Archives for the month of: February, 2012

The LA River, contained in concrete

Its sad, but true: the LA River is not the main attraction of Los Angeles.  It is not what tourists consider among their star maps and beach trips, nor is it a destination for residents on a day off.  For the most part lacking any resemblance of a “typical river”, its become a bit of a joke to the people of the city.  However, the Los Angeles River was (and arguably still is) a huge part of the natural ecosystem of the valleys so many millions now call home, the core of what drew people to the area hundreds of years ago.  Throughout history, cities have been built and thrived by rivers, and yet many could not find ours on a map.  Though much of it is currently encased in concrete, and it does not serve the same function exactly as it once did, the City of Los Angeles, along with the Army Corps of Engineers and countless non-profits and NGOs, have decided we can no longer turn our backs to this wonderful resource that contains so much potential.

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I recently accidentally came across an excellent public space in downtown LA while chaperoning a trip to the Fed.  Between Hope and Grand, and Olympic and 9th, there is an amazing little pocket of green that accomplishes so much in the single block it shares with FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising).  Just across from the Fed, and within a mile of LA Live and the Staples Center, Grand Hope Park manages to combine a myriad of uses and types of spaces into a place where anyone could feel welcome.  This may not seem like an amazing feat, but think about it for a minute:  how many parks and public spaces have you been to that you didn’t want to linger at?  Maybe it wasn’t designed or programmed for your uses, or it didn’t feel safe- both major issues with public spaces, especially in a city where the “eyes on the street” aren’t always easy to come by.  This park was obviously occupied by students, but it had children, elderly, office workers, and more- the question is, what separates this park from so many others?

Grand Hope Park Water Feature

According to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, it is 2.5 acres, was completed in 1993, and was designed by the famed Lawrence Halprin.  According to yours truly, there are a few reasons why this space functions so well. Read the rest of this entry »

Are you using reusable water bottles?  You should be!  Heres my list of why:

1.  Price:  We pay much, much more for bottled water than tap water.  In fact, if you look at the price per ounces in the average bottle, you’re probably paying 5 cents and ounce, versus tap water, which is about a cent per gallon.  If you’re looking to save money in this tough economy, quit buying your water pre-packaged.

2.  Quality:  As much as bottled water distributers would have us believe that their water is cleaner than what comes out of tap.  However, most cities have extremely rigorous water controls, and studies have shown that most bottled water is not cleaner than tap water, and sometimes its even dirtier- and it sure doesn’t usually come from mountain springs, either.  Much of it comes from the tap, just like that in your kitchen sink.

3.  Trash:  Think about how much trash is created by throwing away these bottles after just one use!  Even if they’re being recycled, it is very likely that the materials are being downcycled, which means that they’ve already had their highest and best use, and they’re going to be used at a lesser quality and functionality.  We’ve taken for granted that our waste to “goes away”, but we’ve got to wake up to the fact that plastic in particular takes a LONG time to break down, and that we’re filling up our landfills when we don’t have to. Read the rest of this entry »

Trash: the big topic for many Angelenos over the past couple of weeks.  For most of us, waste is something we don’t think about much, and can’t wait to get rid of; while we try to recycle as much as possible, and use reusable containers and the like, we still generate a tremendous amount of trash.  When we’re done with a wrapper or a soda cup, we generally can’t wait for it to be out of our sight.  However, if you’re working in the waste industry, you don’t have that luxury.  In Los Angeles, trash is currently handled in two major ways: residential waste it picked up by the city, and private waste haulers take care of commercial and large apartment buildings.  For the latter group, trash pick up is a regular cost to incur, but because they can chose the private handlers themselves, there is an argument that the environmental and safety standards these handlers are held to are lacking.  In fact, two young waste workers were recently killed due to the hazardous materials and lack of proper equipment at their place of work.  While many people, especially owners of apartment buildings, are happy with the current system and the level of flexibility it allows them, there are others who believe the environmental and safety impacts are too great to ignore.

A plan was put before the LA Board of Public Works, changing the current free-market system of private waste hauling to a franchise system, either exclusive or non-exclusive.  This means that the system would be highly regulated and companies would have to be approved by the city.  The Bureau of Sanitation put forth a set of recommendations based on their data, which was approved unanimously by the Board- the next step was a hearing on what to accept for the city.

The hearing took place on Monday, February 13th, and I was lucky enough to be informed about it ahead of time, and was in attendance.   Read the rest of this entry »

Holy moly, its been 2 months since my last post.  Lets change that- today!  Heres a little bit of what I’ve been up to, whats on my radar, and what I’ve been thinking about when it comes to the built environment:

– The American Planning Association’s annual National Conference is coming up!  Ok, so its not next week, but it is in April and tomorrow is the last day to register for early registration.  While I have attended the last two (in New Orleans and Boston), I’m especially excited about this year for two main reasons:  it is taking place in my lovely hometown of Los Angeles, and I will be speaking at it with my great friend and colleague Angela Fortino.  We will be in the student capstone presentations discussing our work on Mexico City’s transportation system, specifically focusing on a particular station and our respective redesigns it and the surrounding community.  It will be really thrilling to have many of my friends from grad school coming to LA, and of course I love meeting new people and learning about new ideas and projects at conferences.  If you’re actually reading this, and you aren’t my mother (ha!), you should consider attending.

– Antioch University’s Masters of Sustainability program, which I was peripherally involved in starting up, has been kind enough to allow be to remain involved in many of their lectures and trips.  In January, I went on a fascinating field trip to Roger Jessup Park in Pacoima, where we met students involved in their youth program, toured their urban garden, and learned about the wide variety of programs and courses offered through Youth Speak Collective and Project Youth Green.  The gardens are all utilized by local families who do not have gardens of their own, and the produce grown there is sold at a local farmers market.  We heard how each of the high school students present had been personally impacted by the program, and it was incredibly heartwarming. Read the rest of this entry »