Posts tagged LA River

California Native Plant Garden. Creative Commons photo by Mechanoid Dolly

California Native Plant Garden. Creative Commons photo by Mechanoid Dolly

What should I plant? An introduction to California native plants for the garden with Barbara Eisenstein: This is the perfect time to prepare your plant for upcoming native plant sales and fall planting! This slideshow presents garden-worthy plants from woodland, scrubland, chaparral and desert plant communities. Barbara Eisenstein is a South Pasadena-based native plant gardener, horticulturist, writer and blogger. Her recent book, Wild Suburbia: Learning to Garden with Native Plants, guides new and experienced gardeners on a journey toward sustainable habitat gardening.
When: October 15, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM (PDT)
Where: Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley, CA

Full Moon Shinrin Yoku Walk: As the sun sets, the forest takes on new life. The trees become silhouettes, the temperature drops, the song of treefrogs fills the air, and moonlight fills the canyon. This is an invitation to join us for our monthly moonlit walk to the waterfall. Shinrin Yoku is a practice of simply being. No phone calls, no distractions, no stress. It’s a peaceful walk under the canopy while we awaken the senses and reconnect with the land. It might be the easiest thing you can do to revitalize your body and mind.
When: October 15th, 2016, 4:30pm
Where: Monrovia Canyon Waterfall

Los Angeles River Nature Walk @ The Frog Spot: Join Frog Spot’s Naturalists on our daily guided tour along the Los Angeles River Bike Path launching from the Frog Spot. This is your chance to start exploring the hidden ecosystem that runs through the heart of Los Angeles and ties us all together.
When: October 15, 10am – 11am
Where: Frog Spot, 2825 Benedict St, Los Angeles, CA 90039, USA

Hipster Botany: Crash Course in Plant ID: Learn how to identify the top 10 family of plants here at the Arboretum and which of those families have the best, and the worst, plants for gardens here in L.A. with instructor Frank McDonough.
When: October 15, 9 AM – 5 PM
Where: Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, California 91007

The City and The River:  The River & The City series is an extension of the 2015 lecture series Drought and Beauty. Consisting of four events each academic year. Each event includes two lectures from prominent landscape architects (one based in L.A., one from elsewhere) followed by a moderated debate on a theme that will change annually.  The series expands the conversation around urban issues critical to Los Angeles and familiar to designers and thinkers from all over the world. Guests are invited to share ideas, engage in dialogue, and speculate on future possibilities, questioning where we are now and where we are going. The series is co-hosted by USC’s Landscape Architecture + Urbanism Program, Cal Poly Pomona’s Landscape Architecture Program, UCLA’s Extension Program in Landscape Architecture, Arid Lands Institute and Mia Lehrer and Associates.
When: October 10, 7 PM – 10 PM
Where: AECOM, 300 S. Grand Avenue, 10th Floor, Los Angeles, California 90071

Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Jessica Roberts

Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Jessica Roberts

I recently took a trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota to visit some friends. I found the city’s relationship with the Mississippi River endlessly inspiring, a true river town. The river’s edges were soft and meandering at stretches, hard at others, with ample pedestrian access points and dramatic views that celebrate the vitality of the river as well as the city. It gave me a chance to reflect further on the potentials of the Los Angeles River.

Photo by Jessica Roberts

Photo by Jessica Roberts

Once abundant, the Southern California steelhead trout is now nearly extinct. Creative Commons photo of Fisherman with catch of steelhead in lower Sespe Creek, by William A. Brown, winter, 1911

Once abundant, the Southern California steelhead trout is now nearly extinct. Creative Commons photo of Fisherman with catch of steelhead in lower Sespe Creek, by William A. Brown, winter, 1911

What might be the most obvious feature of the L.A. River is its channelized concrete banks. Although this feature limits the ecological potential of the river, it does provide easy access to people, both on foot and on bike. Remembering my last AHBE Lab post, ending with a call to action to develop hybrid technologies inspired by human and nonhuman cultures, I left wondering how to design a system and space with environmental conditions, material flows, and people all factored in.

Soil bioengineering – also called biotechnical slope protection – is the use of plants to control erosion along water banks. Plants can bind and retain soil and filter out sediment, unlike cement. Some endangered wildlife species, such as steelhead trout, are sensitive to fine-sediment disturbance from creek bank erosion. There are an estimated 500 left on Earth between San Luis Obispo and the Mexican border, and the last one seen in the Los Angeles River was caught off a bridge in 1948 in Glendale. Steelhead were once prolific in spawning pools within the river before it was transformed into a concrete flood-control channel in 1938.

Willow trees can be used to establish creek bank vegetation. They are easy to propagate and root readily. Living willow structures represent one way to visibly intertwine materials, plants, and organisms along the Los Angeles River. Two potential willows for the Los Angeles climate are Salix lasiolepsis, the Arroyo Willow, and Salix laevigata, the Red Willow. Who’s ready to experiment?




Over the weekend I finally biked the LA River Bike Path, more specifically, the Elysian Valley Bicycle & Pedestrian Path through the area known as the Glendale Narrows. It was one of those days that made me proud to call Los Angeles home.

Although lined with concrete and plant communities dominated by invasive species, the highly modified river is home to many. Hundreds of species of migrating birds use the LA River for food and shelter, and many of the birds you see in Los Angeles County can be seen along the channelized river. Great blue herons, egrets, red-winged black birds, and red-tailed hawks are just a few. In the soft-bottom areas of the river one can find many species of fish (even a fisherman or two), although few are native. In some portions of the river the federally threatened Santa Ana sucker and arroyo chub can still be found. Butterflies and moths flock to both native and non-native plants found along the riverbanks. Less glamourous urban mammals such as domesticated cats, skunks, rats, and raccoons find repose along the banks of the river.


