April 4, 2013
For some, spring is a chance to plant a few tomatoes. For Florence Nishida, it’s an opportunity to re-landscape the face of Greater L.A.
This month, for example, the 75-year-old master gardener will be checking in on some of the 20 or so South Los Angeles yards she helped turn into vegetable gardens. She’ll be sizing up a front lawn and a parkway for makeovers by Los Angeles Green Grounds, the urban gardening group she co-founded.
She’ll be monitoring the community garden she recently did in Koreatown for the new First 5 initiative, Little Green Fingers, and following up with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps on the raised beds she devised for outside their East L.A. office. Then there’s the LA Green Grounds table to set up and man for Earth Day at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, not to mention the regular Sunday gardening workshops she conducts at the museum.
And this is the former schoolteacher’s idea of retirement.
“From years and years ago, it has been my goal,” explains Nishida, “to have a vegetable garden and a fruit tree on every block in L.A.”
Nishida isn’t the only urban gardener on a mission these days in Los Angeles County, but lately, she has been among the more productive ones. Since 2010, when she persuaded the Natural History Museum to let her install a small teaching garden on its Exposition Park campus as part of an inner-city community project, her green thumb has been in many, if not most, of the urban gardening projects that have sprouted across the city like backyard zucchini.
One of her first students, artist Ron Finley, has won international acclaim with a pair of TED talks on urban gardening. Her former teaching assistant, the museum’s public programs manager Vanessa Vobis, is among at least five protégés who have gone on to become fellow master gardeners. Green Grounds, which she co-founded with Finley and Vobis, has literally broken new ground in South L.A., where the group has worked one yard at a time, installing gardens at volunteer “dig-ins” to help under-served neighborhoods grow their own organic produce.
Nishida herself has been called in increasingly to consult on community gardening projects throughout the county. Meanwhile, her edible garden at the Natural History Museum has drawn some 150 students just to the beginner’s workshop; this year, her class will expand to the new Erika J. Glazer Family Edible Garden, a showplace of fruit trees and seasonal plantings that will open officially in June with the rest of the museum’s new Nature Gardens.
“The museum was ground zero,” Nishida says now. “It all started from that class.”
Nishida hasn’t always seen gardening as a road to anyone’s revolution. A native Angeleno, she says, home gardens were a fact of life for her Japanese-American relatives throughout Southern California and in the Exposition Park neighborhood where she grew up.
“After World War II, my grandparents resettled in West L.A. near Sawtelle and grew vegetables in their front yard, as did a lot of people,” she remembers. But as time passed and L.A.’s economy shifted, fast food joints, un-walkable streets and dense apartments crowded out the kitchen gardens and mom-and-pop produce stands, gradually eroding the city’s health and turning organic produce into an upper-middle-class status symbol.
As Nishida moved to Topanga, worked and raised her four children, she says, she always held a notion that her old, blighted neighborhood might be restored if someone could bring back the green space. Eventually—after 20 years as an English teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, another 20 as a bureau manager and research librarian at People magazine’s West Coast Bureau and a graduate degree in botany that resulted in a sideline as a mushroom expert at the Natural History Museum—she decided to revisit her old theory.
“I had seen a little article in the Los Angeles Times about the master gardening program at the UC Cooperative Extension,” she remembers. “It was a tiny little article, but for whatever reason, I just saved it.” When she retired in 2008, she says, she took the classes, which require, among other things, that graduates go on to lead community gardening projects in under-served parts of their cities; one of her early projects was a home garden that later served as a model for Green Grounds. Another was a plan to bring gardening knowledge to Exposition Park by launching a class at the museum.
That idea—which dovetailed with the museum’s centennial plans to re-landscape its North Campus into a “living laboratory”—led to her meeting with Finley, an experienced gardener in his own right who had signed up for her class after he had noticed another master gardener’s project near Dorsey High School. Soon Nishida was asking Finley for advice on how to bring more neighborhood people into her museum classes.
“I told her, ‘They’re not gonna come to your classes—they got Burger King, they got Kentucky Fried Chicken’,” recalls Finley. “We gotta take it to them.” That, he says, was the start of Green Grounds, which effectively installs free gardens in people’s front yards in the style of an old-fashioned barn raising, and which has taken off since Finley’s second TED talk in February.
