March 19, 2014 § 1 Comment
I am blogging full-time over at Streetsblog L.A., so not posting much here at L.A. Creek Freak (excuses, excuses), but I thought Creek Freaks might like this article I wrote. The city of San Fernando is moving ahead on its 1.6-mile greenway along the Pacoima Wash.
Earlier Creek Freak articles about this include this intro to Pacoima Beautiful’s efforts, and this exploration of San Fernando’s 8th Street Park, which is due to open in the next couple months.
March 15, 2014 § 6 Comments
A couple weeks back, I attended the 2014 GeoDesign Summit at ESRI, in Redlands. I was incredibly inspired by examples of how GIS has been used by people in different fields from all over the country and all over the world to aid in analysis of a wide range of issues. Presentation topics ranged from urban economic development, to vegetation patterns that maximize passage of wildlife, to the layout of services in Latin American favelas.
One of the most memorable talks was the keynote address by Kong Jian Yu, founder of Turenscape.
Yu is a rock star of Landscape Architecture. Most of his firm’s work is in China. My favorite are the wetland landscapes that merge urban form with ecological esthetics. These landscapes have strong visual and experiential component but also are designed to maximize ecosystem services. Central to the provision of ecosystem services in a country where 75% of surface water is polluted, is the cleaning ability of wetlands. Other ecosystem services provided by wetlands include flood control, habitat, photosynthetic output, carbon sequestration, sediment retention and cultural and recreational value. Wetlands are only one component of “ecological infrastructure,” an infrastructure that promises to minimize management intervention while providing this wide range of benefits. Where natural wetlands have been removed, restored or constructed wetlands can still provide some of these services. This is in contrast to built infrastructure projects of the last century, typified by encasing rivers in concrete channels, which are designed to maximize one single thing: transporting stormwater quickly to the ocean.
In China, Yu advocates that ecological security is a matter of national security. Landscape planning is a matter of national defense. Ecological infrastructure must be invested in, developed and maintained.
Over thousands of years, China has struggled with devastation caused by flooding. Like in southern California, China’s flooding issues have been related to population growth, devegetation, and pressure to develop the landscape in a way that compromises its ability to provide flood control.
In his doctoral dissertation work at Harvard, Yu used GIS mapping and analysis to show that despite the country’s recurrent struggles with flooding, that flooding actually only affects 2.2% of China’s surface area. If flooding only takes up 2.2% of the land, then is it possible to simply “make friends with floods” and accept the fact of flooding? One could simply reserve these zones for flooding, develop elsewhere, and not have to worry about flood damage anymore.
Yu made it sound so simple. Though comments from the audience acknowledged the perils of the top-down style of planning that occurs in China, I was still inspired by Yu’s ideal of how ecological infrastructure can integrate science-based approaches to land management with a new esthetic that embodies ecological values.
What would an ecological esthetic look like in Southern California? Our plants and seasonal cycles are charismatic– but in a subtle way. Our esthetic might be about how shades of rust and silver transform into various shades of green after the winter rains. Or how every rainy season tells a different story, and how that story is told through the composition of wildflowers we see in the spring as well as in the way water chooses its own path through the alluvial plains. How can southern California make friends with floods?
February 28, 2014 § 3 Comments
I just posted an article at L.A. Streetsblog that wouldn’t be out of place at L.A. Creek Freak.
It’s the first part of a series where I’ll be exploring the connections between streets and creeks. I’ll be highlighting various green street projects, this article shows off the recently opened Woodman Avenue Multi-Beneficial Stormwater Capture Project – a collaboration of The River Project and the City of Los Angeles.
January 29, 2014 § 7 Comments
Apologies to all our readers for putting up with very very little in the way of near material here at L.A. Creek Freak. Life circumstances took both Jessica and I out of L.A. a couple years ago. We love L.A. and her creeks and streams, but it’s difficult to keep in touch with them from afar.
I am happy to announce that I am on my way back. I’ll be returning to L.A., with my sweet wife and my 6-month old daughter, and, as of mid-February, writing full-time for L.A. Streetsblog. Streetsblog focuses on walking, bicycling, and transit issues in Southern California. When Jessica Hall and I were first starting L.A. Creek Freak, back in 2008, we discussed wanting LACF to do for water issues what LASB does for transportation issues.
I am looking forward to including a fair amount of L.A. River coverage in my Streetsblog writing. Creekfreaks may want to check out my Streetsblog article yesterday musing on how city park and transportation departments might work together better to extend L.A.’s greenway facilities including the L.A. River bike path. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 18, 2014 § 3 Comments
Recently, I was lucky enough to visit the Cape region of South Africa, a mecca for plant nerds, and during my last couple hours in Capetown, I had the pleasure of visiting the studio of artist/designer, Porky Hefer, maker of suspended tree pods inspired by the nests of local weaver birds.
His studio is in part of a former farm compound in Oranjezicht, a neighborhood on the side of Table Mountain, within walking distance of downtown Capetown. Table Mountain is to Capetown what the Empire State Building is to New York City. It towers above the city with its top often bathed in a cloud. The changing appearance of mountain, light and rolling clouds provides a show I found endlessly inspiring. The mountain itself is even more awe-inspiring in that it is a world renowned center of biodiversity right in the middle of a very cosmopolitan city.
