Photos by Wendy Chan

After reading my colleague’s thoughts about the plans to revitalize the Los Angeles River, I was left with an overwhelming sense of sadness of its current state, emotions eventually counterbalanced with hopes of the river’s proposed future.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I regularly witnessed the river’s transformation from a gentle trickle in the summer into a powerful torrent during the fall and winter after a storm – its raw power sometimes barely contained within the concrete channel built to direct the flow safely out to the ocean. I remember  watching on the news swift water rescue teams pulling out people overcome by the river’s strong currents every year, caught by its surprising strength. Occasionally these stories would end tragically.

Memories like these embedded the idea the river was a dangerous place to be avoided – an unpleasant section of Los Angeles where drug deals happened, trash piled up, and graffiti covered its embankments. Why would anyone want to visit such a place?

But as a little kid, I didn’t understand the L.A River’s past before it was channelized, nor pondered the potential of its future. I simply thought of the stretch of concrete as a flood channel, not as a river. I remember when I first experienced a river as an adult; I thought of the flow of water back at home, suddenly realizing and recognizing the potential of the L.A River.

“The L.A. River could represent the identity of Los Angeles!”

The inklings of the river as a connection and artery between humans and local wildlife began to flow, and my thoughts about the river began to change. No longer was it an off-limits and dangerous place, but the opportunity to offer communities accessibility to nature, alongside a feature connecting all of the communities of Los Angeles it flows across.

The Lower Los Angeles River Revitalization plan is truly a community driven vision, one outlining strategies to turn a dream of a better Los Angeles River into becoming a reality. I’m inspired imagining a city of tomorrow not be defined by its freeways, but instead by the tributary whose history spans long before there was even a Los Angeles.

Cartwheel Tours: “Underground LA” – DTLA
Explore the city’s “underground” past ranging from famous prohibition-era murders to the famous speakeasy haunts that the Hollywood elite would frequent. This experience includes a few stops, under the busy streets of Los Angeles, to discover century-old tunnels and speakeasies, alongside more modern interpretations of the city’s hidden watering holes.
When: January 20th, 3:00 PM – 5:30 PM PST
Where: Begins at Cole’s, 118 East 6th Street, Los Angeles, 90014

Design Dialogues No. 41
For the inaugural Japan House Los Angeles exhibition, we introduce works from the fashion label ANREALAGE and designer Kunihiko Morinaga, one of a vanguard of next generation Japanese innovators. Morinaga engages mindful observation, attention to detail, and advanced technologies, to create strikingly high concept collections that awaken awareness of the extraordinary within the everyday. The exhibition, A LIGHT UN LIGHT, features ANREALAGE designs on the theme of light, inviting new ways of seeing and integrating materials and techniques from illusions of light and perspective to photosensitive fabrics. Hosted by Japan House, featuring Kunihiko Morinaga, designer of ANREALAGE, in conversation with Surface Editor-in-Chief, Spencer Bailey.
When: January 19th, 7:00pm
Where: Hollywood & Highland, Vantage Room, Level 5, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 90028

Santa Monica LivingHomes Tour
Another weekly, scheduled tours at the first LivingHome in Santa Monica, California. This LivingHome, designed by Ray Kappe, FAIA, was the first home in the nation to be certified LEED Platinum and the only residence in the country to win the AIA’s top sustainable award in 2008. It is comprised of eleven modules and it was assembled in 8.5 hours.
When: January 19th, 1:00 PM
Where: Santa Monica LivingHome, 2914 Highland Avenue, Santa Monica, 90405

Rock the Garden
Get your body moving and grooving with our musical garden installation. This week: Bluegrass with The Get Down Boys. A selection of trails will host a special “mix-tape” to mix up your post-holiday walk. After you’ve experienced our woodland dance party, follow your map to create and listen to the sounds that nature makes at highlighted locations throughout our 87 acres. Free with Garden admission.
When: Thru January 31st
Where: South Coast Botanic Garden Rose Garden

Focus on Female Directors 2018
This annual shorts program celebrates the directorial work of Academy Award winners, cinema pioneers, actresses turned directors, animators, documentarians, music video directors and the brightest stars emerging from film schools and the film festival circuits. Films include Autumn de Wilde’s “I Love L.A.”, Robin Wright’s “The Dark of Night”, and Gina Kamentsky & Julie Zammarchi’s “Traffic Stop”.
When: January 17th, 7:30pm
Where: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, 90028

NexlLoop-aquaweb

NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants: “In its quest to sustainably serve the needs of urban farmers, NexLoop found inspiration for its water management system in the natural world. Seeking to create a system that is self-sufficient and adaptable to local needs, the NexLoop team observed the ability of cribellate orb weaver spiders to craft webs that capture water from fog in the air.”