“We got people driving in from Ventura,” he marvels. “I’m like, damn! Is it that boring in Ventura? I mean, we had over 300 people sign up at our last dig-in, and all we needed was 15.”
Nishida says Green Grounds has been an education, not only in the art of managing volunteerism but on the laws of nature in L.A. Their first garden flourished for three months, only to be destroyed by the homeowner’s German shepherd. Another garden fed a family for nearly half a year before they were evicted. A third fell prey to a local gang she’d never heard of—gophers. Finley famously fought with the City of L.A. over the parkway he wanted to replant outside his house.
Nonetheless, Nishida says, 13 of the Green Grounds gardens are still blooming, with more in the pipeline; recently the group set up a fiscal sponsorship with the L.A. Community Garden Council to handle the influx of donations since Finley’s TED talks. And those gardens have, in turn, been change agents: Neighbors have gotten to know each other over samples of fresh produce, she says, and exercise groups have sprung up among dig-in volunteers and recipients of gardens.
In fact, she says, her only disappointments have been that the movement hasn’t spread faster, and that her commitments have left her so little time to tend to her own yard.
“Oh, it’s awful,” she confesses, laughing. “My vegetable beds are overrun with weeds.”
May 16, 2012
The “Bug Chef Cook-Off” debuted at last year’s fair, and it’s back again in 2012 by popular demand. Three of the top entomophagists (bug chefs) from across the country are ready to go antenna to antenna with their best bug dishes.
They’re part of a burgeoning bug cuisine movement that’s grabbed the attention of publications including Time and The New Yorker, which have chronicled the efforts of those seeking to make insects palatable as human food for a variety of environmental, ethical and economic reasons.
One of the movement’s stars, David George Gordon, won last year’s cook-off at the museum with tempura-battered tarantula and teriyaki grasshoppers on rice noodles. Gordon, 62, an ardent bug consumption advocate, said hosting the cook-off is a very progressive move by the museum.
“In the United States and Europe it is an uphill struggle,” said Gordon. “Europeans have a bad attitude about bugs. But meat is basically muscle, whether from a tarantula or a cow. Tarantula has a similar texture to crab.”
Gordon, a science writer in the process of updating his Eat a Bug Cookbook, said a trip to Switzerland inspired him to add fondue to this year’s menu (think decadent, chocolate-dipped locusts).
Daniella Martin, the brains behind the Girl Meets Bug blog, is on her own mission to bring critter cuisine to the public. Her YouTube videos offer step-by-step instructions on how to cook and eat things like wax worm tacos and fried scorpion.
The third contestant is David Gracer, 47, of Rhode Island. He is the founder of Small Stock Foods, a company that arranges educational programs, bug tastings, bug catering and bug food sales. He has appeared on “The Colbert Report” and the “Tyra Banks Show” to promote human consumption of bugs. According to Gracer, the reasons to eat insects are both environmental and culinary.
“It’s a good way of dealing with overpopulation by conserving our water and food resources,” said Gracer. “On the other hand, there is also the adventure and fun of eating something new. When you eat insects you are eating closer to nature.”
Gracer’s dishes will feature wax worms, Ugandan katydids (“surprisingly rich, they taste a lot like crispy French fries”) and a surprise ingredient—maybe giant ants, he said.
In addition to competition dishes, the chefs plan on providing courageous attendees with free samples, like Gordon’s famous Chirpy Chex Party Mix. (The “chirpy” part, as you may have guessed, is roasted crickets.)
The Bug Fair, which bills itself as the biggest bug festival in North America, will provide plenty of other entertainment, too—entertainment that doesn’t involve eating or watching other people eat bugs.
The theme for Bug Fair 2012 is the “Year of the Fly,” and if that conjures thoughts of biting horseflies or pesky gnats, museum curator of entomology Dr. Brian Brown wants a chance to change your perspective.
“A few bad apples like mosquitoes that have ruined our thinking about flies,” said Brown. “Most are neutral or beneficial to humans.”
For example, Brown will be presenting “flower flies,” which look a lot like wasps or bees. Brown said flower flies are important pollinators that also feast on aphids— the small, plant-devouring pests that are the bane of gardeners everywhere. Brown also said the flies are a popular subject for amateur naturalists who have moved beyond the most popular species like birds and butterflies.
