Through Isabelle’s eyes

Posted on | February 7, 2014 | 1 Comment

1967.Strange Landforms.charcoal on paper.DC.Tri-Co.alternate1998 hillside.Boney Textures.DC.Tri-Co.IG_2beach & marsh isabelle landscapeIsabelle Greene is best known for two careers — hers and her grandfather’s. The Pasadena-born landscape architect is the granddaughter of architect Henry Greene of the defining Arts & Crafts-era firm Greene & Greene. Study the ground that she has shaped and it’s tempting to define her as a carrier of her grandfather’s flame. The craftsman ethos shines through her gardens, whether the space is a quirkily embellished potager, or the oak-draped estates of millionaire clients dotted along the south and central coast, or the wind-beaten bluffs of beach houses of yet more millionaire clients, or the hillsides descending from La Casita del Arroyo meeting house in Pasadena. Yet an all-too-brief January exhibit in Santa Barbara of Greene’s early artwork revealed something else, something out of time, sexy and bohemian about her style that seems strictly hers. Study the drawings, etchings and watercolors done when Greene was a young bride of a botanist freshly arrived in the Central Coast in the 1950s and 60s, and it’s clear that the grande dame of California landscape architects has always been an artist whose work somehow jumped from paper to land.

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Marcie Edwards nominated to lead LADWP

Posted on | January 30, 2014 | 1 Comment


Emphasizing his campaign theme of financial reform of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, today LA Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Anaheim City Manager Marcie Edwards to lead the largest public municipal utility in the US.

Marcie who?

That will become clear as a woman whose family has traditionally worked for the department — and who herself began there as a typist when she was 19 and then rose  through dispatch, energy control, operations, business, marketing and customer service  — clears approval by the department’s commissioners and Los Angeles City Council.

If approved, Edwards, who after what KPCC describes as 24 years at LADWP went on to run Anaheim Public Utilities for more than a decade, will become the first woman to hold the job created by Los Angeles Aqueduct builder William Mulholland.

Though made in the worst precipitation year since California’s record-keeping system began, the announcement stressing Edwards’ fiscal chops made no mention of her record on water management or conservation. According to the release, as Edwards is vetted by commissioners and City Hall, LADWP Water Systems Manager Marty Adams will assume leadership of LADWP wet work. Adams is best known among Los Angeles Aqueduct watchers for his insistence that LADWP has all but completed dust remediation work in Owens Valley and that further work orders by the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District are illegal acts of a rogue regulator. Click here for more on Adams and Owens Valley in the journal ‘Arid.’ LA Observed has statements from City Councilman Felipe Fuentes and Controller Ron Galperin.


Why L.A. needs the “wicked witch” of Nevada

Posted on | January 27, 2014 | 4 Comments


In 2009, the Public Education Foundation issued a children’s book honoring Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager Pat Mulroy. The comical, faintly Soviet-style propaganda aside, she’s that respected in Las Vegas.

The last post was dedicated to jumping all over a High Country News article that UCLA journalist in residence Jon Christensen wrote about Los Angeles and sustainability, particularly LA and water. This post is to agree so completely with Christensen’s portion of a new column in LA Observed that we might appear to be tag-teaming Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Were it in our powers, Christensen and I would appoint Pat Mulroy as new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

Christensen spots two stars aligning: One has Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager Pat Mulroy stepping down from her post in Las Vegas next month while the other has the leadership of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power opening up at the same time.

I recommend reading Christensen. Here, for my part, is why I think California should snap up the woman who the US Senator from Nevada Harry Reid has relied on to carry the water for the most populous part of his state while joking that it has earned her the reputation as “the wicked witch of Nevada.”  Click here to keep reading

“Bullshit is just bullshit”

Posted on | January 22, 2014 | 7 Comments

William Mulholland portrait @LAWDP

Portrait of William Mulholland, LADWP headquarters. Photo: Emily Green

Los Angeles sprang from propaganda, enterprise and stolen water (or “inter-basin transfers”). Has it changed? An article titled Brave New LA argues that the days of villainy are behind it and “under cover of one of the worst environmental reputations on the planet, Los Angeles is becoming an unlikely model of sustainability.”

Tilting LA’s hat toward sustainability in the new edition of High Country News is Jon Christensen, a respected journalist turned policy advocate at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, where he edits the university’s quarterly journal “Boom” and promotes the institute’s various green infrastructure work. Chistensen’s been in LA for a year, he says in his essay, and — touchingly — he sounds almost giddy with a newcomer’s wonder at the region’s geography, diversity and dynamism. But boil down the essay and Brave New LA is pure politics. It’s a policy wonk delivering a flattery-laced pre-nup for a marriage between UCLA’s green team and the City of LA’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti.

Those of us who lived in Los Angeles through the Villaraigosa years might question the wisdom of writing reviews before watching the play. Or not. There’s something endearing about Christensen’s waving his wand over time and place as if to make his paradox-loving version of things true. But with Brave New LA, I think that he crossed the line from reporter to advocate and became bedeviled by his own optimism. Admire him as I do, this is a trip to the woodshed. As an editor of mine used to say, “Bullshit is just bullshit.”  Click here to keep reading

Girding the grid for 20% water savings

Posted on | January 18, 2014 | 1 Comment

LA-grid-sample-mid-city-Los-Angeles-2The Governor has issued a drought proclamation in which he has called on all Californians for a 20% reduction of their water use. This sounds almost reasonable, except as reservoirs are headed toward empty many homeowners are still under water financially. So asking the public to spend thousands on garden designers, native plants, rain harvesting systems and front-loading washing machines is untenable. Even taking advantage of soon-to-be juicy rebates may be beyond the common purse. Rebates are discounts, not giveaways.

The good news? This collision of drought and hard times may finally break LA’s insistence on year-round green lawns. The most cash-strapped householder should be able to find 20% savings if we could only adjust what we expect from urban landscaping. In that spirit, here follows a working man’s and woman’s guide to doing their part affordably to save California’s water supply. Click here to keep reading

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