LA is saving storm water instead of getting rid of it:  “The first major storm of the season dumped about two inches of water, but rain in Southern California is a mixed blessing. Prompting mudslides and debris flows, this week’s rains have claimed at least 15 lives, swept away homes and closed major roadways.”

Top Ten Places to Trace the Remains of Pasadena’s Busch Gardens: “Whether it’s the lavish and pristine Huntington Gardens or the exotic and wild Descanso Gardens, southern California has managed to preserve many parcels of significant horticultural history. Unfortunately, we’ve also managed to lose one of the crown jewels of those early private gardens that eventually became public: Busch Gardens in Pasadena.”

These Sneakers Are Your Free Transit Pass: “Starting January 16, Berlin transit authority BVG will release its own limited edition line of sneakers, a project that’s the first of its kind anywhere in the world. A collaboration with Adidas Originals, the sneakers’ tie-in with the subway will be immediately apparent to any Berliner: the heel counters feature the unmistakable seat upholstery pattern featured on the city’s public transit fleet.”

LA’s Grand Central Market: A complete guide: “It is a vibrant and thriving community of multicultural stands and food stops, with 37 vendors in total. Flashy new food halls are marching into Los Angeles, but none can compete with the enduring Grand Central Market. Even after all these years, the lunch hour is so popular, it can be hard to find a seat. Below is a guide filled with insider knowhow and fascinating tidbits; it’s everything you need to know to make the most of your food hall experience.”

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Stoneview Nature Center. All photos: Kathy Rudnyk

I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, a community (thankfully) with more nature centers than Starbucks. These Northwest Louisiana nature centers typically host a wildlife refuge where animals are cared for and housed, eventually to be released back into the wild. One was once even located within the Louisiana State Museum complex in downtown Shreveport, complete with turtles and its own resident alligator! But most nature centers around the country are generally located outside of town, along the perimeters or right next to a trailhead.

Nature centers are increasingly hosting a wide variety of events and attractions like laser light shows, concerts, interpretative education programs, or environmental art events to draw in attendance. Typically inexpensive and kid-friendly, these centers are wonderful venues for birthday parties and many a school outings, offering the experience of a curated small animal zoo and botanical garden, all in one!

AHBE Landscape Architects recently completed the landscape design for the Stoneview Nature Center in Culver City, California. This type of nature center is distinct and appropriate for today’s city dweller hungry for a contemporary urban outdoor day retreat.

Encelia californica (California Bush Sunflower) brightens up any winter day.

Funded by the County of Los Angeles, Stoneview Nature Center is located above an existing subdivision, next to a busy La Cienega Blvd, a renowned “shortcut to LAX”. The site is sandwiched between the Inglewood Oil Field and the Kenneth E. Hahn State Recreation Area, blending Southern California native plants with suburban landscape plants, but with a twist. EYRC Architects was responsible for designing the park’s contemporary interpretivef nature center, filled with natural light inside, and a large shade structure serving large outdoor group activities.

Buddleia, commonly known as the butterfly bush.

Each of the plants within the park were chosen to meet certain performance criteria: drought resistance, stormwater bio-filitration efficacy, offer a nectar or pollen source, native to California or Baja California, or edible by people or pets. Another fun-filled design challenge was to match each plant within various color blocks along the various pathways; something is always blooming throughout the four seasons within each section.

Fast growing, ground hugging Ceanothus x ‘Centennial’ (Centennial California Lilac) is just starting to bloom. 

Stoneview Nature Center also represents the efforts of the art collaborative Fallen Fruit, whose silverware and kitchen tool chandelier fits beautifully within the urban park and garden setting used to host educational lectures and demonstrations. Fallen Fruit has hosted some really creative programming in the past, including DIY pickling and food ‘zine workshops. I recommend keeping tabs on the Stoneview Nature Center’s Facebook page for the next exciting event.

Adrian Rudnyk checks out a bee resting on a Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) and Penstemon. A giant bee hotel in the background welcomes carpenter bees.

Just as Los Angeles County is struggling to meet the demands of housing today for its residents, our city’s urban wildlife is suffering from a lack of habitat. The Stoneview Nature Center is making efforts to mitigate habitat loss by offering dense shrubs for small birds to hide from predators, an owl house high overhead by a thicket of trees to invite the nocturnal predators, a secluded bat box, and even a protected quail dome home in the middle of the site.

Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak) also help urban wildlife congregate within the park-like setting. Over time, these large trees offer ample shade during the summer months and sustenance throughout the year for all varieties of animals and insects.

I love hummingbirds, so I was rather happy spotting a number of different ones flying within the mix of plants at the center, many enjoying a drink of nectar from Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage).

An unusual feature visitors may notice are the numerous methane vents dotting the grounds. The 5-acre site was once an active oil field and the interpretive center was built over an abandoned oil well – Dabney Lloyd #3. Signage with historic photos communicates the site’s storied past.

My husband and I really enjoyed the numerous edible plants within the site, including fruiting citrus trees, avocado trees, and my favorite, a berry patch filled with Vaccinium (Blueberry) and Rubus x ‘APF – 236T’ (Baby Cakes™ Thornless Dwarf Blackberry). For the birds, Vitis californica x vinifera ‘Roger’s Red’ (Roger’s Red California Grape) travels over a back fence, its winter foliage flamboyantly vibrant red.

Surrounded by so many edibles, my husband and I imagined making pizza with herbs collected from the garden, such as Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ (Prostrate Rosemary). Maybe there’s a wood oven somewhere within the park? We’ll have to come back and see if it is inside the building.


One parting bit of advice for your next visit to the Stoneview Nature Center: instead of driving and fighting traffic, I encourage you to take the Metro Expo Line. Get off at Jefferson/La Cienega station; a shuttle stop known as The Link offers a free ride to the park, operating roughly between 8am to 5pm. Visiting the Stoneview Nature Center is absolutely free, offering an especially gratifying and educational opportunity to enjoy nature throughout the seasons.

 

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Photos by Calvin Abe

I get a good look at the Lower Los Angeles River (LLAR) and Compton Creek during my daily commute on the Metro Blue Line Train. Depending on the vegetation management activities of the Flood Control District and the season, what I see can be either hopeful or bleak.

In the summer, after a season of growth where sediment, vegetation, and wildlife establish their territory within both the soft bottom and concrete-lined waterways, I feel an optimistic hope that nature based infrastructure solutions can be restored to the region. Now, at the beginning of the rainy season when vegetation has been removed from the channel and replaced with high volumes of water flowing with suspended trash, pollutants, and dangerous levels of bacteria, it seems as if the ecological destruction caused by paving our watershed will never be mitigated.

However bleak my views about the river have become lately, there remains genuine reason for hope. In December of 2017, the Draft Lower Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan was released to the public, an important document outlining opportunities and constraints for significant future LLAR projects from Vernon to Long Beach. The plan can be viewed here.

The first pages of the document offer an eye opening assessment about the community living within the river corridor:

  • Poor (64.1% of households are considered low income and an estimated 2,500 homeless people live along the river)
  • Ethnically diverse (93% non-white)
  • Hot (only 2% of the watershed is covered by shade trees)
  • Without sufficient access to parks (1/3 of the people living within the river adjacent communities have 1/3 the park space than the current LA County average).

This Draft Lower Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan gets into the weeds in addressing site-specific revitalization project for 146 locations throughout the river corridor. The draft also proposes a Community Stabilization Toolkit to help ensure the community living and working within the river corridor is the same population that benefits from planned projects and programs when they’re implemented. The impressive analytics provided in the report will be valuable to the communities that will ultimately take the lead in realizing these efforts.

While many of the opportunities identified in the plan are sandwiched between the channel of the river and the 710 Freeway in the upper river segments, and do not restore the natural hydraulic and ecological functions of the river and flood plain, the middle and lower segments propose spreading basins, wetlands parks, and habitat corridors. Taken in aggregate, these river adjacent projects can have a significant positive impact on water quality.

It is disappointing removing concrete from the river channel is not considered feasible in this plan (except alternate configuration 3 at the Rio Hondo Confluence). However, the most significant impact of this plan may be in the tenacity the plan commits to finding buildable opportunities along the river corridor, combined with the proposed policies and programs for community stabilization. Taken together, this sober plan proposes an authentic vision of the Lower Los Angeles River that is a cleaner, healthier and better-connected version of its current state.

This vision of tomorrow’s river system does not displace people, funnel profits to private interests, or force an idealized version of another river from another place and time. Instead, the plan embraces the complex interweaving of natural and man-made systems representing the essential heritage of the Los Angeles River.