Two Videos featuring Andy Lipkis

December 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Here are a couple of videos that creek freaks will enjoy; both feature Andy Lipkis the founder and soul of TreePeople. Above, Lipkis explains the Elmer Avenue green street. Below, Majora Carter‘s (who has lots of creek freak cred from her work on waterfront restoration on the Bronx River) new talk tells three environmental entrepeneurship tales, including Lipkis’ work to green L.A. schools.

Low Impact Development Passes L.A. City Council

December 18, 2010 § 1 Comment

The new LID ordinance will make permeable pavement sidewalks more common

At its final meeting of the year, yesterday, Friday December 17th 2010, the Los Angeles City Council passed “LID”  Low Impact Development. You can read some earlier background at Creek Freak and elsewhere, but basically it means that, in the city of Los Angeles, new development (and substantial redevelopment) will need will need to be more sustainable in regards to rainwater. Buildings, landscapes, parking lots, etc. will need to slow, detain and store and/or infiltrate water on-site, instead of speeding it into storm drains, creeks, rivers, and the sea.

This took a while. L.A. Creek Freak started reporting on the city of L.A. efforts in September 2009, attended a workshop in October 2009, and reported on the Public Works Board passing LID  in January 2010. Plenty more excellent coverage is available at Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold’s Spouting Off.

« Read the rest of this entry »

City’s Bid for L.I.D.

September 18, 2009 § 5 Comments

Andy Lipkis beginning the tour of LID features at TreePeople's headquarters.

Andy Lipkis beginning the tour of LID features at TreePeople's headquarters.

L.A. Creek Freak pedaled up the newly-repaired Coldwater Canyon Avenue to bring our readers the latest on the plan to bring LID to the city of Los Angeles. This blog entry tells about the city’s LID efforts, and in it, Creek Freak spends as much time on important digressions as I do on the specifics of LID!

LID stands for Low Impact Development. LID is basically an approach to solving multiple water issues by detaining and/or infiltrating rainwater. There’s a longer and slightly more technical explantion for LID at Wikipedia. LID is beneficial for increasing water quality, increasing water supply, and even preventing flooding and curbing global warming. It tends to include features like cisterns, rain barrels, bioswales, infiltration galleries, mulch, and the like. It’s stuff that our keen-eyed readers are already at least somewhat familiar with, though Creek Freak hasn’t called it LID that often.

(Digression #1 – Language: A couple of my minor semantic pet peeves here: I tend to slightly resent that the term LID has come to mean site sustainability only in regards to stormwater, when there are many other factors that might lessen a development’s negative environmental impact. These factors can range from transportation to energy to social space to building materials… even stream protection and minimizing water usage through greater efficiency or greywater. None of which is part of what is called LID – so what LID is covers a very important slice – but not the entirety of impacts. Also, “impact” can be positive or negative – so I what I really want is “high-impact” development that is highly restorative – like a shopping center that daylights and restores a creek in its midst! Nonetheless, what LID actually is is definitely a really good wonderful creeky-freaky thing. Let’s do LID and do all these other important environmental endeavors!)

On Tuesday morning, TreePeople, Green L.A. Coalition, and the Urban Land Institute hosted a discussion on LID. Presenters included TreePeople’s Andy Lipkis, green developer Greg Reitz of REthink Development, and Los Angeles City Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels. The meeting was hosted at TreePeople’s very cool muy-sustainable Center for Community Forestry, a proud example of LID in practice. Lipkis reviewed what LID is, and why it’s important. Reitz showed examples of what it can look like for multi-family developments.

Commissioner Daniels went into greatest detail about the current efforts to get LID adopted into law as a requirement for development, similar to what has already been done in Ventura County and in Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas. The idea for the city of L.A. is to expand what is known as the SUSMP – the Standard Urban Stormwater Mitigation Plan – pronounced “Sue-Sump.” SUSMP is one step that developers already have to do when they build in L.A. Depending on the size of the development, SUSMP requires various practices and features to prevent strormwater pollution, both during construction activities and once the development is complete. This results in those sandbags that we see around construction sites… and quite a few other things that are less apparent.

