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Mar Vista Activists Urge City to Replace Lawn with Natives

The city is inviting public input on options to replace the lawn, trampled by Occupy LA.

Ever since the city cleared Occupy LA protestors from the South City Hall lawn, environmental advocates have been concerned about what would replace the ruined turf. The Mar Vista Community Council, led by Green Committee environmental advocates, Sherri Akers, Melissa Stoller and others have been working to apply citywide citizen pressure on the Department of Recreation and Parks to think more boldly about its plans for replacing the turf. It seems that pressure is beginning to pay off for the activists.

The MVCC passed a motion at its December meeting asking the city to install sustainable landscaping at the site to serve as model for Los Angeles. The Neighborhood Council called for drought-tolerant native plants that would require little water and no fertilizers or pesticides that pollute waterways. The motion also asked that the space maintain a design that allows for public gatherings.

Akers, MVCC Green Committee co-chair said that the city had been somewhat reluctant to accede to these requests. The Department of Recreation and Parks, said Akers, “just wanted to get things back to normal.” Akers and other activists were unwilling to accept a quick return to sod on the site. The mayor has said LA should be the greenest city in America,” said Akers. “We want to make this into an opportunity to show stakeholders that the sustainability initiatives we’re trying to embrace are cost effective and workable.”

Akers used contacts she has built with other neighborhood councils and environmental groups to help pressure the city to develop more sustainable plans for the lawn. Surfrider foundation, the National Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups sent letters on the issue. Other neighborhood councils jumped in as well.

Charles Miller, a Palms Neighborhood Council Director told Patch, “The City of Los Angeles needs to seize this opportunity to make responsible choices for a sustainable urban environment.” He added, “What seemed like the obvious landscaping choice in 1928 is no longer so obvious in 2012.”

In response to the outpouring of concern over this issue, the Department of Recreation and Parks brought three potential plans for re-landscaping to the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council last week. DLANC members alerted Akers and other activists to this presentation and they turned out a crowd of “over 100 people,” according to Akers.

The plans involve different levels of turf and natives, with option one having the most turf and option three, the least. The DLANC poll generated the most support for option two. Akers said that of the choices, she supports the third option with the least turf and most natives, but what she really wants is “option four,” a completely different plan with natives instead of sod for the lawn areas and more accurate information on the true costs of watering and maintenance that will go into each of the choices. Akers says the plans should include storm-water capture and runoff measures as well.

Bowing to public pressure for input, he city has now posted the three options online and is inviting public comment. You can see drawings of the three choices by clicking on the photos above right.

The plans will next be presented to the city’s Arts, Parks and Neighborhoods Committee, chaired by Council Member Paul Krekorian on Jan. 25.

  Said Akers, “we are achieving public dialogue” on this and “even if we’re not thrilled with the outcome, we will be much happier than we would have been” without the opportunity to help shape the process.

Melissa Stoller January 17, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Just one correction: the Arts, Parks and Neighborhoods Committee meeting is Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 3:00 p.m. in room 1050. Remember, we have an open meeting law. I encourage those who want landscaping that demonstrates Los Angeles' commitment to sustainability to attend. And please enter you comments on the Recreation and Parks website. Don't feel confined by the three boxes (Options 1, 2 and 3) they herd the comments into. We can open up this process. Use this opportunity to describe the option you want.
Brooke Wirtschafter January 17, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Thanks, Melissa. I have corrected the date above.
Sherri Akers January 20, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Very encouraging info from the Dept of Recreation and Parks that I would like to share - AB1881- RAP standards are currently more restrictive than AB-1881. All civic center buildings, including City Hall are already using high end ET Water smart controller. LID- Very fortunate that early designers were ahead of their time and surrounded all the planting and turf areas with raised concrete curbs. So storm water runoff is less of an issue. At some slope areas we will do infiltration basin or trenches. And, some new planting areas may be bio-retention areas. We are examining the fertilizer/pesticide issue. Although we know of no native grass that will hold up to the criteria necessary for the conditions that exist at City Hall, we have reached out to T. Payne, CNPS and Santa Ana Botanical for their proven references for natives that could be used. If none exists, we will use a low-water use turfgrass. We are currently starting to look closer at a planting plan and it will contain a very substantial percentage of regionally native plant materials.

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