live / 2014

The Shed Pasadena

The Shed Pasadena

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Zanja Madre, The Shed Pasadena, La Loma Development

Convert a former mechanic shop into a center for sustainable demonstration, ecological skills, and land art exhibitions, called The Shed.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Zanja Madre provides education in sustainability, a venue for habitat and water conservation demonstration, earth and land art exhibitions.

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

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside
  • Northwest Pasadena, Altadena

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Zanja Madre is a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles County that aims to impart how the built environment directly impacts the quality of our lives. We provide classes, workshops, installations and exhibitions centered around the landscape, including watershed, food system, and land art, at our 30,000 square foot space called “The Shed” in Northwest Pasadena. Barren landscapes in turn create barren communities, which have led to increased violence, health disparities, and the depletion of fresh water supplies, increased urban runoff, and groundwater pollution. We act on the knowledge that the landscape is one of the first opportunities to repair decades of poor design practices and policies.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Since 2012 we have been working on converting our former commercial auto mechanic shop into an ecologically friendly and inspirational community space called “The Shed.” We have designs for sustainable renovation, including installing a green roof, food forest, rain barrels, removing impermeable asphalt and concrete, installing habitat water conserving gardens, green living walls, converting shipping containers into workshops and studios, a commercial kitchen for harvesting, food preservation, and nutrition education as well as other improvements that will provide a sustainable demonstration, training, and inspirational center for Los Angeles County.

With a grant from LA 2050 we can amplify the facilities of The Shed to host educational classes that promote our three-point approach to watershed restoration, “slow it, spread it, sink it,” in order to reduce urban runoff, replenish groundwater, combat the drought, educate our community about the water crisis and eventually heal the watershed.

Los Angeles is not a desert, but a Mediterranean climate with fresh water springs and aquifers that are not getting recharged from the innocuous development of concrete and lawns. Through courses like reeducating professional plumbers in greywater and rainwater harvesting, block-by-block lawn removal, and impermeable hardscape removal, we can heal the watershed, putting fresh water back into the landscape, instead of diverting it to the channelized LA River and straight out to the ocean. We are all tied together through the quantity (how much) and quality (how well) we utilize our natural resources. Water conservation is paramount to our ability to play, connect, live, create and learn especially during a time of one of the worst drought in California history.

We plan on having the on-site examples (sustainable demonstration gardens), hands on classes (ecological education for professionals and invididuals), as well as events and art exhibits (focused on land, urban and earth art) to have a holistic approach to long term watershed restoration and “urban healing.”

We need water for a vibrant future and with this grant we can help to inspire, and transform Los Angeles and build a place that will demonstrate the potential power of true sustainability.

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

Inspired by the name of the original earthwork aqueduct that brought water from the LA River in 1781. The Zanja Madre was a low impact system that brought water for both domestic and irrigation use for the “Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles.”

Zanja Madre is a local historic metaphor for the eternal spring of renewal and community. To remind Angelenos of a geographic history and to inspire socially responsible sustainable landscapes that encourage health, safety, community, connection, and recharge local groundwater supplies, and encourage water conservation.

73 feet of the original Zanja Madre (mother ditch) was recently unearthed in the Blossom Plaza project in Chinatown in April of 2014 underneath the old Little Joe’s restaurant. Most of the archaeological ruin was removed, but parts will be exhibited at the Los Angeles State Historic Park and Metabolic Studios.

By providing a place like The Shed, a sustainable venue for people to come and experience the benefits of ecologically sound principles, permaculture, placemaking and provides hands on examples of a landscape that feels good, benefits health, increases safety, creates habitat and provides a campus for ecological education in LA County. By providing the public with reasonable and affordable seminars, we want to help with educating our community on the benefits of rainwater harvesting, urban agriculture and water conservation, and tie together environmental and ecological content with earth, land and urban art.

The unique play between and arts, education and environmental organization at The Shed will create a space for the opportunity for many different communities to engage and interact with each other and build collaborations across diverse fields. We aim to protect our waterways, create more open space, build a sustainable environment, fostering cultural diversity and inclusivity and help folks find new ways to repurpose their skills and talents to “help Los Angeles become the best place in the world to learn, create, play, connect – and the healthiest place to live.”

Whom will your project benefit?

The Shed sustainable venue, classes and exhibits, will benefit the children, adults, senior citizens, professionals, individuals, families, and communities of Los Angeles, especially Northwest Pasadena, Altadena, North East Los Angeles, and the San Gabriel Valley. Our project will also benefit: the unemployed; plumbing, landscape design professionals, contractors; students, landscape architecture and permaculture design graduates.

Events at The Shed over the past year have already brought over 1,500 attendees with just ten events with visitors from San Diego, the inland empire and even out of state.

We have had a diverse and inclusive list of local, national and international presenters. Zanja Madre the operating nonprofit, is a female and minority owned business, and we aim to be inclusive and help champion more diversity in sustainability, and the arts. We feel confident that we will continue to attract as well as reflect the incredible diversity of Los Angeles.

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

We have worked with all of our proposed and confirmed partners to the project.