(Digression #2 – A Vague Critical History of L.A.’s SUSMP: I am not an expert on how SUSMP works in L.A., but it’s my impression, historically, that it has been… shall we say… wimpy. It was sort of the least we could do, without the regional water board getting angry at us. It didn’t apply unless the development was huge, and even so, it mostly pertained to best practices during construction, without much in the way of long-term watershed management. It seems like L.A.’s SUSMP was revised and got a little better around a half-dozen years ago… but it still seems like it isn’t resulting in very much in the way of environmentally effective rainwater features. If you’re interested in reading even more about SUSMP, here’s the city’s SUSMP page, and the county’s 150-page 2002 SUSMP manual.)

Under the proposed new LID rules, SUSMP will take a big step forward. There’s apparently a draft ordinance circulating. It is described as applying to all new development and significant redevelopment. It will require sites to capture and re-use and/or infiltrate all the runoff that would be generated by the 85th percentile storm, hence only in very large storms would runoff leave the site.

The new ordinance is supposed to go before the city’s Board of Public Works for approval soon, then in October to the L.A. City Council’s committee on Energy and Environment, and hopefully will be approved by the full council before the end of the year. 

L.A. City's 2009 LID Report

L.A. City's 2009 LID Report

(Digression #3 – Transparency: This is a really good proposal that really good people – true Creek Freak friends and allies – intend to have approved by the end of the year, but L.A. Creek Freak searched and searched couldn’t find more than a whiff of the planned ordinance online. On the city’s websites, LID appears in a couple places. There’s a LID city council motion 09-1554 that was introduced in June 2009, but hasn’t had any activity or supporting documents to date. There’s a LID page with LID links and even a good reports on what LID is – the informative 2009 Green Infrastructure for Los Angeles: Addressing Urban Runoff and Water Supply Through Low Impact DevelopmentBut there’s nothing I could find about the ordinance itself. I’d suggest that it would be a really good transparent-government-2.0-kinda-thing to get the draft ordinance up on-line somewhere… preferably somewhere the public can post comments… perhaps it could at least be posted at the city’s stormwater blog L.A. Team Effort? It’s the 21st century and there’s this great tool called the internet where the cost to post and notify is so negligible and the ability to build trust can be invaluable. Not revealing the draft ordinance can result in suspicion and skepticism. Publishing it can help facilitate a public dialog, build awareness, build support.)

After the meeting wound down, Andy Lipkis lead a tour of the rainwater features at the center site, including their huge cistern and their educational watershed garden. All very inspiring! I am looking forward to the new LID ordinance bringing more inspiring new rainwater projects into the mainstream of Los Angeles development.

New and Events – 14 September 2009

September 14, 2009 § 1 Comment

Lots going on that many L.A. Creek Freaks will be interested in.


>There’s a big buzz on many graf-art websites about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ use of federal stimulus funds to paint out the famous/infamous huge SABER graf-art mural on the west bank walls of the L.A. River downtown. I am not the biggest proponent of graffiti at the L.A. River (I think that some of it is great… but some of it I find kinda frustrating) but this whiting-out project seems pretty pointless to me. There are many greener projects that could have moved forward with those federal monies… which were supposed to create green jobs, no?

>TreePeople has a good-looking new website, including a new blog by their founder Andy Lipkis!

> The Water Wired blog is a great very readable resource for coverage of very fascinating water issues happening all over. Put it in your RSS Reader today! You might want to check out their recent coverage of Mexico City’s water issues from centuries of overpumping and on the New York Time’s coverage of nationwide neglect in enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act. The actual New York Times article by Charles Duhigg Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering is here. Duhigg was interviewed on Demoncracy Now earlier today.

>Mark Gold penned an editorial California’s water reform legislation is all wet that ran in the September 8th 2009 L.A. Times. Gold’s Spouting Off blog is also a great read.

Inglewood Gate - click for article and larger image (Photo: Bill Campbell)

Inglewood Gate - click for article and larger image (Photo: Bill Campbell)

>Bill Campbell at Metblogs shows off Ballona  Creek’s beautiful new Brett Goldstone gate at the bike path entry point at Inglewood Avenue. Bike over and check it out!

