This hot and sunny weekend is a good time to think about how we can we make our residential landscape more sustainable and more resilient.
This past week, the GWNC Sustainability Committee presented a similar question to Mike Meador of California Greenworks, a non-profit organization greening neighborhoods all over the city but concentrating on those with minimal urban forest. The Committee asked Meador to focus on what could be done to improve our residential parkways, the green space between the sidewalk and the street, which is both public and private. The parkway is public because it’s home to our neighborhood street trees, (hopefully) and a key part of the streetscape, with city utilities lying underneath. But it’s also privately maintained by each homeowner.
Sustainability Committee Chair Julie Stromberg said her committee hopes to educate and inspire residents to take action and participate in what she loosely described as a “parkway challenge pilot project,” that could involve providing funds or additional resources to assist resident in re-designing parkways.
Meador and John Kaliski, of John Kaliski Architects and also a Windsor Village resident and board chair of California Greenworks, were excited by the challenge the Sustainability Committee presented. They told the group at Tuesday evening’s meeting that residential parkways represent a great opportunity to engage homeowners in creating a more sustainable city. It’s an opportunity to stitch the city together one parkway at a time, said Meador.
“A huge portion of the land mass in Los Angeles is single family homes,” said Kaliski, “The City is committed to maintaining single family neighborhoods, so the parkway is an opportunity to build on the sustainability measures already in practice in the way people deal with their backyards and other residential landscape.”
Kaliski noted that since we are fortunate to live in the most forested areas in Los Angeles, where the tree canopy covers between 40 and 60 precent of the land (versus 17% the average for the city as a whole, and dipping as low 7% in the Watts neighborhood), he feels an obligation to help the GWNC provide leadership to other neighborhoods that desperately need urban landscaping to reduce the heat and improve the quality of life of all residents.
Kaliski said there is much work to be done to repair the environment from harmful landscape practices like the the quick evacuation of water into storm drains or the use of pesticides, etc. But there are also design considerations. Many American cities’ landscape vision is based on the 19th century work of Frederick Law Olmstead, who espoused a pastoral style, rich in green, lush turf. Kaliski asked how we can move away from this vision toward something that is more suitable for our climate and more sustainable for the long term health of the environment. Kaliski asked what defines beauty in the 21st century and what a unified landscape looks like…and suggested that having that conversation among neighbors at the Neighborhood Council was entirely appropriate.
Residents who live in Historic Preservation Overlay Zones have basic guidelines to work within, but still more direction could provided to residents to encourage the capture of water, reduce energy use and save water, said Kaliski.
Kaliski and Meador gave the first draft a presentation they hoped could be shared broadly with neighborhood councils throughout the City to create awareness of the role of parkways, inspire residents to transform their parkways, learn best practices of landscape sustainability and maintenance, and learn about available resources to help residents transform this space. Ultimately, they hope to create a complete presentation that can serve as a step-by-step guide that neighborhood councils can share broadly.
La Brea-Hancock resident and Sustainability Committee member Bill Funderburk, who also serves as Vice President of DWP Board of Commissioners, spoke about the DWP’s desire to support efforts to create model programs like the concept being developed by the Sustainability Committee, adding that it is part of the utility’s regulatory mandate to invest in the City’s urban tree canopy, which earns green house gas credits for the utility. He also said the DWP is investing the rate payers’ money in cool roofs, urban landscaping and other efforts.
To inspire and education residents, the Sustainability Committee also announced its first ever self-guided garden tour, planned for Sunday, June 26 from 10 am – 2 pm, featuring more than 20 local gardens and some public spaces, like the medians at Ridgewood and Wilton. The tour will start Harold Henry Park in Windsor Village, which was recently renovated with more sustainable landscaping practices.
For more information, contact sustainability@