Other attractions at the event include bug pinning demonstrations, bug-sniffing dogs, specimen handling opportunities and “Supersized Insect Walkabouts”—costumed performances that include a giant monarch butterfly on stilts. The museum and its insect exhibits will also be on display, along with a related special exhibition of jewel-encrusted butterfly brooches in the Gem and Mineral Hall.
The Bug Fair runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, and Sunday, May 20. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and students, $8 for youth ages 13 to 17 and $5 for children ages 5 to 12. Kids under 5 are free. Parking is $8 or $10 in adjacent lots, but attendees may opt to try Metro’s new Expo Line, which has two stops just a short walk from the museum.
April 27, 2012
The answer lies in an innovative new Los Angeles County program that will not only upgrade more than 25,000 lights in county buildings, but also preserve the jobs of nearly a dozen county employees while generating an ongoing source of money for energy efficiency.
The initiative—a revolving fund that will pay in perpetuity for energy retrofitting in county buildings—is the fruit of a $5 million state grant underwritten by federal stimulus money and accepted this month by the Board of Supervisors.
“We’ve been trying for years to set up something like this,” says Tom Tindall, director of the county’s Internal Services Department. He says that, while the county has undertaken hundreds of energy efficiency projects, most have been essentially one-offs, paid for with California Public Utilities Commission grants, departmental savings, specified grants or other one-time revenue sources.
“This will let us do energy projects essentially forever by setting up a fund that will replenish itself,” Tindall says.
For all its conservation, Los Angeles County remains one of California’s most prolific energy consumers.
“Put it this way: We’re Southern California Edison’s biggest customer,” says Howard Choy, general manager of ISD’s Office of Sustainability.
Choy says the county spends well over $150 million a year to power the multitude of office buildings, hospitals, jails and other facilities that make up its vast holdings. The bill for electricity at the Sheriff’s Department alone is about $20 million a year, he says.
Consequently, even a small improvement in efficiency can yield big savings, which is why Tindall, Choy and others were eager to create an ongoing pool of money for projects that would help lower the county’s utility bills.
Despite the county’s financial straits, the Chief Executive Office had planned to earmark $2.2 million in seed money for the idea out of the general fund for the next fiscal year. Then, this month, the California Energy Commission stepped up. The $5 million grant the county received from the commission is expected to result in more than $18 million in utility savings over the next decade.
Under the plan, county departments will be able to “borrow” from the fund to make their buildings more energy efficient, then channel the utility savings back into it until the project’s initial cost is “repaid.” Staff from internal services will perform the work with existing county employees. Most projects, Choy says, will pay for themselves in two to four years.
“After that, the department itself will get to see the savings every year going forward, plus have a better building, and the fund will be replenished for the next project,” he says.
As a bonus, the fund will salvage the jobs of 11 Internal Services employees whose positions had been slated for termination after the state, which had been paying the county to maintain court buildings, decided to outsource.
“A lot of people out there were sweating bullets,” says Tim Braden, ISD’s general manager for facilities operations. “We haven’t been specific by name—we’ve just told them how many people would be potentially impacted—but I’ve got 32 years in this organization and I knew who they were, and know every one of them individually.
“They’re good people, family people, and there’s some who I know would lose their homes if this hadn’t happened. This energy revolving fund is a real lifesaver,” Braden says.
Choy says county department heads will have to sign off on each project, but he anticipates interest will be high. Already, he says, ISD has identified a first phase involving more than 20 county buildings in which a total of $530,000 a year could be saved just by swapping out older, 32-watt fluorescent bulbs for high-efficiency, 28-watt fluorescents.
Potential sites would include LA County+USC Medical Center and its ancillary buildings ($58,197 in potential annual savings), Twin Towers Jail ($44,067), the Hall of Administration ($37,306) and 19 other buildings. An additional pilot project, Choy says, would replace the old, dim, fluorescent lights at ISD headquarters and the county’s Lot 10 on North Broadway with 5,000 bright, energy-saving LED lamps.
A second phase of fluorescent bulb swaps, Choy adds, would yield an additional $500,000 in annual savings. And a separate round of “building tune-ups” aimed at maximizing the efficiency of air conditioning, heating and other energy equipment in a dozen buildings could shave as much as $1.2 million more from the county’s annual spending.
