Archives for category: Places to Go!

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 »


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 »

When I went to the national APA conference in New Orleans 2 years ago, I went to a session on what was new in LA.  One of the things they spoke about was how Twitter had revolutionized the food truck industry in LA.  And it wasn’t just food trucks in general- it was gourmet food trucks, of all kinds.  No longer was the presence of a  food truck only indicative of a movie set or tons of tasty tacos.  You could get kobe beef, gelato, and Indian food!

I thought it sounded interesting at the time, not only as a person who enjoys a variety of food on the go, but from a planning perspective as well.  The ideas of taking restaurants outside of their solid locations, of which may not be known to much of the general public, and roaming them throughout the city, is great!  In a city as large and diversified as LA, theres really no better way to take your business and spread it around to new audiences.  I’m sure that for the City of LA, its provided new planning issues, such as where are they allowed to park, permitting, etc- but I’d like to think its worth it.

Even better are the new food truck gatherings happening.  Its one thing to see on Facebook or Twitter that your favorite organic hotdogs are coming your way, but when you know they’ll be joined by dessert, lemonade, and something for all of your friends, its even better!  I recently went to one in my neighborhood, and its amazing the amount and diversity of people who come out.  Parked along a major street, 30+ food trucks provided dinner for my group last Friday night.  With some local businesses staying open later to attract the food truck diners, small tables and chairs set up, and music playing from most of the trucks themselves, its become a local event in itself.

Maybe it was the happiness of a belly full of tasty locally made food, but being at the weekly food truck gathering has made me think about what these sorts of events mean to a community.  We don’t have the same kinds of events or live the kinds of lives that brought people in a community together that we used to.  While we obviously still go out and do things, so much of what we do gets us in the car and far away from where we live.  Okay, so Farmers Markets are becoming popular, and those are great- but they attract one kind of crowd, and I feel that these food truck gatherings attract a slightly different one, which is important.  Because like Ray Oldenburg said, we need third place:  a place that isn’t work, and isn’t home.  Its like the local pub, as opposed to the swanky bar we get dressed up to go to.  People need casual places where they can be themselves but also socialize and relax.  Its the kind of thing thats stuck around better in older parts of cities, especially in Europe (think of Parisian cafes and English pubs).  Its something we’re lacking in suburban America.  These food truck gatherings, though, may be a start to something in that direction.  It will be interesting to see how they grow and change how we interact with our communities, and if the stick around long enough to become a permanent thing.  I hope they do.

Due to my fortunate connections with Antioch University and their new low-residency MA Urban Sustainability Program, I was invited to attend their field trips during their residency a few weeks ago.  The first trip was to the NRDC (National Resource Defense Council) of Los Angeles, located in Santa Monica.  While the NRDC does great work in LA and all over the country, our main reason for visiting was to take a tour of the facility, which is LEED Platinum and pretty neat.

So the building is LEED certified and greener than most an all- but what does that mean?  Whats going on there that makes it so much more awesome than any other building?

(achem) The List of Cool Green Components at NRDC LA:

1 – Many components are easy to incorporate into almost any building- it can be as simple as choosing a particular brand of carpeting or lighting.  In this building, however, almost everything inside was made from recycled materials, lacked formaldehyde and other hazardous chemicals often found in building/decorating materials, and was produced locally ( = less fuel/money on shipping)

Check out this lighting device, for example.  All throughout the office were these cool overhead lights that through a simple twist on the common office lighting device, provide light through both the top and bottom, letting light reflect all over the ceiling.  This means a lot more light in the room per bulb!  No point in covering up most of a light bulb with a shade, and then using more lights in each room.

I didn’t nab pictures of all of it, but to give some more examples:  the carpets were made from recycled materials that could be easily broken back down to their original bits and be reused again; the counters in the kitchen and copy room were made of compressed recycled paper and sealed with green sealant; chairs came from recycled plastics; countless desks and tables were made from scraps…the list goes on.  The best part is that they all looked perfectly normal and office classy.

2 – A green building doesn’t have to look like a space ship.  The NRDC building blends in perfectly with the Santa Monica style.

The patio at NRDC manages to be both functional and match the local style, as does the architectural design of the building.

3 – Its about going back to the basics.  People need light and fresh air, and by making those more accessible within the building, you not only cut down on health costs, but on heating and cooling bills as well.

These ceiling “pop-ups” allow for a place for hot air to rise, cooler air to flow in, and natural sunlight to come down.  They look like a natural part of the rest of the building, and are super easy to incorporate into a design


So, yes it is true that PVCs are not as efficient as we’d like them to be, are relatively expensive, and can be a pain to install.  But the truth of the matter is, they can seriously cut down on electricity needs from other sources, you can get a hell of a tax break, and most places you’d buy them from come with installation.  Plus, if you’re a relatively handy person, they apparently aren’t that hard to put up.

The moral of the story is: it isn’t that hard to be greener with building!  A story we’ve heard many times before, but this time you’ve heard it with the help of the NRDC.  For more info, check out their website.