The Parkway Landscaping Report: YES, the Public WILL be Heard!

Drought Tolerant Parkway Curb

 

Will Culver City residents be allowed to put veggies on the parkways abutting their homes?

Can property owners place benches and community library boxes on the parkways without getting fined? 

In these economically challenging times, would a permit fee of $151.50 for installing drought tolerant perennials and succulents in one’s parkway promote or prevent people from removing their thirsty lawn strips? 

How can our city ordinances support best-use of abundant residential parkway public land?

These and other items will be the topic of a Citywide public workshop or townhall meeting (date & format to be announced), as a follow-up to the May 28th Culver City Council meeting where the issues of parkway tree removal and residential parkway landscaping ordinances were on the agenda. 

Judging from the conversations we had beforehand in our neighborhoods as TCC raised awareness about the 5/28 council meeting as well as from the number of speakers that showed up to weigh in with their opinions, it looks like Culver City residents really CARE about their parkway landscaping freedoms, and have some very forward thinking, Transition-oriented ideas to share with each other and City Council.

Thankfully, this opportunity will come true as the the Council voted unanimously to hold a public event of some sort (format TBA) to provide an opportunity for residents’ input about the parkway ordinance.  In the meantime, the council decided to split-off the tree removal section of the ordinance from the parkway section so that that the much-needed Tree Removal codification could move along at a quicker rate of approval while we work out the parkway standards.

MORE GOOD NEWS:

It was announced that the Sustainability Sub-Committee,
of which Vice-Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells and Mayor Jeff Cooper are members,
will now be open to the public.
That means us!

Back to the Parkway Regulations: As the city seeks to codify its regulations (Download the 5/28/13 Council Meeting’s Parkway Tree Removal & Landscaping Standards Report here—32-pages) it is clear that residents want to be a part of the process so that a thoughtful revision of the ordinance that includes public input could lead Culver City toward a more environmentally-friendly future.

TCC of course was there to challenge the proposed ordinance as it reads now. Four of our members spoke to different facets of building resilient communities. Among us, we spoke about:

• The importance of growing edibles in public space — from veggie boxes to fruit trees.
• Placemaking and ways that parkways could include community-building elements—such as park benches and Little Free Libraries
• The importance of public forums to gather ideas from residents
• The need to incentivize conversions (the proposed permit fees & violation fines for non-compliance create a punitive dis-incentive)
• Use a more location-appropriate invasive species list for the source of recommended plants such as the L.A. Regional Invasive Plant Guide from the Council for Watershed Health, Invasive Plant Monitoring & Outreach Program.
• General overall need for a thoughtful approach to parkway use to help support more resilient & interactive neighborhoods.

Adding to this WISH LIST of what was spoken aloud to Council on 5/28 (since 3 minutes each speaker just wasn’t enough time to get it all out!) TCC wants to say: if we’re going drought tolerant, why don’t we take this opportunity to really GO FOR IT?

• YES to rain gardens in the parkways, with fee waivers! In fact…
• How about “Curb Cuts” & bioswales such as Ventura’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program for watershed pollution remediation? Opt-in participation, especially encouraged at residences closest to the creek? Develop some standardized designs that have been pre-approved by plan check so NO costly permits? It’s working in Ventura!
• How about opt-in pilot programs in different neighborhoods featuring creative ideas such as banks of parkways dedicated to planter boxes with edibles, grown community gardening-style (heaven’s knows, the city needs more space than its official 16-plot Community Gardens space! Word has it the waiting list is at least 3 years long…)

• Can we legally allow permeable pavements or gutters? They’re doing it in L.A.!
Work parties to help residents get over the inertia—TCC and other Transition groups throughout the nation (and the world) support this community-building way to get things done… “many hands make light work” 
• Let’s build partnerships with groups already making a difference in our community and nearby  such as Ballona Creek RenaissanceSurfrider Foundation, G3—Green Gardens Group, WaterLA , North East Trees, UC Master Gardener Program, and many more!
• Lots of resources for cheap or free stuff to make the transition more possible for everyone: Let’s assemble our list as a group, vet it for accuracy, and offer it to others as they begin their parkway conversion journey!

More stories from the meeting:
One speaker showed a slideshow of the multitude of eclectic landscaping & hardscapes already existing on Culver City parkways to illustrate what a herculean task it would be to get everyone in compliance with such an ordinance.

One early adopter of parkway lawn conversions into drought-tolerant non-invasives & California Natives reported that she  & her partner had made extra effort to be environmentally responsible and educate themselves by making several pilgrimages to the Theodore Payne Foundation & Nursery.  She expressed concern that after all their well-intentioned study & application they would be out of compliance with the list of PRE-APPROVED PLANTS provided in the proposed ordinance. (We’re sure this is a common response by many early adopters to the ordinance as it reads now!)

And to finish up the speaker list, a local teen made an eloquent & rousing speech about the freedom to express oneself in one’s own parkway and the draconian tone of some of the ordinance as it stands. He finished up with the lovely idea that we should all go and “live our lives.”

Indeed, may we go live our lives in peace, humbleness & understanding, with edibles and justice for all!

LET’S GET READY:

To be prepared for the official City Town Hall meeting,
TCC will be offering a PANEL of LOCAL SUSTAINABILITY EXPERTS
to help us formulate some do-able ideas to bring to the official Town Hall Meeting.
Date, location and speakers to-be-announced as the details unfold.
We’ll keep you posted!

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