live / 2014

Los Angeles Beaches Forever

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Duvivier Architects (DA)

LA Beaches Forever will harness the diverse nature of Venice to create a vision that addresses climate change through adaptability.

Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

DA pioneered the integration of water resources & architecture in sustainable design, mapping, wetland restoration & watershed education.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside
  • Tourists that visit from outside the County as well.

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Los Angeles Beaches Forever is a plan to harness the diverse nature and creative spirit of Venice, to create a long-term vision that addresses climate change.

According to a recent study by USC, Venice is one of the most at risk communities as a result of sea level rise due to the inability of low-income communities to adapt to climate change. Our youth leadership team will facilitate the planting of hundreds of trees to reduce carbon and distribute rain barrels to reduce flooding and water-use. In the process they will engage our neighbors in conversations about impacts and opportunities.

When Oakwood residents embrace 1 street tree and 1 rain barrel at a time, the seeds of an LA Beach resiliency movement are born.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Collect Water /Plant Trees/Community Invention

Venice Beach, destination for 16 million tourist a year, is famous for its lovely beaches, canals, mussel beach, fancy shops and eccentric, healthy people. However few realize that Venice Beach is at risk of being transformed by global climate change. A recent report titled “Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Study for the City of Los Angeles,” prepared by the University of Southern California Sea Grant Program, found that Venice is a “highly vulnerable population who may be unable to adapt to impacts of sea level rise because of social or economic challenges, including lower per capita income, lower education levels, linguistic isolation, older housing stock and high percentage of renters.”

Oakwood was originally set-aside as a settlement area for Black-Americans, who came to work in the oil fields, and build canals. Later it was populated by Mexican-American and other immigrants, as well as artists who tolerated the gang wars of the 80’s. Now it is a highly creative, mixed-use, mixed income neighborhood that is on the brink of being impacted by climate change.

Los Angeles Beaches Forever will tap into the inventive character of this community to address resiliency: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Working with scientists, we will produce ideas that advance our ability to adapt. No idea is too crazy: build naturalized sand dunes at the beach, plant a green alley, and restore a beach lagoon.

We will hire and train twenty-five local youth to distribute information about the opportunities we have to adapt to climate change. We will plant three hundred trees which will reduce airborne pollution, cool surface temperatures, reduce skin cancer in our youth, absorb surface water, improve water quality at beaches, and reduce crime. We will reduce our water use by hundreds of gallons a year, by removing thirty turf lawns and installing fifty cisterns, rain barrels or rain gardens which slow sea level rise, reduce risk of salt-water intrusion and improve water quality.

We will build on three existing agency programs: City of LA, street tree planting program; and the Metropolitan Water Districts’ (MWD), Water Smart rain barrel rebate program, and turf removal program.

We will launch an entire resiliency movement.

How will your idea/project help make LA the healthiest place to LIVE today? In 2050?

Los Angeles Beaches Forever will make LA a healthier place by instilling knowledge of environmental issues and developing long-term solutions. Our community will become more engaged and armed with tools to become a more resilient community. We will galvanize around a common cause and enhance our diverse community.

Local Impacts - Sea Level Rise- According to a report by USC, Venice is one of the most at risk communities as a result of sea level rise due to the highly vulnerable population who may be unable to adapt to sea level rise. Another report this month released by the Venice Neighborhood Council sites an LAUSD study that found our neighborhood children are 26 times more likely to get cancer due to Santa Monica Airport pollutants such as lead, black carbon and ultra fine particulates.

Los Angeles Beaches Forever will plant trees - By planting trees we will reduce carbon in the air and slow the speed of sea level rise. Trees absorb pollutants. Trees reduce the risk of skin cancer by providing shade. Trees will cool our streets by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets and reducing the heat island effect. Trees reduce the cost of running an air conditioner. Trees will provide habitat for birds and butterflies, which enriches the science-based education of our children. Additionally trees will reduce crime. According to a study in the June 2012 issue of Landscape and Urban Planning Magazine, “a 10 % increase in tree canopy was associated with a roughly 12% decrease in crime.”

Los Angeles Beaches Forever will collect water - While sea level rise is our main focus, we will also address the drought, seawater intrusion and water quality. By collecting water we will reduce flooding and are more resilient when water is scarce. We will create clean beaches for our kids by reducing the amount of dirty water that ends up flowing into the ocean. Additionally we will reduce the risk of seawater intrusion into our underground water basin. According to the MWD “the risk for seawater intrusion is high” as the ground water is not replenished. Finally by collecting water we will save money. 19% of CA energy is used to move water around so by using less water, we use less energy as well.

We will train youth - Our youth leadership team will direct planting and water savings activities. They will become the face of climate resiliency, the problem solvers and activists that save our coastal community.

Whom will your project benefit?

This project benefits children, renters, homeowners, tourists, businesses and the entire region.

