The Crazy Political agendas of SHADE

 

It’s a civic resource, an index of inequality, and a requirement for public health. Shade should be a mandate for urban designers – this long essay by Sam Bloch in PLACES JOURNAL could just as well apply to Cape Town as to Los Angeles – where apartheid era planning has made its leafy suburbs of the wealthy the exact opposite of the slum tenements and shanty towns of the poor and squatters. A similar pattern of legislation, bureaucracy and politics seems to make the provision of the seemingly innocuous commodity: shade- a luxury ! Is shade the missing link to environmental, cultural, social and and health – can a focus on shade make a new type of equality a reality instead of the urban deserts that planning now mandates? This impeccably researched and documented article is well worth a read – here are a few small teasers:

Tony’s Barber Shop, Cypress Park, Northeast Los Angeles. [Monica Nouwens for Places Journal]

“As the sun rises in Los Angeles, a handful of passengers wait for a downtown bus in front of Tony’s Barber Shop, on an exposed stretch of Figueroa Street near the Pasadena Freeway. Like Matryoshka dolls, they stand one behind another, still and quiet, in the shadow cast by the person at the head of the line. It’s going to be another 80-degree day, and riders across the city are lining up behind street signs and telephone poles.

For years, the business owners on this block have tried to do something about the lack of shade. First someone planted banana trees and jammed an I-beam into the sidewalk well. Tony Cornejo, the barber, swears he didn’t do it, but he admits rigging up a gray canvas between a highway sign and parking lot fence to put a roof on the makeshift shelter. He was just taking care of the street, he said, so that the “ladies and children” who had grown accustomed to waiting out the heat in his shop could be comfortable outside. He dragged wooden crates under the canopy and nailed them together to create two long benches. In the shade, people ate their lunches, read magazines, scrolled through their phones. Can collectors rested. Bus drivers waited before beginning their shifts.

within two miles of Tony’s Barber Shop. 1 Who decides where the shade goes? You might imagine that transit planners call the shots — strategically placing shelters outside grocery stores and doctors’ offices on high-frequency routes, according to community need — but Los Angeles, like many cities, has outsourced the job. The first thousand shelters were installed in the 1980s by billboard companies in exchange for the right to sell ad space, and they tended to show up in wealthy areas where ad revenue surpassed maintenance costs. 2 In 2001, the mayor signed a deal to double the number of shelters and give public officials greater control over their placement. The new vendor agreed to install and maintain shelters throughout the city and offset its losses with freestanding ad kiosks in lucrative areas. But when politically savvy constituents complained about the coming spate of advertising, the city withheld permits, and the deal broke down. As the contract nears its end, the vendor, Outfront/Decaux, has installed only about 650 new shelters, roughly half of the projected number.” 

Bus shelters are installed and maintained by the company that controls the ad rights. [Monica Nouwens for Places Journal]

“You can’t install a shelter here without disrupting underground utilities, violating the ADA, or blocking driveway sightlines. On this block, shade is basically outlawed.”

Shade in the Skid Row neighborhood, Downtown Los Angeles. [Monica Nouwens for Places Journal]

Shade is often understood as a luxury amenity. But as deadly heatwaves become commonplace, we have to see it as a civic resource shared by all.

Shade was integral to the urban design of southern California until the advent of cheap electricity in the 1930s.

Top left: Awnings on Citrus Avenue in Covina, ca. 1908. Top right: Craftsman bungalow on Vermont Avenue near 9th Street, Los Angeles, n.d. Bottom left: Pergola and porch of bungalow in Altadena, 1910. [All courtesy of University of Southern California/California Historical Society] Bottom right: Harnetiaux bungalow court in Pasadena, 2013. [Wikimedia Commons]

Look at what happened to Pershing Square, where sunlight was weaponized to clear out the ‘deviates and criminals.’

“Pershing Square set a template for Los Angeles: the park as an open space to walk through, and as a revenue-generating canvas.”

Rendering for the new Pershing Square, with shade pergola. [Agence Ter]

“Shade creates shelter, and Los Angeles is very conflicted about creating shelter in the public realm.”

“Mexican fan palms were the ideal tree for an automobile landscape, beautifying the city without making a mess.”