“Every way you look at it,” Choy says, “it’s a win-win.”
February 6, 2012
Malibu made a prizewinning environmental “cleaning machine” out of a vacant lot that had been the community’s annual chili cook-off site. You don’t need to own a spread like Legacy Park, though, to help curb urban run-off.
Paul Herzog, coordinator of the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean-Friendly Gardens Program, recommends “CPR”—conservation of water, permeability in your soil and retention devices such as rain barrels and rain gardens—to homeowners who would like to build water cleanliness into their landscaping.
And even small changes can help. Here are few:
Apply mulch. “It’s a simple thing to do, and it makes a big difference,” says Herzog. “Some areas even offer mulch from the city for free.” Mulching keeps weeds down, and, more importantly for the oceans, captures and holds water that might otherwise make its way down to the beach.
Redirect your rain gutter onto your landscape. Don’t let water wash over your roof and then send it directly into a storm drain. Turn your downspout or, if necessary, buy an attachment at the hardware store to send that water onto your lawn or garden, where it’ll do more good.
Reset your irrigation timers when you reset your clocks. You know how you spring forward and fall back for Daylight Savings Time? Well when you reset your clocks in the fall, adjust your irrigation to account for the rainier winter weather. And when spring arrives, set them again for the drier summer days.
Go native. Think about what naturally grows here the next time you landscape. Native plants don’t have to be dull. (Click here for ideas.) “Monarch butterflies journey from Canada to Mexico and there’s only one plant that baby Monarchs will feed on,” he says. “Milkweed. And some varieties are native to this place.”
December 30, 2011
The stockings are down, and all that remains of those delicious holiday cookies are a few lonely crumbs. It’s probably time to figure out what to do with that rapidly-drying tree.
No matter where you live in Los Angeles County, there are easy ways to give Christmas trees a green retirement by turning them to mulch.
For unincorporated areas, the L.A. County Department of Public Works will pick up trees curbside through January 13, on normal collection days. The city of L.A. will take trees placed in or beside green waste bins; see the Bureau of Sanitation’s website for details. For other cities and a list of sites that accept drop-offs, visit www.cleanla.com or call 1 (888)-CLEANLA.
Trees should be stripped of all lights, ornaments, tinsel, nails and anything else that might be hanging on.
Besides cleaning house and protecting the environment, there’s another reason to recycle your tree—preventing fires. According to the United States Fire Administration, dry or neglected Christmas trees start 240 fires annually, causing fatalities and millions in property damage.
This video shows how fast a scotch pine can transform a family room into an inferno. So play it safe and recycle!
December 14, 2011
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors may have officially declared Thursday to be “A Day Without A Bag” in the county, but at the 7-Eleven on Las Virgenes Road, the holiday hasn’t exactly taken hold.
“We go through more than a hundred plastic bags a day,” says store manager Andrew Kassar. “People rarely—well, actually, I’d say people never come in here and use their own bags.”
That will change January 1, as a number of municipalities, including Los Angeles County and the City of Calabasas, where Kassar’s store is located, swing into the second phase of local bans on single-use plastic bags.
The first phase, in effect since July, stopped the distribution of the light, ubiquitous—and polluting—bags in large supermarkets and pharmacies. The ordinance allowed these retailers to charge a dime apiece for paper bags to cover the costs of compliance and of stocking the paper bags themselves.
The next phase extends the same rules to smaller drug stores, convenience food stores and smaller retailers and grocers. To that end, the county Department of Public Works this week will be dispatching teams of “Eco Elves” to pass out free reusable bags, while supplies last. (Click here for a list of dates and locations throughout the county.)
“We’ve been notifiying our customers,” says Franco Hasroun, manager of Calabasas Liquor and Market. “Most of the bags we use are plastic, though, so we’ll see how it goes.”
The county’s bag ban covers only stores in unincorporated areas, but it was written to allow the county’s 88 incorporated municipalities to extend it by easily enacting ordinances of their own.
Malibu had a ban in place when the county ordinance was written but since then, Long Beach, Santa Monica and Calabasas have cracked down on the proliferation of single-use bags. Now bans are in various stages of passage in more than a half-dozen of the county’s other cities, including the City of Los Angeles.
