to members of the early Chinese laborers in the late 1800s, which unfortunately was the only ethnic group banned from being buried in the Evergreen proper at that time. They were only allowed space adjacent to the potter’s field for a fee while their Anglo counterparts were buried in the city-owned section for free. A ceremonial shrine was erected in 1888; in reality the “shrine” was just a brick furnace that Chinese families were relegated to use to burn offerings for the dead to use in their afterlife. Nevertheless, the shrine was used during the Chinese Ghost Festival, a celebration where families would arrive to clean the graves and offer food and wine to the spirits of departed ancestors and friends.

The cemetery was also home to the Jewish community who once called Boyle Heights their home in the early 20th century; it was in 1854, the Hebrew Benevolent Society first established a Jewish cemetery, north of town and west of Calvary, towards the Angelino Heights area. . There is a section called “Showmen’s Rest” where over 400 carnival workers and performers are buried near the Lion topped memorial.

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Even its current neglected state, Evergreen Cemetery rates amongst the 25 Things to See at This Sunday’s “Heart of Los Angeles” as rated by Streetsblog LA. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

In the last couple of decades, the community of Boyle Heights has changed from predominately Armenian to Latino. Today visitors can see members of both the Japanese American and Mexican American continually paying their respects and remembrance of their love ones within the hallowed grounds.

When Evergreen Cemetery was first opened, it was during an era when cemeteries were used as a recreational location, similar to a public park. Families would gather at cemeteries for picnics and celebrations especially during Memorial Day. Nowadays, the cemetery has fallen into disrepair with neglect, a lack of funding, and undoubtedly due to new drought restrictions. Instead of the hallmark landscape of a traditional cemetery, Evergreen is anything but green today – a field of dirt and dead trees. The few patches of green are where families and community members have taken it onto themselves to water and care for the graves of their love ones.

Photos: Wendy Chan

Photos: Wendy Chan

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The cemetery should be a Los Angeles historic landmark and should be maintained with greater care in respect of the deceased, the families they left behind, and also for the historical significance of our city’s varied residents. The cemetery is a reflection of the diverse history of Los Angeles and the melting pot of cultures that have long called the city home. There was even a Change.org petition organized by family members to implore politicians to force a change of ownership in hopes of improving grounds maintenance. For more information about the struggles of the family members and the rich history of Evergreen Cemetery, visit this site.

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!

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It was back in 2011 when AHBE Landscape Architects shared  conceptual renderings of a reopened Bundy Triangle Park.

It was back in 2011 when AHBE Landscape Architects shared conceptual renderings of a reopened Bundy Triangle Park.

When I think about the future for Los Angeles, I envision a city with more walkable neighborhoods. I live in West Los Angeles, a very walkable neighborhood compared to most here in Southern California. But still, the area is lacking in green open space. Everyday I walk past a park on my way to the bus stop – the Ohio Bundy Triangle Park located on the corner of Bundy Ave. and Santa Monica Blvd. – it’s been permanently fenced and locked up by the city. It’s essentially a lost opportunity for open space in a densely populated neighborhood where open space accessibility is a valuable communal commodity for residents.

A community park shouldn’t be caged from its residents.

But there are so many challenges connected with this park. How do you make this open space safe for residents, ease concerns about homelessness, entice visitors, promote pedestrian traffic through the park, yet still provide a park experience while masking the fact that the small park exists within a busy vehicular traffic intersection? A challenge, to say the least!

Photo: Wendy Chan

Photo: Wendy Chan

One side of the park is bordered by a Metro bus stop, and across the street is the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus stop. It’s a busy pedestrian corner. One idea is taking the street back and having the park bleed into the public sidewalk rather than being kept as an isolated floating island.

One side of the park is bordered by Ohio Street which essentially can be closed off since it’s still accessible via Santa Monica Blvd. from Bundy. Programming and community involvement will be a key factor in keeping the park active and well use. There’s already been support to open the park, and it was actually open for one day during Earth Day.

As Los Angeles is moving towards more walkable and densely populated communities, it’s important to continue to fight for open space where communities can gather, play, and breath even if those spaces are smaller and challenging, like the Ohio Bundy Triangle Park.