Avalon Boulevard, South Los Angeles. [Monica Nouwens for Places Journal]”

“If you see a mature shade tree today, you can assume that a private citizen paid for it and maintained it. Canopy inequality thus follows lines of wealth”.

To the list of environmental injustices in this country, we can add the unequal distribution of shade.

“The city won’t permit the planting of large trees where the roots could rip up sidewalks or destroy underground utilities. That effectively zones shade out of many poor neighborhoods.”

“Surveillance is another concern. When a new pole camera goes up in a public park, the mature canopy around it vanishes.”

 

One study found that the difference in surface temperature between shaded and unshaded asphalt was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The mayor has pledged to reduce the temperature by three degrees by 2050, but sustainability programs will vary by neighborhood.

The grant programs now for urban forestry are crazy. It’s money that we’ve never seen before … [but] they have no idea of the real challenges behind these kinds of projects.’

Imagine what Los Angeles could do if it tied street enhancement to a comprehensive program of shade creation.

What we need is urbanists in and outside City Hall who conceptualize shade itself as a public good.

Drawing by Joyce Earley Lyndon and Maynard Lyndon, from Growing Shade, a brief study of “tree umbrellas” in Switzerland, published in the third issue of Places Journal in 1984. The drawing was presented last week at a discussion of shade equity in Los Angeles convened by Christopher Hawthorne, the city’s chief design officer and a professor of practice at Occidental College.

 

Sam Bloch, “Shade,” Places Journal, April 2019. Accessed 18 May 2019. <https://placesjournal.org/article/shade-an-urban-design-mandate/&gt;

 

Mia Lehrer on the Worst Landscaping Crime in Los Angeles

WE all know that tar (asphalt to Americans) is a crime against humanity but here is a different take on why so many lives are so impoverished – instead of ‘dirt’ ( soil to the rest of us) and lawn ( also anathema to amny) to play in as kids – these children can scrape their knees and elbows on the petroleum industries detritus... from Curbed LA  by Adrian Glick Kudler
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Mia Lehrer, Piggyback Yard plans

Landscape architect Mia Lehrer’s work with her firm Mia Lehrer + Associates includes a lot of LA’s favorite outdoor sites, including the Annenberg Community Beach House, the Silver Lake Reservoir pathVista Hermosa Park on the edge of Downtown, and the LA River (they collaborated on the Revitalization Master Plan). Since Lehrer is such an expert, we asked her for her thoughts on the greening of Los Angeles–now, tomorrow, and in 20 years. Yesterday, she discussed the LA of 2031, her favorite outdoor places in LA, and better yards for Angelenos. Here’s what we asked her today:

What’s the worst landscaping crime you see committed around Los Angeles?
Asphalt, asphalt and asphalt…especially in the design and construction of schools. These are spaces where the future leaders of our city and country spend most of their days 9 months out of the year and it’s a shame that they are not able to interact with nature as part of their daily school activities. Continue reading

SOUPERGREEN – technological future – dream of a future past?

Is there space for the future in the present? I am not sure  if technological mechanist dreams can solve the problems they have created – is our only hope really sub-urban “greenism” -i.e.  New Urbanism crossed with Landscape Urbanism’s ecological bio-morphism or What?????

From the website of the exhibition: A+D – Architecture and Design Museum Los Angeles:

“This exhibition presents new architectural work that offers a critical and compelling alternative to the prevailing approaches to environmentally conscious architecture. It specifically challenges the architectural discipline’s inexcusably normative application of technology in response to the environmental crisis, which has to date resulted in work that either approaches the environmental crisis as an engineering problem to be simply “solved” through a banal or invisible technology, or else speciously uses the rhetoric of technological performance in an attempt to justify an otherwise irrelevant formalism. Given the seriousness of the environmental crisis, the complacency of both of these existing approaches is severely problematic.”

From METALOCUSBLOG:

This exhibition presents new architectural work that offers a critical and compelling alternative to the prevailing approaches to envornmentally conscious architecture. Between February 14th and April 14th, 2011, the Architecture and Design Museum of Los Angeles will be exhibiting work from several designers that challenge the ubiquitous approach to environmentally conscious architecture and the normative application of technology to achieve sustainability.

SOUPERgreen is a collection of five architectural propositions that explore technology as a means to promote the engagement between architecture and environment.

Continue reading