The California Supreme Court made passage of such laws easier for cities this summer, ruling that cities could forego lengthy and expensive environmental impact reports in determining that their ecosystems would be better off without the proliferation of single-use bags.
That lawsuit, brought by a pro-plastics organization against a Manhattan Beach ban, had been closely watched by cities statewide. The court decision unleashed a flood of municipal legislation. In Manhattan Beach, the disputed ordinance was reinstated and will be implemented on January 14.
However, the plastic bag industry has continued to push back. In October, for example, the South Carolina-based plastic bag maker Hilex-Poly and four residents filed suit against the county, arguing that the 10-cent charge for paper bags violates a new state law that reclassifies local fees as “taxes” and requires a two-thirds majority vote to raise them.
Pat Proano, assistant deputy director for the Department of Public Works’ environmental programs division, says that the few complaints he has received about the first phase of the county ordinance were from callers “who were concerned that this was a new county fee of some sort.”
“But it isn’t,” Proano says. “The ten cents being charged by the store is retained by the store—it doesn’t go to the county.” The lawsuit is pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court, with action expected sometime next year.
In the meantime, store managers say, the bag ban—so novel when it was passed this summer—is becoming an increasingly mundane fact of life.
“Mostly, everybody just brings their own bags now,” says Cynthia MacNeil, front end manager at the Albertson’s supermarket in Calabasas. “It took a couple of months for people to get into the habit, but we don’t hear many complaints these days. I think they’re just used to it now.”
November 16, 2011
Yes, fall is fertilizer season in Southern California. And as the autumn air grows pungent over the lawns of Los Angeles County, homeowners are being reminded to spread the wealth responsibly.
“The same nutrients that make your grass grow also will make algal blooms grow if they wash down the storm drains and into the waterways,” notes Susie Santilena, an environmental engineer in water quality at Heal the Bay.
The nitrogen and phosphorus that are so good for plants may contribute to toxic red tides in the ocean and can make algae run wild in freshwater areas like Malibu Creek, creating dead zones as the green scum blocks sunlight and inhibits the growth of other plants and animals, Santilena says.
“When you don’t have oxygen in your waterway, your marine life suffocates and you get fish die-offs because there’s no dissolved oxygen in your water,” she says. “And there are aesthetic issues—algae growth can create pond scum, which is just kind of gross to look at in waterways.”
So what to do? It’s tricky, environmental advocates say, because while organic fertilizers such as steer manure and worm castings have advantages that chemical fertilizers don’t share, both can create destructive runoff if they aren’t applied carefully.
Manure tends to adhere to the soil better, so its runoff is less concentrated, but it also can introduce harmful bacteria into the water.
“I have a personal preference for worm castings for multiple other benefits, including environmental impact of production, but they can be overused like the other fertilizers,” says Santilena, noting that worm castings also can be hard to obtain in sufficient quantities for large-scale application.
“It’s how and when the fertilizer is applied that matters most.”
Environmental consultant and master gardener Curtis Thomsen, who conducts the Countywide Smart Gardening program, recommends a half-and-half mix of compost and fertilizer, sprinkled lightly over a lawn that has been aerated.
If you don’t have compost, he adds, there are sites in Los Angeles that offer free mulch that you can shred to make some and low-cost bins can be purchased at Smart Gardening workshops countywide. “The worms smell the organics in it and pull them down, which allows water to penetrate deeper,” he says, adding that compost is especially good for getting nutrients to the roots of thick grasses that tend to thatch. Also, he says, if you add that mixture to your garden plot this fall, it will improve yields, reduce disease in the soil and produce healthier, stronger plants next year.
Meanwhile, Rudy Valenzuela, regional grounds maintenance supervisor for the county Department of Parks and Recreation, notes that the county aerates and fertilizes its park lawns with a commercial chemical blend of nitrogen, potassium and iron that is geared to its sturdy mixture of grasses. He notes, however, that the crews wait until after dark to water and then do it judiciously, turning off the sprinklers after about 15 minutes per station to avoid runoff.
Both approaches keep in mind the need to keep your fertilizer on your own grass. Here are some dos and don’ts from Heal the Bay:
– Do use fertilizer as sparingly as possible, no matter what type you use. Less is more.
– Don’t ever apply fertilizer right before a rainstorm, and never overwater after applying. Too much water will just lift your fertilizer and wash it off.