By planting trees, removing turf, installing cisterns and creating a long-term vision plan for resiliency, we will benefit children who will be able to grow-up in this coastal community, as have many of their parents for generations. By planting trees, children will be protected from the risk of cancer from the over 100,000 planes that take-off and land over our community. Trees will protect children from skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the US, by reducing UV-B exposure by about fifty percent.

Children will benefit from local clean beaches when polluted storm water is reduced. Storm drain runoff is the greatest source of pollution to local beaches, flowing untreated to the coast, potentially contaminated with motor oil, animal waste, pesticides, yard waste and trash. The Brooks storm drain, which drains a large part of Oakwood, is the only Venice storm drain to receive a wet-weather grade of F from Heal the Bay. With more trees absorbing rain, more residents collecting rainwater and practicing water-smart gardening as a result of this program, the water quality at the Brooks storm drain will improve making swimming, fishing and playing at Brooks Beach, a safer experience.

With more community trees, children will have better places to play and more learning opportunities, since trees act as landmarks that give a neighborhood an identity and encourage civic pride. Children in the neighborhood, many of whom live in apartments, will benefit from exposure to the critters, such as butterflies and birds, which are attracted to trees.

Parents will benefit from knowing their children are safe from air pollution, skin cancer and crime. Parents will see reduced utility costs due to lower energy-use and water-use.

Our entire City and region will benefit from the reduced threat of seawater intrusion into the ground water, reduced demand for imported water and reduced air pollution. And Venice Beach will continue to be a bustling tourist destination.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Youth - To engage our youth ambassadors, we will collaborate with Venice High School and Westminster Avenue Elementary School. In the recent past, we collaborated with Coeur D’Alene Elementary School (CDA) to create abundant gardens and plant dozens of trees. The project is so successful that a full time gardening teacher was hired, parents are planning on implementing the next phase of unpaving and two local schools used our school as a model in creating their own “rain gardens.”

Community - To get community buy-in and support we will work with Oakwood Neighborhood Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) and the Education Committee of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. We have received grants from the VNC on two separate occasion to be used towards environmental education. Duvivier Architects, a chamber member, will the leader this effort. They received the 2014 County of LA Green Leadership Award, and an US Green Building Council Innovation Award, for their pioneering work in the integration of water resources and architecture.

Agencies - We will augment established programs by the MWD and City of LA. We previously received three grants from MWD for doing watershed education work including creating environmental maps and signage. One map, Santa Monica and Ballona Watershed Green Map serves as an international reference—from India to Africa— has been viewed by thousands at Japan Expo and 20 other international venues. This map is in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress and the New York, Los Angeles and Toronto Public Libraries.

Experts – We will receive professional support from Loyola Marymount University and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC). We worked successfully with both of these organizations on a community-building document for the Ballona Wetlands Restoration. We received funding in the past from the SMBRC. In fact the Executive Director, said this of our partnership, “It was due to Duvivier’s involvement in the CDA Rain Gardens that my organization provided seed funding to start the project. Duvivier overcame many challenges and brought everyone on board with her vision. We use it today in our outreach to state and national agencies and technical professionals looking to implement creative, low-cost water pollution mitigation with added community and educational benefits.”

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Live” metrics?

  • Access to healthy food
  • Healthcare access
  • Exposure to air toxins
  • Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard
  • Percent of imported water
  • Obesity rates
  • Walk/bike/transit score
  • Acres and miles of polluted waterways
  • Rates of mental illnesses
  • Prevalence of adverse childhood experience (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

• Access to healthy food Our project creates a culture of self-sufficiency and connection to the natural world. Aside from fruit for humans, trees provide food for birds and wildlife. • Healthcare access Children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. Exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue? • Exposure to air toxins Trees will absorbs carbon dioxide and particulate matter. • Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard Reducing exposure to toxins improves performance on the job and at school. • Percent of imported water Rain barrels will be installed which will consequently be diverted from the storm drain system and will NOT be imported from the Delta or Sacramento. Lawns will be replaced which will save many 100,000s of gallons of water.
• Obesity rates will drop due to increased playing on the streets and alleys, thanks to cooler streets, less crime and trees to climb.
• Walk/bike/transit score There will be more walkable street, traffic calming, shaded access to bus stops thanks to tree coverage. • Acres and miles of polluted waterways Rain barrels will diverted storm water from the storm drain system and consequently the Brooks storm drain will receive a wet-weather grade of “A” from Heal the Bay in their Annual Report Card. • Rates of mental illnesses Studies have shown that patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with less complications. • Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences Neighborhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear. Venice crime will be down. • Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric) Beaches and Harbor will consider the creation of naturalized sand dunes at Brooks Avenue and lagoons at the storm drains. The Venice neighborhood Council will adopt our Vision Plan. • Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric) Hundreds of trees will be planted creating 75% tree coverage along streets in a one mile area (in 7 years when trees are at full size) AND absorb pounds of carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

After 1 year, success will be measured by:

-500 participate in the program.