Historically the river had a natural riparian edge much wider than what you see today. During floods the water would spread across the coastal plain and plant communities developed that were adapted to flooding. Meadows with a diversity of plants and a forest cover of cottonwood, alder trees, and willows provided habitat and river bank stabilization. As Los Angeles urbanized, becoming less permeable, flooding became a real problem. In 1934 the La Crescenta flood disaster caused LA to seek assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This resulted in a highly altered and channelized river condition – more than 30 miles of concrete – to develop between the years of 1938 and 1970. The 8-mile section of the Glendale Narrows was left with a natural bottom and researchers have found a diverse fish population, both native and nonnative, with surprisingly low levels of toxicity. This is thought to be in part because of the area’s natural bottom, but also because of the quality of the water coming from reclamation plants upstream.

Today up to 80% of the water found in the river during dry seasons is reclaimed waste water from the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, the City of Burbank Water Reclamation Plant, and the Glendale Water Reclamation Plant. These water reclamation plants have actually reduced the levels of bacteria and other pollutants in the River. There is a dominance of organisms that are more tolerant of pollution in the biological communities downstream, further from the water reclamation plants upstream. In a way the abundance of life one sees in the LA River is a product of both human and non-human technologies, inevitably intertwined, for better or worse.


How can we adapt to, embrace, and enhance the present conditions of the highly altered LA River? We need to learn from the abundant life currently lining its banks. We need to look back while continuing to move forward. We need to develop hybrid technologies inspired by human and nonhuman cultures. It’s already happening. Beyond a fascination with how plants and wildlife can survive in highly disturbed areas we can embrace these species and their technologies to further improve the ecological function and beauty of our urban watershed.

The L.A. River Is Now A Temporary Art Museum: “We used the L.A. River as a canvas, and light as a material, and we project several visual stories,” says artist Refik Anadol, who collaborated with Peggy Weil on the project. It’s 1 of 16 installations up now around the city—on and around the river—as part of Current:LA Water, a new public art biennial.”

NOTE: one of the landscape installations is a collaboration between the artist Mel Chin, landscape architects Calvin Abe and Glen Dake, with advice from Lili Singer of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants!

Smart bricks will give homes and offices their own ‘digestive system’: ‘Smart’ bricks which can recycle wastewater and generate electricity are being created as part of a new project aiming to transform the places where we live and work.

Phyto Kinetic: Green-Roofed Buses Add a Breath of Fresh Air to the Urban Jungle: “How would you like to be transported to work in a moving garden? If Marc Granen has anything to do with it, you may be able to. The landscape artist, who we discovered through Urban Gardens, has developed a green roof for buses called Phyto Kinetic.”

Before It Runs Off: “People are generally very interested in being part of the problem solving. The community at large has been used to water not costing much and the opportunity to use a lot of water. There is an incentive beyond being a good citizen.” Be assured, collection and dispersal of local Southern California rainwater will become an integral discussion of the development of Los Angeles Version 2.0.

Technology Is Monitoring the Urban Landscape: “Big City is watching you. It will do it with camera-equipped drones that inspect municipal power lines and robotic cars that know where people go. Sensor-laden streetlights will change brightness based on danger levels. Technologists and urban planners are working on a major transformation of urban landscapes over the next few decades.”

Image via Materials & Applications.

Image via Materials & Applications.

TURF: A Mini-Golf Project: “TURF: A Mini-Golf Project explores Los Angeles through the playful tropes of artificial terrains and fantastical architecture in a nine-hole miniature golf course. Organized by Materials & Applications (M&A), nine architects, designers and artists considered topics relevant to Los Angeles today — including topography and territory, drought and lawns, parking and traffic, nature and neighborhoods, housing typologies and identity — to create obstacles in the form of the miniature and the absurd.”
When: June 18 – July 31, 2016
Where: 1601 Park Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90026 (Echo Park Ave. / Park Ave.)

La Kretz League Beach Day: Join the La Kretz Center for a day of beach science and learning! The La Kretz Center has funded three UCLA graduate students conducting ocean related projects this year. We would love for you to hear about them and participate in their work.
When: July 16th, 2016, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Where: 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Is South L.A. an Urban Success Story?: A Zócalo/The California Wellness Foundation Event moderated by Jennifer Ferro, President, KCRW. Community Development Technologies Center CEO Benjamin Torres, former president of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works Valerie Shaw, USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) director Manuel Pastor, and El Nuevo Sur founder Jorge Nuño visit Zócalo to examine whether South L.A.’s should be considered an urban success story.
When: July 13, 2016 7:30 PM
Where: Mercado La Paloma, 3655 S Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90007

CURRENT:LA: Get a fresh perspective on the LA River at this art biennial, where local artists have erected installations at 16 sites along the river, from the Hansen Dam in the Valley down to Point Fermin in San Pedro. The first edition is organized around the theme of “water,” a critical and timely resource. The city-presented exhibition includes the help of a dozen community programs, like Clockshop and FoLAR.
When: July 16 – August 14, 2016
Where: Various locations in L.A.

Adamson House Garden Tour: Take a walk in Adamson House garden by the sea and learn about trees and exotic plantings around the Spanish Colonial Revival style home – a National Historic S. Tickets are $7 for 17 and older, $2 for ages 6-16, and 5 and younger are free.
When: July 15, 2016 – 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Where: 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

TreePeople Community Tree Care Team Training: “Have you planned a greening project at your home, neighborhood, school or park? Then join TreePeople and the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council Community Greening Committee for this fun, informative, and hands-on workshop where you and your family and friends will learn how to care for trees and other plants where you live, learn and play.”
When: July 16, 2016, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Where: Northeast Los Angeles