Whole Life Magazine

August / September 2016

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Page 9 of 43

city of angels By Marcia Hanscom KILL YOUR LAWN But don't replace one problem with another For years Dr. Travis Longcore, a geographer and professor at USC's Spatial Sciences Institute and co-founder of the Urban Wildlands Group, could be heard on local PBS radio programs and elsewhere, earnestly encouraging homeowners in our dry climate to "kill your lawn." The refrain certainly got people's attention, but few other than card-carrying members of the California Native Plant Society took his admonitions seriously. Finally in about 2009, several local communities in the City of Los Angeles began to understand the importance of local sus- tainability and started addressing the impact of wasteful water habits on the environment. The Mar Vista Community Council Green Committee orga- nized a Green Garden Showcase that year, hoping to convey the idea that removing a lawn was an opportunity, rather than a hardship, and best done with nature's processes in mind. More than 400 gardens were opened to the public during the next seven years of this annual spring one-day event. "Simply covering the former lawn area with rocks and drought-tolerant plants is a missed opportunity," lamented Sherri Akers, a Mar Vista Community Council Board member and one of the co-founders of the Green Garden Show- case. This became apparent to those who took the tour, and in response, "Community members created lush, livable spaces that support our pollinator habitat. Best practices feed aquifers and reduce the loss of water run- ning off into our storm drains," Akers explained. Simultaneously, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) began rolling out a grant program to fund efforts to educate the public about the importance of replacing lawns with native plants that are not only drought-tolerant, but that support songbirds, butterfl ies and other local wildlife that can thrive in a home gar- den. The campaign included promotion of a signifi cant rebate program whereby residents would be paid to re- place their water-hogging grass lawns with plants and other materials that would help cut the city's water use. As this idea caught on, several start-up companies realized the rebate incentives could provide a tidy profi t, and began offering residents services to replace the lawns and com- plete the bureaucratic paperwork required by LADWP. Nobody anticipated the proliferating cookie-cutter designs that re- placed lawns with environmentally unfriendly hardscape—dec- Photos: Bottom, Abigail Lewis - Top, Marcia Hanscom Hardscape retains heat and prevents water from soaking into the ground. Lush, liveable habitats support pollinators and allow groundwater to recharge. 10 wholelifetimes.com

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