-30 lawns are replaced. (1-2 per block) The average front lawn (40’x20’= 800 SF) requires almost 500 gallons water per week or 26,000 gal/year. Replacing 30 lawns saves 780,000 g/year.

-300 trees are planted which will: create 75% tree coverage along streets in a one mile area (in 7 years when trees are at full size) absorb 14,500 pounds of carbon dioxide (48 lbs per tree/year) AND absorb 450 kg. of particulate matter per year (1.5 kg per mature tree/year.

-50 rain barrels are installed (2 per block), 2750 galleon at 10 storms per year = 27,500 g per year collected and diverted from the storm drain system.

  • Venice crime down by 90% to be in the lowest 10 % instead of the highest 10 % of LA crime.

-25 teenagers are trained in environmental sustainability.

-Brooks storm drain receives a wet-weather grade of “A” from Heal the Bay in their Annual Report Card.

-2 intersections and 2 alleys no longer flood.

-Beaches and Harbor creates naturalized sand dunes at Brooks Avenue and lagoons where the storm drains meet the sand.

-The Venice neighborhood Council adopts our Vision Plan.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Questions asked, lessons learned:

  1. Will one small step towards a resilient community create a movement?

At Coeur d’Alene Elementary School in Venice, our group unpaved 16,000 square feet of asphalt, created vegetable and science learning gardens, and planted 60 trees. When we first started planning the gardens, many parents and administrators felt that these gardens would not be used or cared for. As it turns out three years later, the demand for the gardens is so strong that the school has hired a full time gardening teacher, the classes have to take turns using the gardens and the parents are planning on planting more trees and gardens spaces. This project was so successful, two other schools in Venice have since designed and created “rain gardens”. Our school was the first school in the LAUSD district to have an MOU with the LAUSD. In this same way, planting one tree and installing one rain barrel are the start of an entire resiliency movement.

  1. Will people agree to let a tree be planted on public land in front of their property?

To test the likelihood that residents of Oakwood would agree to water a street tree, which is the only requirement the City of LA has for planting them, we went door to door on both sides of the street on one block. Of the 36 properties on our block, we visited 30 and 26 residents made a “commitment to water” a tree that would be in the parkway in front of their house/apartment. That is an 87% success rate. In many cases, such as at apartment buildings, we had more than one commitment per lot.

  1. Do we have local rainwater catchment models that can be used for demonstration and does it make sense to collect water when it “never” rains in California?

At an award-winning home located in Oakwood, there is a demonstration rain garden, a variety of cistern types and an abundance of drought tolerant alternative to grass. Thousands of people have visited the site to see what sustainable landscaping and water collection look like. This garden helps to demystify the notion that it doesn’t rain in LA when you see the amount of water collected after a rain event.

It rains on average, fifteen inches a year. Over the surface of an entire house that adds up to a lot of rain. Just one inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot rooftop can yield more than 600 gallons. That can go a long way to curbing our water consumption.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Our organization has a history of working together successfully to create change.

The City of Los Angeles street tree program will be available until summer 2015 and has a 3-month wait time.

To test the likelihood that residents of Oakwood would agree to water a street tree, which is the only requirement the City of LA has for planting them, we went door to door on both sides of the street on one block. Of the 36 properties on our block, we visited 30 and 26 residents made a “commitment to water” a tree that would be in the parkway in front of their house/apartment. It only took one week.

Here is our proposed schedule: -Develop the watershed education package - Sept -Collect signatures of “Commitment to Water” Trees - Oct– Dec. -Consult and canvas neighborhood regarding watershed education - Oct –Dec -Plant 300 Tree - Jan-June -Facilitate the installation of rain barrels, cisterns and rain gardens - Dec–March

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Fear Fear of stagnant water - One barrier we have seen is the fear of collecting water in rain barrels, rain gardens or cisterns due to the erroneous impression that mosquitoes will be able to live in the collected water. After years of helping residents install water collection systems, we have been able to show that cisterns and rain barrels come equipped with screens which prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs in the water. And water collected in a rain garden percolates into the ground within 24 hours well before any mosquitoes can hatch.

Fear of change – Many stakeholders have been in the neighborhood for years and have seen a lot of gentrification. They fear change and especially see planting trees as a sign of gentrification. Our projects have shown that all people deserve to have beautiful tree lined streets. Everyone has the right to clean air, shade and better health.

Fear of deportation-Many residents live with extended family members, some of whom may not be in the country legally. To alleviate this problem, last names, phone numbers and emails are optional on our sign up forms.

Overwhelming Success If our program is so successful, there is the possibility that the City could run out of trees and the Metropolitan Water District could run out of rain barrel rebate funding. Currently both agencies have sufficient resources and both have shown a commitment to assist our organization in securing trees or rain barrels if they run out.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Education/training