In the aftermath of Occupy L.A., the lawns of City Hall Park are trampled, dry and destroyed. Restoration plans are being mulled over in earnest by the Department of Recreation and Parks. City planners, landscape designers and the public are wrestling with the same challenges faced by all gardeners in the Southern California climate.
A field of turf might be pretty, but it’s not very creative. Landscape architect Michelle Frier, said that home owners may have more options than they first think.
"We live in this Mediterranean climate. We can grow an enormous amount of different varieties of plants, both native and drought-tolerant species," she said. "Sometimes putting turf in front of your homes is a waste."
Frier said a common trend is planting edible gardens. "Using your lawn ... not only improves your food [supply] and your urban [food] shed, but it just is a healthy way of living," she noted.
She also suggested planting meadows instead of turf fields, by using a blend of three to four varieties of plants or grasses. The meadows are easy to maintain too, needing to be mowed only once a month or even four times a year.
It "gives the home owner a chance to express themselves. When you're driving along Los Angeles, the architecture is very unique. Why not make our front yards unique?" she asked.
City Hall has been warming up to a design that balances an expanse of turf with planting areas surrounding the main building. Frier, who has attended some of City Hall's design meetings, said that officials have taken that layout to the next step, analyzing how much planting area they will have to work with. According to Frier, they’re conscious of retaining enough turf space for outdoor gatherings.
It is "a civic gathering space in the center of the civic core of downtown," she said. "Retaining that gathering area is definitely still a number one priority [for them]."
Should you go native? Or do you strive for a soft blanket of green grass? Because City Hall is a public meeting space, an accommodating expanse of turf is practically a First Amendment right. But is it Californian? Drought-tolerant and native plants are also being pitched to replace all of what was a grassy mall. Incorporating low-water plants into the design would follow the lead of DWP that counsels homeowners constantly on cutting down water usage.
What is your vision for your own yard and for City Hall Park? What gardens do you prefer in your neighborhood?
Michelle Frier, Landscape Architect & Associate at Mia Lehrer+Associates, landscape architecture firm in L.A.; Frier has been attending design meetings about the City Hall Park restoration, including this morning’s.