Saturday, August 30, 2008

Economy: Same Price Smaller Package

Large food corporations are now "passing it on to the consumer" either by making things more expensive or offering less for the same amount of money.

Unfortunately the rich CEO's of these companies see no reason to take pay-cuts from their top executives ever increasing salaries. Instead, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.

Well, it's just something that will never change. We'll never hear the media say "pass the rising cost on to the over-paid top executives."

In a free society it's impossible to enforce. Trust me I love freedom, I just wish we still had more of it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lawn Alternatives: Drought Region Tolerant Lawns (no astroturf)

Rennell Sound
Originally uploaded by Tim Ennis
In the coming weeks I hope to begin an experiment with grasses and sedges.

Lawns, Turf, grass, whatever you want to call it, I have found to be a necessity in a yard. I live on an acre of land but I have no lawn. When I had a lawn I spent much more time outside. But, being kind to the environment is important so I refuse to have a lawn of the typical water guzzling lawns st. augustine, bermuda, or any other common lawns.

Instead of watering everyday or every other day I hope to be watering ONCE A WEEK with the following lawns of

Carex Texensis: "Texas Sedge" Not a grass but a sedge (which superficially resemble grasses) This plant is actually Naturalized in California. It's not native, it's not invasive but it does well here.

Buchloe dactyloides: "Buffalo Grass" is an official grass and it is native to Texas, New Mexico, Northern Mexico, and Eastern Arizona. It seems like this would do well in regions with low water.

Zoysia Tenuifolia: "Korean Grass" is VERY beautiful when unmowed but not as practical as such. This grass is a little more common than the previous two but it is not commonly kept short or mowed. It is said to be drought tolerant, but we'll see how much so. (native obviously to Korea)

Because Astroturf contributes to the Urban Heat Island effect (a professor of mine measure the temperature of synthetic turf on a 55 F degree day and it read at 110F) I will not be using that stuff.

I plan to log the cost of each plant, the frequency of trimming, the rate of spreading and the water usage and compare it to a typical lawn. Who knows how long it will take and whether they'll like the area I plant them in. Which reminds me. I would like to plant them in front of the Commons at the Center for Regenerative Studies (where I work and go to school). There is an unused plot because we cannot grow food products there due to contamination. It would be perfect and because the plot is unused is why I came up with the idea. All i have to do is ask my boss. Let's hope Juan says yes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Water: it needs fixing

San Bernardino just finished tunneling through 44 miles in order to create a new pipeline for IMPORTING water from northern California. Why? Why? does Southern California continue to do this?

There are other Options.

Orange County replenishes their own water table by recycling 80% of their water. Humboldt County has one of the largest treatment wetlands in the country.

The Inland Empire Utilities Agency in Chino has an educational treatment wetlands park.

And I'm sure there's more.

Our water can be reused over and over again. Considering our Southern California's constant water situation, importing more water does not NEED to be done nor does it make SENSE.

Treatment wetlands are a perfectly good way of naturally cleaning our water. It precipitates pollutants and remediates phosphorous and nitrogen.

Research and technology on recycling water is growing and becoming more and more efficient. In fact a LOT more efficient than importing water. Dr. Stephen Lyon is one of the most accomplished Wetland Treatment scientists and he's a LOCAL!

Can we push the people in charge to do the right thing? Make them stop importing water and make them RECYCLE it.

In the mean time we gotta do our own part.

One could set up their home to irrigate with gray water. Water from sinks, showers, washers and dishwashers.

Change irrigation habits. Instead of planting conventional lawns and turf. plant something else! Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) uses less water and so does Carex Pansa and Carex Texensis. all of which are perfectly good lawns that are either native or naturalized. Plant trees that use less water. There are such things as drought tolerant plants.

Change home habits. Use less water, we all know how. Low flow toilets with different amounts of water use for #1 or #2. fix leaks. make your showers quick.

come on.... importing more water? draining another river dry?

There are solutions.... why aren't we using them?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The City of Los Angeles IS Walkable: don't get me wrong here

Long Beach, CA City Hall
Originally uploaded by vjl
Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying LA CITY is not walkable but most of the rest of the county which is quite vast and heavily populated is. So to make up for the confusion I'll list some walkable areas in Los Angeles County and Southern California. I was indeed expressing frustration mainly over Orange County

Though when I mentioned Los Angeles and the streets Melrose, Sunset, Hollywood, and sometimes Rodeo. I mentioned them to note their walkability and how the design of the streets promote such. ranks Long Beach and Los Angeles as 8th and 9th most walkable cities in the country, respectively. But beyond Long Beach and Los Angeles cities there are others That I have also lived in, nearby, or frequented often enough to know firsthand. I'll Italicize places I've lived in or nearby

In LA County:
Long Beach,
Los Angeles, I still think K-town isn't quite reasonable yet thuogh.
Century City,

In Orange County:
Laguna Beach,
Newport Beach,
in recent years Huntington Beach.
Santa Ana,

In San Diego County:
well... San Diego.

