NORMALLY, you don’t think of rows of potted plants parked on a paved strip as open space. Ditto for a golf course, a baseball field, volunteer willows behind a dam or commercial nursery plants thriving beneath high-tension towers.
But they are. In fact, some cities mark these down as official open space in their general plans.
And they’d be correct.
In a county with 10 illion people, where rows of rooftops and hundreds of thousands of acres of steaming asphalt dominate the landscape, these oxygen-producing, carbon dioxide eating postage stamp lots — temporary in nature — are sometimes all we get.
So, you shouldn’t wonder why people try to hold on to them like a miser does his last nickel.
Last week, I reported on yet another nursery packing up its plants and going home. Norman’s Nursery, a wholesale outfit since 1949, has cleared out a mile-long strip of trees and ornamentals that were packed along the Santa Fe Dam on the border of Baldwin Park and Irwindale. For 20 years, your eye went to the green junipers, the date palms, the ornamental elms.
The trompe l’oeile visage said they were planted there. Like an urban forest. Instead, they were as real as the lollipop forest of the kids’ game Candyland.
Today, that greenbelt is gone. And others could be next.
I don’t deride people for becoming attached to such temporary greenery. To the contrary, I get angry when nobody cares. not hugging a tree is the sin.
The issue of open-space-that’s-not-traditional open space exploded onto the pages of the Pasadena Star-News in 2007 when residents of East Pasadena fought to stop Edison from parlaying leases under their wires into permanent developments, such as those ugly self-storage buildings. The idea originated with the California Public Utilities Commission. But like a downed power line sparking a fire, it blew up in their faces.
“They thought it was a way to reduce rates but it hasn’t worked out that way. It’s causing public concern about global warming and building on potentially useful recreational or passive open space,” said one opponent back in 2007.
The good news was, Persson’s Nursery, and Present Perfect Nursery, both in East Pasadena, were saved for the time being. The bad news: In August 2011, Persson’s closed down shortly after its owner died of cancer. Today, what’s there — an empty lot — is what many — including new Pasadena Councilman Gene Masuda — tried so hard to not let happen.
In West Covina, residents rightfully want to stop a four story, 55,680-square-foot “office condo” project on West Covina Parkway that would kill 100 trees. Worse, the project would threaten the urban green space that surrounds the West Covina regional branch library and West Covina City Hall complex.
These places are these residents’ giant sequoias. They are their redwood forest. Their Yosemites. Because they are the ones who walk among these planted trees hoping for a slice of solitude, a fleeting vision of purity.
Psychologists advise patients with anxiety or panic disorders to plant their feet firmly on the ground. It’s a technique called “grounding.” The simple act communicates to the patient he or she is strong, safe, that the bad things he or she predicts will take place will not.
Grounding is best done in the outdoors, where man-made stimuli are shut out. Where the reality of standing on the earth and feeling a cool breeze make the anxiety go away, at least for the day.
We can’t let the green spaces fade to gray, even the temporary ones.
And if we can’t stop it, then perhaps we can plant others. Because when they’re all gone, where will we go to become grounded?