–Don’t apply to highly compacted or steeply sloped grasses, which also prevent fertilizers from fully soaking into the soil.
–Do consider creating a rain garden, using rain barrels and other containers that will keep rain in your hard and out of the street.
June 30, 2011
“Less paper, no plastic.” Think of it as the new mantra for Los Angeles County’s checkout lines.
Starting July 1, stores in the county’s unincorporated area will help curb a longstanding environmental problem by charging a dime each for paper bags and halting the distribution of single-use plastic bags altogether. The goal? To wean consumers away from those disposable, ubiquitous—and polluting—grocery bags.
But the historic ban on single-use plastic bags, passed last year by the Board of Supervisors, had a secondary goal—to inspire similar measures in the county’s 88 incorporated municipalities.
The new county ordinance, which will take effect in two phases—the first for large stores, the second in January for smaller retail outlets—will cover an area that is home to more than a million consumers, but its first phase will only affect about 70 supermarkets and other big establishments, most of which are concentrated in northern L.A. County and the San Gabriel Valley.
So as shoppers in places like Athens and Altadena get ready to bring their own bags to market, how’s that domino effect progressing? And what about the county’s biggest concentration of shoppers, the City of Los Angeles?
“We think there’s been great momentum,” says Kirsten James, water quality director for the Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, which advocated the bag ban. “Since the county moved forward, we saw the City of Calabasas adopt the same ordinance, which also goes into effect in July.
“We also saw the City of Santa Monica adopt a pretty similar ordinance that will go into effect in September. We also saw Long Beach adopt the same ordinance, with a couple of slight modifications. They start in August, so they’ll be on board soon as well.”
The City of Malibu passed the county’s first ban on single-use plastic bags in 2008. A Manhattan Beach ban the same year was challenged in court by a pro-plastic bag group because the city did not conduct a formal environmental impact report before determining that fewer plastic bags would be good for the environment.
Such reports, which document the effects a proposed law will have on the environment and community, can be costly and time consuming, but are required by the California Environmental Quality Act, the ban’s opponents noted. The Los Angeles County ordinance, which has not been challenged so far, not only included an EIR, but drafted it so that cities within the county could simply build on the county’s environmental analysis with individual addenda, as opposed to starting from scratch, which would be much more expensive. The Manhattan Beach appeal is now before the California Supreme Court, and a ruling is expected by mid-August.
“Meanwhile, other cities are pondering the idea,” James says, and at least two expect to see local ordinances before their city councils as early as July.
- West Hollywood’s City Council, for instance, voted in February to begin compiling EIR data for a draft plastic bag ordinance, and the city’s climate action plan indicated in April that the city is monitoring the Manhattan Beach litigation for guidance on how best to proceed. “The City Council has twice supported efforts to ban single-use plastic bags from use in the City of West Hollywood,” notes Councilmember Abbe Land, who co-authored both items. “We are continuing to move forward with our efforts to create an effective ordinance, working with our City Attorney and our Community Development Department to ensure we are compliant with EIR requirements.”
- In Pasadena, the city’s Environmental Advisory Commission has been gathering public comment on a proposed ban for nearly two months. Ursula Schmidt, sustainability affairs manager for the city, says the ordinance under consideration is modeled on the county’s and has received three letters of opposition and more than 200 letters of support. Though the local Chamber of Commerce expressed concern about local stores being placed at a competitive disadvantage if Pasadena businesses have to charge for paper bags and adjacent communities don’t impose such a ban on their stores, she says, the Chamber’s board voted not to take an official position, and several nearby cities, including Glendale and South Pasadena, have contacted her for information about Pasadena’s proposed measure. The commission is expected to vote as soon as July 19 on a recommendation, which would go to the City Council in September, she says.
- In Culver City, Vice Mayor D. Scott Malsin says public support for a ban has been building for some time now, and the city attorney has been working on a draft ordinance to bring to the City Council “within the next month.” It, too, is modeled on the county’s ban, and builds on the county’s EIR data. “We’ve really appreciated the county’s leadership on this,” says Malsin. “Had Culver City not been able to use the county’s EIR data, we probably would not have been able to move forward with it at this time.”
- Inglewood also is drafting a proposed plastic bag ban for consideration later this summer, based on the county ordinance, with an addendum to the EIR, city staffers confirm.