If you know of any others in Southern California feel free to mention them.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Landscape Architecture, Planning and Architecture; sidewalks, curbs, streets and parking.

Oscar's, Couture
Originally uploaded by With Any Luck

Originally uploaded by franklinavenue2008

Which sidewalk would you rather walk on?
Everytime I drive by a new development I think to myself "why?" Why are they building it like that? Oh, and especially when they are advertising an "urban" lifestyle. Why do they constantly screw it up? Let's think about our cities for a while. Let's discuss first our streets.
What makes someone want to walk on the sidewalk? Accessibility.

Let's perform an autopsy on un-walkable city streets.
1.Streets that are 2-4 lanes going each way. That makes 8 lanes to cross (I've seen 10 in Irvine, CA! Main&MacArthur
2a. No parking curbside.
2b. Sidewalk. sometimes with some trees as a buffer to the street
3. A buffer typically of turf or some shrubs probably rhaphiolepis
4. A parking lot
5. and THEN the building

Now let's dissect a walkable city street

1. Usually 2 lanes going each way making a 4 lane street
2. Parking on the street which creates a buffer between the pedestrians and traffic.
3. Sidewalk again sometimes with trees.
4. Building

Now think about it. Do you want to cross 6-10 lanes? 100 ft? or 4 lanes 40 ft?
When you walk on the sidewalk, would you rather walk along moving cars or parked cars?
Do you want to walk across a parking lot to get to a building or do you want the building's entrance to be a few steps away?
By putting the building entrance along the sidewalk you are forcing people to walk along the sidewalk. Putting the building in the right spot but moving the entrance around does NOT help. Why would I even want to use the sidewalk if the entrance isn't there?
Wouldn't a street front store increase business? There would be heavy foot traffic causing more exposure as opposed to cars whizzing by your store on the other side of the parking lot.
Removing parking lots is a GOOD idea. Increasing street parking is a GOOD idea, and having fewer lanes is a GOOD idea.

Final food for thought, Think of the most famous streets in Los Angeles County, one of the least walkable metropolitan areas in the country.(remember that song "Nobody walks in LA"?)
Melrose, Sunset, Hollywood, and sometimes Rodeo, Think about it, now go there. You'll see what I'm talking about.
edit* (those streets I mentioned are very walkable hence the mentioning of such, they did it right in those areas)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DO Talk to Strangers

This past weekend my Girlfriend and I went to a bonfire. we arrived before the sun went down and there were only 3 or 4 others that we were meeting.
A stranger approached us and asked if we would be sharing our fire pit with them. There seemed to be some apprehension by the person he was talking to but she eventually agreed to share the pit with his group.
Well as it turns out. These people were a lot of fun and we all got along. there were about Seven of us and at least 10 of them. We shared our food and drink with each other and we shared our conversations and jokes. It ended up making the night so much more fun. When I party I party harder than the people we met up with. But the other group partied like I do. We mingled and by the end of the night you never would have thought we were all strangers. My GF and I left a little early because we had a long commute and the parking lot had one exit. But the others that stayed ended up going to The Stranger's house to finish up his birthday party (his name was Jay and the person that approached us was named Niner *sp).

Two days later. I spoke to more strangers. On Monday I saw some graffiti artists in Pomona doing some interesting work on Holt near Hamilton. I asked if I could see their work close up and they allowed me to. I began speaking with a fellow named "Redoe" and someone named "worm" we began talking about art and school and it was a fulfilling conversation, They were very friendly and had some insight about what they considered art, "Redo" handed me a flyer to a party in a couple of weeks and we decided to meet and share some artwork, It'll be interesting to compare some traditional art to some urban art.

Moral of the story? Talk to strangers. You could make some new friends. I made a few this just this past week. when I could have easily and just like everyone else ignored them.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Landscape Architecture needs fixing. (Amenities)

Originally uploaded by aurastra
Park benches. Trellises. gazebos. hand rails. These are all things that are wrong with Landscape Architecture.

Why does this profession continue to order benches out of catalogs? who actually believes that they look good? Do designers really want the stamp of another company on all of their designs, the same stamp that is on hundreds if not thousands of other designers landscapes?

We are taught to design, why is it so hard to design a simple park bench that has a designers stamp? I visited an award winning dog park in the fall of 2007. It was recently featured in Landscape Architecture Magazine. When I saw the park the first thing that stuck out was the shade structure. The cataloged gazebo. It looked exactly like every other parks shade structure. nothing unique about it. some pillars and a blue metal roof.

If the park could win awards for its uniqueness why couldn't the designers design a shade structure instead of ordering it from a catalog? Are Landscape Architects lazy? A common response is "budget" let's face it, "budget" is a POOR excuse for a lack of creativity and creativity INCLUDES finding solutions on a low budget. not just ordering it from a catalog. I've SEEN these catalogs and I KNOW the costs. I also know how to build them and I know that with some creative thinking it can be done CHEAPER than what can be ordered in a catalog.

It's frustrating to see the laziness of designers in the profession I am going into.

I vow to not order amenities from a catalog. I hope others take this same vow and really push our profession to the respect it should deserve.