>The “eecue” site has posted even more great photos of the downtown Los Angeles L.A. River bridges.

>The L.A. City stormwater program’s blog “L.A. Team Effort” details the city’s plans to use $30M in Proposition O funding to upgrade city Santa Monica Bay stormdrain dry weather diversions. During dry months the city sends the trickle of urban runoff from many stormdrains into its sewage treatment plans. This prevents contaminated runoff from getting into rivers and oceans during the summer – when recreational usage is highest. 

>The Malibu Times reports that officials are investigating an unexplained recent fish die-off at Malibu Creek (via the On Water blog.) 

UPCOMING EVENTS – lots to choose from this Saturday!:

>The Ballona Institute is looking for volunteers at a Ballona Wetlands clean-up and restoration event this Saturday September 19th from 9am to 12noon. For information, send an email to massa30 [at] gmail [dot] com.

>The free Frogtown Art Walk takes place this Saturday September 19th from 4pm to 10pm.

>Lots of great creek, river and beach sites to choose from on Coastal Clean-Up Day this Saturday September 19th from 9am to 12noon at more than 70 locations in Southern California!

>Food and Water Watch hosts a talk by Bolivian water activist Marcela Olivera – Saturday September 19th at 4pm. Details here in our earlier post.

Stormwater Harvesting Roundup

November 11, 2008 § 1 Comment

Here are three recent items for folks interested in harvesting rainwater:

>>Today, UC Riverside researchers released a report entitled Capturing Urban Stormwater Runoff: A Decentralized Market-Based Alternative. It shows that decentralized stormwater interventions can be cheaper and more effective than centralized ones. Here’s their press release or download the full 16-page report (PDF) here. From the press release: the cost of building and maintaining these smaller, decentralized devices in urban areas could be 30 percent to 50 percent cheaper than constructing and operating large, centralized stormwater facilities. They also found that the value of the water that could be captured and used to recharge aquifers could amount to 38 percent of the cost of the smaller devices.

>>Via Boing Boing and my friend/neighbor/conspirator Federico: Take a look at this photo showing a beautiful artistic water harvesting system from Kunsthofpassage in Dresden, Germany!

View of Grassy Swale at Broadous School (from TreePeople's report)

View of Grassy Swale at Broadous School (from TreePeople Rainwater as a Resource report)

>>Last year, TreePeople released a report entitled Rainwater as a Resource: A Report on Three Sites Demonstrating Sustainable Stormwater Management. The report, available at TreePeople’s website, details three innovative green watershed management projects: Hall House, Broadous Elementary School, and Open Charter Magnet Elementary School. The report tells the stories behind these projects – site selection, design processes, costs, maintenance, quantification of various benefits from water quality to air quality to flood prevention, and more. The reports tell the stories warts and all! TreePeople has made some interesting mistakes learning opportunities… which should be expected when folks push boundaries with ambitious projects. The report presents plenty of lessons learned and important recommendations for similar projects in the future. Also included are some serious appendices with as-built plans, and details regarding maintenance and inspection.

From TreePeople’s Rainwater as Resource report:

Challenge: In the absence of a written maintenance agreement for the Broadous project, partners whose contractual obligations ended when construction did nevertheless found themselves working without compensation in an effort to maintain the viability of the project. The lack of a comprehensive and easy-to-use operations manual, inadequate communication among the partners and turnover among the district’s operations and maintenance staff exacerbated the problem.
Lesson: It is difficult to get anyone to accept liability as complicated issues arise. Construction and other
liabilities (such as issues of contaminated soils disposal, underground utilities, and construction fencing to ensure student safety) nevertheless have to be adopted. It is advisable to budget extra time, care and resources toward these challenges, and to plan quarterly meetings between representatives from all involved parties for the first year after construction. Written maintenance contracts and clear instructions should be developed and agreed upon before the project is completed.
Despite the intensive resource demands of the planning and implementation phase, the project does not end once construction is complete. The project will only fulfill its purpose if there is sustained interest and a plan for continuity.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with TreePeople at L.A. Creek Freak.