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Can Dirt Save the Earth?: “But the newer model stressed the importance of living plants. Their rootlets are constantly dying, depositing carbon underground, where it’s less likely to go airborne. And perhaps more important, as plants pull carbon from the air, their roots inject some of it into the soil, feeding microorganisms and fungi called mycorrhiza. An estimated 12,000 miles of hyphae, or fungal filaments, are found beneath every square meter of healthy soil. Some researchers refer to this tangled, living matrix as the “world wood web.” Living plants increase soil carbon by directly nourishing soil ecosystems.”

Gardening as a Kid Indicates that You’ll Eat Fruits and Veggies as a College Student: “A new study performed at the University of Florida sought to understand the connection between gardening as a kid and habits later in life—specifically, during the part of life when kids are most likely to eat gigantic plates of bad fried food while drunk, i.e. at college. The study was part of an initiative from eight American universities with the frankly bizarre name of Get Fruved, which apparently stands for fruits and vegetables.”

What You’re Getting Wrong About Inclusive Design: “Take the curb cut. It’s a great example of inclusive design that wasn’t universal. In the early version of those curb cuts, there was no indicator for someone who was blind that they were coming to the street corner. It was really bad! They had no indicator they were walking into the street. The tension with universal design is how you design something that works for everyone in all scenarios, with every contingency. That’s one of the challenges of understanding inclusive design when we look at the object, saying, “This design is inclusive design.” In those cases, often what we mean is universal design.”

Computational Ecosystems: As argued in his March 13 LAM Lecture (and in his recent book Responsive Landscapes, written with Justine Holzman, ASLA), the future of landscape architecture is one of designing protocols for how natural systems behave, and tuning these algorithms and eventually the land itself, thus loosening the stranglehold static and monofunctional infrastructure has on the planet. “It’s not about us controlling every aspect,” he says. “It’s about us setting a range of ways those behaviors can act within.”

What the Meadow Teaches Us: “Such an experience of the harmony between a landscape and its lifeforms is probably not the result of objective analysis. But this is precisely the point: If you let the calyxes and grasses slide through your hands amid the firefly flurries, celebrating the coming summer, you don’t just perceive a multitude of other beings—the hundred or so species of plants and countless insects that make up the meadow’s ecosystem. You also experience yourself as a part of this scene. And this is probably the most powerful effect of experiences in the natural world. When you immerse yourself in the natural world, you wander a little through the landscape of your soul.”

Photo: Katherine Montgomery

One of the reasons I love Los Angeles is its blurred line between urban and wild life. Hawks are often sighted soaring above the 101 freeway, and P-22, our Griffith Park resident mountain lion, has become a new kind of Hollywood celebrity. It is easy to champion these interspecies citizens from a distance, but we must also support their habitat as part of our community.

Living so close to wildlife is becoming unavoidable as humans encroach more and more upon their territory. I have encountered many coyotes on my early morning runs through Highland Park. A friend of mine just posted a video of a bear in his neighbor’s pool in Altadena. We’ve all seen the video of the mountain lion in a Los Feliz basement. These animals are charming, but they are also doing their best to live in altered and often hostile environments. As landscape architects and planners, it is our job to assess the impact of our proximity, and adjust our designs and methods to support coexistence.

Last weekend during an afternoon walk, my husband and I crossed paths with a coyote suffering from a serious case of mange. He was thin and disoriented, with barely any hair. A neighbor said he had already called the city wildlife hotline. Concerned about the coyote’s fate, I also called and was told he would be caught and euthanized. One more phone call to the California Wildlife Center, and I learned I could email their vet and request a dead, medicated mouse to leave for the coyote. With one to several treatments, he could be cured of the mange. Unfortunately, the city captured him first.

In the last few years, there has been increasing research on the link between wildlife mange and rodenticides. Even P-22 has suffered the negative effects of rodenticide. Many animals along the food chain are natural rodent predators, including mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, as well as owls and hawks. All of these animals are poisoned second-hand when they eat poisoned rats, mice, or rabbits.

