Moving the green movement into the cities

Steve Scauzillo: Moving the green movement to the cities

Posted:   01/19/2013 06:17:55 AM PST
Updated:   01/19/2013 07:18:54 PM PST

 

Grand Park, a new urban green space in the civic center area of Los Angeles on January. 12, 2013. (SGVN/Staff photo by Steve Scauzillo)

I hate to get all bourgeois on you, but the eye does not lie.

The last time I ventured into the civic center area of downtown Los Angeles was to spend the day with the protesters of Occupy L.A. for a story. Their pitched battle with banks and government began and ended on the south lawn of City Hall. The place was a dynamic confluence of ingenuity and civil disobedience. The squatters, the solar arrays, the organic cannabis and carrot plants, the smells are forever etched in my brain – one of the most incredible views of downtown I can ever recall.

But after they were unceremoniously removed by LAPD, the grounds looked like Charlie Sheen’s hotel room after an all-night party.

Last Saturday, as I walked the new landscaping at City Hall, the eye couldn’t escape the native plants, the decomposed granite pathways, the new trees and greenery. It looked darn good – like a great city’s landmark should.

But the most striking changes that registered with me and my wife, Karen, came as we walked the steps and terraces of the county’s new Grand Park, a 12-acre urban space stretching from iconic City Hall on the east to The Music Center on the west.

In Google map terms, it goes from Spring Street to Hope Street.

When your feet reach Hope Street, the views of the Art Deco City Hall are breathtaking. The other not-so-architecturally significant buildings seem to have been given a face-lift by the new park, revitalized by the plants, public art and the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain.

Olive trees and Japanese cherry trees are just a few of 140 species of plants that mix together in a way, well, in a way that Angelenos themselves do. The new park is a terraced landscape with a performance lawn for concerts and group yoga, an event lawn for music and book festivals, farmers’ markets and gourmet food trucks, and a fountain plaza that includes a Starbucks, an ATM and the modular Metro Red Line Civic Center station.

Still, the first thing that strikes the eye are not the plants or the fountain, but the magenta tables and chairs. The design choice by architecture and landscape architect Rios Clementi Hale Studios may be the icing on this tiered cake.

The lawn furniture are moveable, so you can arrange them in a circle for a group chat or drag one off to the side for some me time.

While the park does not pack the wallop of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park in Manhattan, it definitely has made an impact on downtown Los Angeles. It’s part of the transformation of downtown L.A. that’s been going on for a couple decades.

Green, urban spaces turn me on. They are shafts of light piercing an urban/suburban darkness. They can be the only lawn a family can spread out and have a picnic. They can be the only space a kid can run with his dog and be safe.

Grand Park is not just a park for attorneys, clerks and city and county employees to sip lattes in between court cases. It’s a tremendous green oasis in L.A. for all of us. Yes, check your Google maps. I’d bet many of us live closer to Grand Park than you’d think. And on weekends, the drive is traffic-free.

Or leave the car in the garage and take Metro’s Silverline from El Monte or the Orange Line from the San Fernando Valley. The Gold Line light-rail from Pasadena or Montebello works just fine as well. And you save on parking meters.

I like it better when there’s no planned activity at the park. But that’s me, always seeking solitude.

After wandering the Grand Park, we headed for a french dip sandwich at Cole’s on East Sixth Street.

The end of a perfect day.

The environmental movement needs to think more about greening up our cities. It’s where the people are at. And though a green space in the middle of buildings may not be a natural ecosystem, it is saving a species: our own.


Steve Scauzillo covers the environment and transportation. He’s the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz/twitter.com or email him at steve.scauzillo@sgvn.com.

26 Remembered

St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Hacienda Heights will hold a candlelight vigil tonight, 7 p.m., to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The night of prayers and candle lighting takes place on the one-month anniversary of the senseless shooting in which a lone gunman killed 20 first-graders and six staff members inside the Newtown, Conn. school.

Monday night’s event, “26 Remembered,” is organized by Pastor Lowell Edward and will be held outside, on the grounds.

Cards will be provided to write encouragement notes.

The church is located at 15653 E. Newton St., in Hacienda Heights.

-steve scauzillo

Walnut to honor military reservists

Councilman Tom King has arranged for members of B Company, 1st Battalion of the California State Military Rerserve in Azusa to be honored at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the Walnut City Council meeting.

These volunteers drill out of the Azusa Armory and support National Guard Soldiers from all over the San Gabriel Valley and Southern California who are deploying overseas in Afghanistan.

 

state of Diamond Bar

There is a trend these days of mayors giving speeches highlighting how their cities are doing. Usually, they gloss over the bad stuff and emphasize the positive.

I don’t know if that is the route that Diamond Bar Mayor Ling-Ling Chang will take. But Chang, who was in Washington D.C. lobbying for 57-60 Freeway funds, will be giving the Diamond Bar “State of the City” speech at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 22 at the Diamond Bar Center, 1600 Grand Ave.

That is two days after the next Diamond Bar City Council meeting, which will be Tuesday, March 20.

