A 100% solution for L.A. City Hall's damaged lawn
Right now, thanks to months of occupation by Occupy L.A. protesters, City Hall looks like a Hancock Park fixer-upper: A hard-scrabble lawn behind K-rails and chain-link fencing.
What's worse, although the city is weighing its options, the cheapest landscaping solution -- and therefore the most likely -- appears to be grass. Which is also the dumbest solution.
Grass comes from England. It likes water. And -- despite all of the faux-Tudor mansions in some of our tonier neighborhoods -- L.A. isn't England. But we do like water, so much so that we're willing to steal it and pipe it in from faraway lands.
It's not as if we don't know what to do. Heck, way back in November, Emily Green, who writes the Dry Garden for The Times, outlined in an Op-Ed piece an ecologically friendly plan to re-landscape City Hall. And she made this sensible argument for it:
It comes down to this: If homeowners must abandon gratuitous shows of lawn, City Hall should too. If homeowners must learn to tend and appreciate native plant gardens, so should City Hall -- and Rec and Parks.
She was equally blunt about the argument that tough budgetary times require the use of grass:
This insistence that we cling to a wasteful model because conservation is too expensive doesn't scan. Whatever hard times the city faces, the real deficit isn't money. It's skill. The inertia isn't budgetary. It's cultural.
Until Occupy L.A. smothered it last month, lawn remained around Los Angeles City Hall in part because that's what Rec and Parks knows how to tend.
Still, money is a problem. The cost differences are dramatic. As The Times story Monday said:
The cost of planting native grasses could run from $5 to $7 a square foot, said Cassy Aoyagi, owner of FormLA Landscaping in Tujunga and president of the Theodore Payne Foundation. The park's lawns covered about 75,000 square feet.
Her estimate includes grading, mulching, retrofitting the irrigation system, and planting a grass like Carex pansa, which looks like traditional turf if it's mowed, she said.
Having more native plants and a completely new irrigation system could cost $8 to $12 a square foot, she estimated. Traditional turf would average about $3 a square foot, she said.
But I think there's a way out. Call it the 100% solution.
First, labor costs. Here, we turn to the Occupy folks -- the self-proclaimed 99%ers. You camped there. You ruined the yard. Now you need to help fix it.
You may not have money, but you obviously have time on your hands, and presumably you can use a shovel, or a rake, or you can carry a plant or two. (And, if we have to, we have the names of those arrested. We know where you live. Don't make us come and get you.)
Next, real costs, for plants and the like. Here, we turn to the enemy of the 99%ers -- the 1%. Show the Occupy folks they're wrong about you. How about a few bucks for some native grass? A new irrigation system? A different tree or two?
You can even show up and turn a shovel, get your picture taken with the mayor and City Council.
Finally, there's the "other percenters." Like the landscape people, who are full of advice. Folks like those at the Theodore Payne Foundation and the California Native Plant Society.
Talk is cheap. Why not turn your advice into a real plan? Draw it up, then hand it to the city -- gratis. Offer your expertise to the city -– and the Occupiers -– in installing it all.
And you farmers market folks who haven't been able to use the lawn in months. I know times are hard, but maybe you could find a way to contribute -– either money or labor? You say business is down in the new location, and you really want to get back to City Hall? Well, as they say, there's no free lunch.
So what do you say, L.A.? Can I get a green thumbs-up?
Photo: The city now has to decide whether and how to replace the once-lush lawn around City Hall, killed by months of protesters living there. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times