This month AB-2242 – a bill banning all anticoagulant first and second generation rodenticides in California – will be moved forward to the Committee of Water, Parks, and Wildlife for approval. You can submit a public comment by April 23 by following the directions on the Project Coyote website. This bill is also supported by RATS (Raptors Are The Solution) and Poison Free Malibu. Much like the historic ban on DDT that saved the bald eagle, this movement has the potential to save California’s iconic wildlife

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Walk The Talk
Hosted by Los Angeles Poverty Department and ACTION, Walk the Talk is no ordinary walk. It’s a biannual parade! LA Poverty Department brings Skid Row to life with performances along the parade route that pay tribute to neighborhood initiatives and the men and women whose contributions to the community call for a big, blaring celebration! Street Symphony’s Brass Band and community musicians will lead the way, we carry portraits of the honorees by CruShow Herring.
See our website for parade route – https://www.lapovertydept.org/walk-the-talk-2018/
When: Saturday, April 21 at 11 AM – 3 PM
Where: Los Angeles Poverty Department POB 26190, Los Angeles 90026

How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future
Join the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation in welcoming Edward Struzik to discuss his book Firestorm. The evening event will include a reception, presentation, panel discussion, author Q&A, and book signing. Participants: Douglas Bevington, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation; Beth Burnham, North Topanga Canyon Fire Safe Council; Chad Hanson, The John Muir Project ; Alex Hall, UCLA; Susanna Hecht, UCLA; Chief Ralph Terrazas, City of Los Angeles.
When: Thursday, April 19th, 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Where: UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Room 2355, 337 Charles E. Young Drive East

2018 Sustainability Summit at the Getty Center
The Summit, now in its 12th year, has established itself as an annual forum where today’s foremost industry experts and decision makers engage public, private and nonprofit stakeholders in the latest efforts to achieve California’s ambitious climate targets. This year’s Summit will focus on the de-carbonization of the transportation sector
When: Friday, April 20th, 7:00am – 2:00pm
Where: Getty Center’s Harold M. Williams Auditorium

Heritage Square Twilight Tour
Join Atlas Obscura Society Los Angeles on a rare twilight tour of Heritage Square Museum, where we’ll explore historically significant buildings in various stages of restoration—from a train depot to a church and an eight-sided circular house. Our special after-hours visit with Field Agent Robert Hemedes, arranged exclusively for Atlas Obscura Society L.A., will take place as day turns into dusk.
When: Sunday, April 22 at 7 PM – 9 PM
Where: Heritage Square Museum, 3800 Homer St. 90031

Cottonwood Canyon Celebration!
Come celebrate with us! AFC is now the proud owner of 11 acres in Cottonwood Canyon! Join us on Earth Day to celebrate the beautiful canyon that you helped protect. Acorn bread, lemonade, fruit and Craftsman Brewing local beer will be available to enjoy under the oak canopy.
When: Sunday, April 22 at 3 PM – 5 PM
Where: 1951 Linda Vista Ave, Pasadena 91103

Unique LA Mini Markets
Every Saturday DTLA’s newest independent artists and design event fills the street at the ROW DTLA with hand-picked local designers, artists and makers to bring you LA’s best! Stroll along “market row” to talk with and support amazing local entrepreneurs, plus stop into the amazing shops and cafes to discover more great stuff at ROW DTLA!
When: Every Saturday, Apr 14 – May 26, 10am-3pm
Where: ROW DTLA, 777 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles 90021

Earth Day Pasadena 2018
Earth Day Pasadena is back on Saturday April 21st! #LEARN about local grassroots environmental efforts. #ENGAGE in meaningful dialogues, solution storming & advocacy. #MOVE to zumba, yoga, drum circle beats, and live music!
#TAKEACTION on #climatechange and participate in workshops, demonstrations and interactive activities to learn about sustainable practices including: stormwater harvesting, water-wise gardening, bike repair, healthy recipe demonstrations, clean energy options, electric vehicle show, art + more! #SPEAKUP and share your vision for a more environmentally friendly Pasadena.
When: Saturday, April 21 at 9 AM – 1 PM
Where: Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N Raymond Ave, Pasadena 91103

Spring Bloom Walks at Descanso (Cherry Blossoms)
Join us for a stroll through the Gardens at 11am or 1pm on weekends this March and April. Learn about cherry blossoms, flowering trees, and other seasonal favorites on these guided walks. No registration required. Free with admission or membership. Subject to availability.
When: Saturday, April 21 at 9 AM – 5 PM
Where: Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr, La Canada Flintridge, California 91011

Spring Renegade Craft Los Angeles
Renegade Makers unite inspired design with quality craftsmanship. Makers are the heart of Renegade and always the main attraction at our Fairs, creating a vibrant showcase of incredible talent. Renegade Experiential + Installation participants bring interactive, skill-sharing, and creative elements to every Fair. From art and seating Installations to workshops, DJs, lawn games, and photo booths, we are excited to collaborate with innovative and contemporary artists that are committed to elevating the Renegade experience.
When: Saturday, April 21 at 11 AM – 6 PM
Where: Los Angeles State Historic Park, 1245 N Spring St, Los Angeles 90012

The 13th Annual Thai New Year Songkran Festival 2018
The 13th Annual Thai New Year Songkran Festival 2018 will be held in Thai Town on Sunday , April 22 , 2018 from 8 – 8 PM. It’s Free , no ticket required. Six big city blocks located on Hollywood Blvd between Western Ave and Normandie Ave. This is one of the largest Festivals in the Los Angeles area. Lots of Thai Food : Fabulous Thai Curry, Khao Soi, Pad Thai, Tom Kha, Som Tum, Thai BBQ, Mango-Sweet Rice, Fresh Thai Coconut and lots more. Sidewalk Cafe’s from many Participating Thai Town Restaurants.
When: Sunday, April 22 at 8 AM – 8 PM
Where: Thai Town, 5448 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90027-3406

City Council approves long-awaited people mover to LAX: “To applause from a City Hall audience, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved up to $4.9 billion to design, build, operate and maintain an elevated train that will whisk passengers in and out of LAX’s central terminal area and carry them to a car rental facility, a ground transportation hub and a station on the Metro Crenshaw Line.”

Explore an Interactive Aerial Map of the Past: “While there are all kinds of online mapping tools that allow you to place filters, overlays, and other information on aerial and satellite imagery, this map tool makes time a variable, so you can see what a location—roads, buildings, forest, and more—once looked like. You can then add all the modern overlays we’re used to—like opening a portal across decades. “We refer to it as a virtual time machine.”

Nice shades: 7 Fast growing shade trees to slash your electric bill: “Trees that can serve to cast shade come in all shapes and sizes, and for many different climates and planting zones, so there are plenty of options to choose from. However, because most of us are very impatient, one of the most common requirements that people have in choosing varieties is that they be fast growing shade trees. Here are 7 of the most popular fast growing varieties of trees that can add shade to your property.”

The Myth That Everyone Naturally Prefers Trains to Buses: “Paraphrasing a former mayor of Los Angeles, Hensher tells CityLab there’s an overwhelming perception “that buses are boring and trains are sexy.” That mindset complicates the discussion of mass transit plans in growing metros: though advanced bus systems can perform as well or better than streetcar or light rail systems for less money, people would rather have trains.”

Creative Commons photo by Stephen Zeigler (CC BY-SA 4.0)

I recently attended the California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS) Conference in Long Beach, and surprisingly found the educational sessions  sparsely attended. That all changed with “Exploring Homelessness in Parks: Strategies for Compassion Co-existence”, a crowded session with over four times more attendees and standing room only. It was during this session I realized landscape architects and the homeless will be inextricably tied together for the foreseeable future, falling onto us to responsibly and compassionately deal with the social, health, and design issues connected with homelessness in our public parks.

Scott Reese, ASLA – leader of the CPRS session and a retired Assistant Director of Parks for City of San Diego – talked about four different approaches cities and park agencies have historically used to deal with the homeless. The following categories are accompanied with my commentary:

  1. “Look the other way”: A “do-nothing” approach. This does nothing to help the homeless, and will chase other park users away.
  2. Regulatory: An approach concentrating solely on passing legislation to keep the homeless out of parks, including establishing “no loitering” or “no sleeping on public land” ordinances. The biggest issue with this approach is it does eliminates any flexibility. If a homeless man is found sleeping in the park, do authorities jail or fine him? Alone, the regulatory approach does nothing.
  3. Seclusion or relocation and disbursement: Law enforcement against the homeless has been used on and off since the Great Depression, simply making homelessness illegal, giving law enforcement officers the authority to arrest, harass, or relocate anyone without a home. Downtown LA’s Skid Row is an example of how LA County use to “dump” their homeless into a central location under the pretense services would be provided there. In reality, the location is completely overwhelmed, and has become the face of homelessness for LA County for the last two decades.
  4. Defensible space: Designs intended to make the homeless uncomfortable and deny them access to the public space are strategies familiar to landscape architects. One can often spot park benches with an additional armrest dividing the middle, a design intended to deter the homeless person from sleeping on it; the new Art’s District Park adjacent to the La Kretz Innovation Center is entirely fenced around its perimeter to restrict access. Besides the sticky legal ramifications of denying access to a public space, design-only solutions have proven ineffective. There is no way to make a park more uncomfortable than living on the streets of Los Angeles. Desperate people find a way to survive.

Creative Commons photo by David Whittaker; (CC0).

The panel discussion concluded with Scott Reese describing two additional strategies:

  1. “Social Justice”: Championed by homeless rights advocates, social justice stresses compassionate intervention that attempts to steer people into shelters or interim housing, as well as public service programs. Lack of funding, shelter shortages, and the overwhelming number of homeless have stifled this strategy.
  2. “Declared Emergency”: When an outbreak of Hepatitis A killed 25 homeless in San Diego County, county officials were prompted to declare a health emergency. The emergency allowed county agencies to freeze local ordinances and regulations, and provide emergency funds to install facilities like portable toilets and hand-washing stations with 24 hour security throughout downtown San Diego. The approach proved to be very effective in the short term.

The simple truth is none of the approaches above will solve homelessness by themselves. As a park professional and designer, I believe we need to treat the homeless like any other park constituent dependent upon the public space for services. This means park agencies and designers need to  integrate services and programmed spaces for the homeless into new and renovated parks. Agencies also need to provide park staff with maintenance and appearance standards to use as the basis for decisions relating to their homeless constituency. This differs from the aforementioned regulatory approach because it provides options for services rather than simply outlawing the activity.

At last count, Los Angeles County has 55,000 people living on its streets, 11,000 of which are children. As a result, our public parks have become the main intersection between the homeless and society at-large. Historically, public parks have always played this role, especially in Los Angeles. The great population boom of the early 1900’s led to an investment in public space, only to be “defended” from homeless families using the parks as camp grounds during the Great Depression. This last decade and the Great Recession it brought pushed homelessness from an intractable problem to crisis levels.

Ironically, the economic recovery has ballooned homelessness even further, with government and private developers unable to solve mounting issues surrounding affordable housing. Even with a massive influx of funds from new tax and bond initiatives, moving 55,000 people off the street will require a generation. As park agencies and landscape architects renovate our city’s aging park infrastructure, we are tasked to consider the homeless as a major user and stakeholder in our park designs guided by the ideals of “compassionate coexistence”.

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