Chang in D.C.

Diamond Bar Mayor Ling-Ling Chang concluded her ad-hoc remarks quickly Tuesday night, saying she was catching a red-eye flight to Washington D.C.
Today, her Facebook page indicates she’s checked into the Prime Rib restaurant in our nation’s capital for lunch with Rosemead Mayor Steven Ly.
Chang said she was going to help attract funding for the “57/60 (freeways) confluence” project.
I’ll think of them the next time I’m changing lanes in the confluence of death, the other name given for where those two freeways come together in Diamond Bar. I’ll be there tomorrow night.

There’s a poet lurking in San Dimas City Hall

I read reports prepared by city staff at least several times a week. They are by and large insipid, monotonous affairs – full of technical jargon and written with the sterility of an operating room.

San Dimas’ mid-year budget report that I’m busy sifting through is an entirely different animal. Sure, it’s full of sales tax figures and drones a bit about revenues and expenditures, but tucked into little corners of the document are tiny flourishes of poetic language.

My favorite example opens the section of the report dealing with the loss of the city’s redevelopment agency. I’ve included it below for your reading pleasure.

“Like a multi-trunk tree, the city’s General Fund and Redevelopment Agency have grown together over the years to produce a broad and successful economic canopy that has strengthened the City of San Dimas.”

Corny? Hell yes, but cheesy or not, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air from the gobbledegook I usually have to read.

I don’t know who wrote this report, but I’ll find out when I talk to city staff later today.

Five chicken indoors, five chickens outdoors; Azusa doesn’t care

I’m writing a story for the weekend about people choosing to raise chickens in their backyards, which seems to be the result of a perfect storm of recession-induced stinginess and a frenzy for all things organic. Since every city seems to have different poultry policies, this has meant a lot of phone calls on my part today.

I was just on the phone with Conal McNamara, Assistant Community Development Director for Azusa, and I found out something very interesting: Azusa residents can keep up to five adult chickens inside their homes if they so choose. You read that correctly – inside.

I dunno who would choose to do such a revolting thing, but it actually sounds like less hassle than keeping the chickens outdoors, in which case Azusa has lots of rules about property lines, setbacks and enclosures.

Azusa, Irwindale city manager spill few secrets over trash fight

As you might already know, Azusa and Irwindale have been locked in an epic battle over trash-recycling facilities. Titans of trash Waste Management and Athens Services each want a material-recycling facility – Athens in Irwindale and Waste Management in Azusa. As is apt to happen whenever you add garbage to the mix, things have gotten messy.

Irwindale has been holding up Azusa’s project with legal maneuvers. Azusa responded by making tons of public records requests from Irwindale.

Things have been pretty quiet though lately. The last big article we had about the situation was written in August by reporter-turned-online editor Daniel Tedford.

Yesterday, I was getting a little nervous that I might miss some important development if I’m not paying attention, so I called both city halls for an update.

John Davidson, Irwindale city manager, wasn’t giving out any specifics, but he seemed to suggest that the cities aren’t getting any closer to cooperating. His suggestion to me was to keep an eye on Irwindale’s close session agendas.

James Makshanoff, Azusa city manager, didn’t have much to report, either. He also said Azusa and Duarte aren’t really getting anywhere in their dispute over the Vulcan rock mining proposal.

Neither James nor John were in charge of their respective cities when all this mess started. John was running South Pasadena. James was Azusa’s assistant city manager. I wonder how they feel about being thrust into this battle. It might make an interesting topic for a future article.

P.S. James, who is normally a pretty stoic character, actually seemed really excited that Azusa is going to swear in Capt. Sam Gonzalez as its new police chief on Tuesday.

“We’re ready to rock and roll!” he said. Unbridled enthusiasm? Almost …

Awww … San Dimas soldier skypes with his dog before heading to Afghanistan

This totally has nothing to do with city politics or officials in any way, but it was just so adorable, I couldn’t not post it here.

Azusa grandmother Alma Taylor called me today to ask if I’d be interested in seeing a video of her grandson, Justin McKettrick skyping with his dog. Was I interested? Definitely.

You see, McKettrick of San Dimas is getting deployed to Afghanistan soon. I think he’s in Virginia right now. Grandma said he wanted to see his faithful friend one last time before he left. I won’t describe it. I think the video speaks for itself.

Baldwin Park highlights accomplishments in 2011

Baldwin Park City Manager Vijay Singhal, referred to as the city’s CEO, on Wednesday laid out Baldwin Park’s accomplishments in the last year during his presentation of the city’s Year in Review report Wednesday night.

Among the achievements, he cited the city’s one homicide last year as the lowest in 32 years.

However, local businessman Greg Tuttle said the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“We have a gang problem. We have a lot of problems in this city. It’s not safe,” he said during public comment Wednesday night.

During his report, Singhal said no city is crime-free.

“It doesn’t mean we are crime free, but no city is,” he said.

Singhal also highlighted the city’s upgraded bond rating and success in enacting more strict policies on tobacco, which has earned the city a top rating from the American Lung Association.