Factors that are critical to the success of our proposed collaboration are outlining: 1) Memorandum of understandings 2) Mutual benefit to ensure commitment 3) Milestones/metrics

La Loma Development is a sustainable development firm and a leader in the green design and building industry, following the principles of ecological, economic, and social sustainability. La Loma provides services such as environmental planning and engineering, landscape design, general contracting, metal and wood fabrication, and organic gardening. La Loma takes pride in the quality of their work, creating functional habitats, beautiful dream paradises and edible gardens for California schools, residences, parks, and commercial applications. All of their designs and construction utilize principles of sustainability and over fifteen years of green construction experience. Founded in 2007, La Loma’s public and private sector clients have received numerous awards. They have been a critical partner in the creation of Arlington Gardens, a three acre community garden and Pasadena Beautiful “Burbank Award for Outstanding Community Garden.” They were also awarded the “Green Hero Award” by Environmental Charter Schools for the greening of their campus, which also received national attention as a runner-up in the White House Race to the Top contest. U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, congratulated La Loma for their work at the Environmental Charter Schools. La Loma is published on the cover of Landscape Contractor Magazine, as well as featured stories in Los Angeles Times, Sunset, Pasadena Star News, and others. La Loma also has artistic installations of the Public Fruit Tree Theater at LACMA with Fallen Fruit, and the herbal spiral at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. La Loma has been publicly commended by several council members for our work at schools and other community projects, such as Plaza Morazan, Main St. Elementary, Pasadena Senior Center. In 2013 La Loma won the Green City Award from City of Pasadena, and a 2013 Resolution from LA City Council and was nominated as local Business of the Year in 2014.

Fold Gallery, and Pasadena Architectural Salvage are made up of artists and specialists who will help to create the reused and reclaimed look and feel of the former auto mechanic turned sustainable demonstration venue.

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

  • Access to healthy food
  • Exposure to air toxins
  • Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard
  • Percent of imported water
  • Acres and miles of polluted waterways
  • 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.

We will affect multiple metrics across the five categories: play, live, create, connect, and learn.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We will measure success by the facilities improvements, including amount of hardscape removed and habitat created, towards the creation of rehabbing a 30,000 square foot mechanic shop into a sustainable venue, called The Shed for our community to enjoy the natural environment, arts and cultural resources. As well as the stewardship of educating the public about helping to protect our waterways and open space.

Success will also be indicated by: the number of classes we provide; the number of attendees and certifications offered; our network of partners and collaborators; and how many square feet of lawns we can convert to water conserving gardens.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Marco Barrantes, Founder of La Loma, is an advocate of neighborhood landscaping and earthworks for water, soil, and horticulture conservation, forging partnerships between community members, non-profit organizations, and city government for green and sustainable projects. Marco is the former Parks and Recreation Commissioner for the City of Berkeley, where he served for five years and oversaw projects for the city’s parks, greenways, creeks, shores and natural areas.

Michelle Matthews received her BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from the USC Roski School of Fine Arts. Her fine art photography has dealt with the landscape, the built environment and identity through place. Her thesis was a photographic geo-history of all the places she has lived and attended school in Los Angeles. It was only a natural fit that she left her role as a Sr. Designer at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2008 to work with La Loma as a graphic designer, marketing and communications director.

Marco runs and operates La Loma and Michelle left La Loma in November of 2012 to start Zanja Madre. Together, they have a shared vision for transforming The Shed into a venue that will demonstrate, educate, exhibit a place where folks can see, hear, touch, taste and feel true sustainability.

  1. Place based community education and public awareness raising. After years of designing, building, and maintaining sustainability projects throughout LA County, we realized that we need to complement our travel-intensive services with a grounded center where people can come to us, “build it and they will come,” and consequently locals interested in our services and events have come out of the blue and are spreading the word that “The Shed” is the place to be for community ecological sustainability education, demonstration, and training. 2. Many good workers need to be retrained for green jobs. We realized that it is not difficult to find good workers, however, almost every employee or subcontractor we work with has required an immense amount of education and training for our green jobs to see the landscape and built environment with the lens of sustainability. As it is, La Loma’s design-build services amount to in the field job training for the gardeners, landscapers, builders, plumbers, and we are creating the future workforce for the sustainability movement. We use these two lessons to inform the development of our venue and our programs.

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

Implementing our project within the next twelve months is completely achievable with our partners, assuming the capital is in place for material and labor costs. Zanja Madre’s intimate relationship with La Loma Development Company assures that we already have a full-service design-build General Contractor ready to draft the blueprints, pull the permits, recycle the demolition, and provide the workers and administration for the construction. Our various other partnerships provide the organizers, educators, and artists to implement our creative, fun, and beautiful vision of community, environment, and art. Our team has collectively accomplished major projects on short deadlines with minimal resources, we are mission-driven and cut no corners to make the most of our time and money. We execute our projects with critical path method scheduling and value engineered budgets to get the most out of our precious resources. Our portfolio of projects speaks for itself.

Furthermore, we already provide workshops, seminars and classes since June 2013 – including these events:

Learning from the Most Sustainable Place on Earth The Rebirth of An Agricultural Empire: From top food producer in the US from 1910-1955 to food desert, what happened and what’s next? A Space for Place with Mark Lakeman Winter Open House & Repair Café with Transition Pasadena Community Watershed Forum Fritz Haeg’s Wildflowering L.A. spring bloom exhibition Steve Burns Permaculture Direct from Down Under Brad Lancaster & Water L.A. Summer Solstice Festival

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

  1. Popular and professional attitudes. The major barrier or challenge we face is in changing popular and professional attitudes toward landscaping, water conservation, food production, and urban sustainability. Nonetheless we have developed methods and tools to convince people to change their minds about how we value and change our environment, transforming hundreds of sites and inspiring thousands of people. We are removing acres of cumulative turf, for example, and replacing it with native habitat plants, rain gardens, and edible landscapes.

  2. Economical methods for massive transformation. Making our services available at affordable rates has been a challenge, sometimes resulting in sustainability for the rich. We anticipate developing efficient products and services that will be available to the general public so that we can impact the widest spectrum of people and environments. We want our workshops and green job training to be available to everybody.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Education/training
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach