Splash pool and lawns in downtown L.A.

Two new open spaces, one at the south lawn of City Hall, the other in the old Civic Center Mall, opened this summer to promote downtown Los Angeles as the heart of a livable urban core. Both are heavy on water-intensive turf. Should these parks get the environmental equivalent of diplomatic immunity because they encourage planning density?

It’s official: Typical L.A. garden goes unused

A new study out of UCLA shows that “even in a region with clement year-round weather, the families hardly used their yards, and this was the case even among those who had invested in outdoor improvements and furnishings.”

Should “green streets” be streets?

The $270 million question soon to be put to homeowners by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works is: Will we pay an annual tax of $54 per parcel toward a basin-wide effort to clean at least some of the pollutants swept up in water as it flows from paved surfaces into the storm drain system, rivers and Pacific? This much is clear: We should. This much isn’t: Will we? And, even if we do, will it work before fines over Clean Water Act violations start kicking in and law suits begin?

$270 million a year sounds like a lot until you divide it between 88 cities, a spangling of watershed NGOs and the county Flood Control District. Even if divided proportionately to size of city, the sum starts sounding woefully inadequate considering that alone one storm water park opened in February that was wrought from an

Expo Line plants: Think first, proselytize later

Should this be developed as a wildlife corridor?

UPDATED Many of the same people whose passion and stamina forced Los Angeles City Council to adapt a low-water garden for City Hall are now campaigning for Phase Two stops of the city’s Expo Light Rail Line to be landscaped with native plants. Their movement, called LANative, has a website, a petition, and, most recently, support from an impassioned article in the Huffington Post.

Fellow travelers in the native plant movement, forgive me, but I can’t sing with the choir on this one. I can’t see how most of the powerful arguments for natives at City Hall to do with water efficiency, beauty, sense of place, pollinator benefit, run-off capture, leading by example etc. necessarily apply to a railway, which is less a garden setting than a fierce border twixt track and asphalt, steel and concrete.

In fact,

More rock for LACMA, please

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art compares the Levitated Mass to the construction of the Pyramids. After captivating the world’s press by parading the 340-ton boulder from Riverside to mid-city Los Angeles last winter, the latest news is that the museum is about to officially declare its rock open for visitors. Irony of ironies, just as our collective gaze is once again drawn toward this $10m publicity stunt, roughly 20m cubic yards of the kind of rock that can’t be levitated has built up around the headwaters of LA’s paved rivers. In contrast to the Levitated Mass, it’s not getting much press while the infrastructure that holds it can and should rightly be compared to the Pyramids. This is the flood control system of 14 dams and 162 debris basins that form what historian Jared Orsi describes as “a Maginot line” between the San Gabriel Mountains and the

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