I was charmed by a modest water feature next to the discrete entrance gate to Porky Hefer’s studio. The fountain was labeled with a sign that said ‘Grondwater word hier gebruik.’ Though not running, the fountain was built to feed into a brick-lined rill, and as I walked through the studio compound, I noticed the rill appearing mysteriously in other areas of the compound.
When Porky returned from his appointment, he filled me in on the whole narrative of this water. From the first water fountain, water flows into the rill that I first saw. Then it rounds a corner, runs under a door, through a corridor, and into a brick-lined watering hole from which horses once drank. After offering the animals a drink, it runs down a couple stairs, and fills a small courtyard pool, whose reflective surface picks up the movement of the wind. After this thoughtful pause, it flows through another corridor and under a wall to connected properties, where I supposed there were gardens or orchards to be watered.
I loved the sequential integration of direct streamflow into the daily activity of a farm-turned-studio.
It ends up that springs that flowed from Table Mountain inspired Khoi people to call this area ‘Camissa,’ the ‘place of sweet waters’ (where sweet means drinkable). These springs are the reason Capetown developed here. Oranjezicht springs were among the first sources of water for Capetown. Though most of the springs were eventually routed underground, Table Mountain still supplies 5% of the city’s water. The water of Table Mountain is the source of drinking water at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, where it is treated with nothing more than ozone.
Reclaim Camissa is an initiative founded by Caron Von Zeil to bring to light and celebrate the Camissa water system. Its poetically named pilot project, Field of Springs, embodies the potential of urban waters to seamlessly bridge utilitarian, ecological, and cultural life. This project was included in Capetown’s successful bid to become World Design Capital for 2014. With Capetown in the design community’s eye, it will be wonderful if this initiative can be brought closer to implementation and inspire visionaries in other cities.
January 2, 2014 § 14 Comments
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been dialoguing via email with a fellow creekfreak about the location of Arroyo San Pascual, which was/is in the Pasadena/San Marino/Alhambra area. I thought I’d post the maps that explain this location so that everyone can enjoy the info. For those wishing to cut to the chase – Arroyo San Pascual is the westernmost of the creeks, joining with Mill Creek to create Mission Creek (aka, I believe, Alhambra Wash) further downstream. To the east are smaller creeks, including one that once fed the pond (Kewen Lake) that has since been filled for, um, lawn, at Lacy Park in San Marino. Jane Tsong covered the topic of the arroyos and fascinating geology of this area in depth (here 1, 2) – so I’m going to stick to the maps.
To the left, a federal survey from 1870 which actually gave us some creek names. (when I have a moment I’ll scan and post the entire survey so you can see the rest) To the right, a screen shot of the creek layer I created several years back in GIS, which when imported as kmz files in GoogleEarth has a standing flaw of being offset slightly. The discerning eye can see echoes of the historical streams in the treelines, shadows of terrain, (in)convenient siting of ball fields… correlation of course not being causation. The arrows are meant to call that out for you, imagine those blue lines shifted slightly to the left. Happy creekfreaking, if you get inspired to tour to the topography, let us know what you find out!
November 5, 2013 § 3 Comments
As many local creek freaks know, today marks 100 years since William Mulholland presided over the dedication ceremony for the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct at the Sylmar Cascades where he famously proclaimed “There it is Mr. Mayor. Take it.” The City of Los Angeles and local organizations have planned a number of events to mark the occasion. A handful of them are listed below. Also below is a list of informative and/or beautiful sites dedicated to the history and significance of our relationship with the Owens Valley. As always, feel free to add anything in the comments. Thanks and enjoy!
There It Is – Take It! (a fantastic audio tour of the Owens Valley)
The Construction of the L.A. Aqueduct (some great old photos)
Today, 12:00pm: Commemorative Reenactment at the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades
The reenactment event at the Cascades is open to the media and invited guests only due to space limitations. A public celebration will be held at LADWP headquarters downtown, where a live simulcast of the Cascades event will be shown on monitors located around the perimeter of the building. Attendees can view the lobby exhibit dedicated to Water and Power history, centered on the L.A. Aqueduct, and enjoy refreshments and celebratory Centennial cake. The reenactment can also be seen live on Channel 35 or online at LAaqueduct100.com.
Today, 5:30pm: Opening of Just Add Water
The Natural History Museum presents large-scale watercolor works by Los Angeles artist Rob Reynolds, inspired by the L.A. Aqueduct that brought water to a thirsty region.
Today & Tomorrow, 9:30am – 5:00pm: Free Days at the Natural History Museum
Free admission on both days. Every visitor will receive a bottle of water commemorating the opening of the L.A. Aqueduct and have the chance to be a part of the next 100 years by signing a register destined for a new time museum time capsule.
Tomorrow through December 6th, Aqueduct Futures Project
Created in collaboration with 130 Cal Poly Pomona students who designed landscape strategies to enhance the resilience and adaptability of Los Angeles’ aging water infrastructure. Aqueduct Futures Project establishes a road map to resolve the conflict between the City and the Owens Valley. On display at the Bridge Gallery located at Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Downtown L.A. Closing reception to be held on December 3rd from 9:00am to 11:00am.
Tomorrow, 5:30pm: Time Capsule Creation at the Natural History Museum
To be held on the steps of the NHM 1913 Building. Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the L.A. Aqueduct and NHM, with remarks by civic leaders, a ceremonial lighting of the Expositon Park Fountain, and a display of materials that will be placed in a time capsule that will be opened in 2113.