- The City of Los Angeles, meanwhile, is the big player on the landscape. One city report estimated that consumers in just the city use 2.3 billion single-use plastic bags annually. Karen Coca, division manager for citywide recycling with the city’s Bureau of Sanitation, says a staff analysis on a proposed ban is being finalized and a report detailing policy options is expected to go to the City Council some time in July.
In some respects, the city’s strategy has already been decided. The City Council agreed in 2008 to ban single-use plastic bags by 2010 unless the state addressed the issue. The California Legislature rejected a statewide ban last year amid a $2 million-plus industry lobbying campaign.
Coca says that, aside from the pending legal questions surrounding the Manhattan Beach case, the city’s main challenge appears to be enforcement. Los Angeles has some 7,500 retail outlets that would be impacted by an ordinance like the county’s, more than seven times the number of stores that will be affected in unincorporated Los Angeles County when the county ordinance is fully implemented in 2012.
Pat Proano, the county Department of Public Works’ assistant deputy director for the environmental programs division, says the county Department of Health and the Agricultural Commissioner will enforce the county ordinance, since they already conduct regular inspections of supermarkets and other retail stores.
However, he says, “there’s a cost associated with that,” and it’s unclear whether the county would have the resources to enforce bans for other municipalities. In any case, Proano adds, ”this is a milestone for L.A. County and we are ready for implementation of the plastic bag ban.”
Updated 7/14/11: The California Supreme Court on Thursday made it even easier for municipalities to join in Los Angeles County’s new plastic bag ban, ruling that they can clamp down on the proliferation of single-use plastic grocery bags without necessarily going through lengthy and expensive environmental impact reports.
The unanimous court decision, in a lawsuit brought by a pro-plastics organization after Manhattan Beach tried to ban plastic bags in 2008, had been closely watched by cities, including the City of Los Angeles, after an attempted statewide ban went down to legislative defeat amid heavy lobbying from the chemical industry last year.
Environmental groups rejoiced. “This basically opens the flood gates,” says Kirsten James, water quality director for Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay. “This is a hugely significant ruling and it opens the door for cities to move forward all over the state.”
May 25, 2011
The Annenberg Community Beach House, owned and operated by the City of Santa Monica for public use, will be opening its pool for the long Memorial Day weekend. The pool’s actual season runs June 25-Labor Day, so this is a three-day chance to get an early jump on summer—while savoring one of the choicest beachfront locales anywhere.
The pool is just one amenity at the 5-acre oceanfront property, once the site of Marion Davies’ fabled beach mansion and playground for the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable and, naturally, William Randolph Hearst, who built the humble 100-plus-room beach shack in the 1920s for Davies, his longtime mistress.
The property opened to the public two years ago, after previous incarnations as a grand hotel and the Sand & Sea Club. (The mansion was torn down in 1956, but Davies’ guest cottage is still on the site and tourable.) Funding from the Annenberg Foundation enabled the city of Santa Monica to clean up hazardous materials on the property, restore the pool and create an architecturally significant compound with some serious environmental cred. The Beach House has LEED Gold certification and runs on wind-generated power, while water for the pool and “splash pad” area are heated by solar collectors.
Beach real estate this choice doesn’t come along often, and pool admittance is on a first-come, first-served basis. So if you’d like to secure a place in the sun this weekend, a little advance planning may be required. Same-day pool passes will go on sale starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 28, Sunday, May 29, and Monday, May 30. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors over 60, $4 for children under 18. Reservations also are available online starting three days in advance.
The Annenberg Community Beach House is located at 415 Pacific Coast Highway, north of the Santa Monica Pier. (Directions are here.) Parking is $8 on the weekends, but you can avoid the charge—and get into the eco-friendly spirit of the Beach House—by getting there on bicycle, via the Pacific Coast Bike Trail.
Nan Friedman, the Beach House manager, said a number of “summer-inspired” classes are coming this year, exploring everything from stand-up paddleboarding and open ocean swimming to sand games such as disc golf.
That ever-evolving list of featured classes and cultural attractions is another reason to discover the facility. “Oddly enough,” Friedman said, “there are people from all over the world who know about the Annenberg Beach House and we also have people who live locally who say, ‘I drive by every day and I never knew what it was.’ ” If you’re one of them, this just might be your weekend to find out.