LETTERS FROM THE GARDEN

Freeways: A Brief History of Demolition and Separation

Freeways: A Brief History of Demolition and Separation

Brian Biery

The construction of freeways and interstate highways has long been the subject of intense scrutiny.  Who decides which route should be taken and what is their rationale for making that decision?  How do highways impact communities of color?  How are displaced families relocated and made whole financially?  What are the health impacts of major highways located adjacent to residential areas?  Which communities suffer the brunt of those impacts?  And, here in Southern California, will the freeway soon become obsolete and require further enhancements to meet the needs of a society that is dependent on motorized vehicles?

Historically racial and economic segregation in urban communities is often described as a natural consequence of poor choices by individuals. In reality, however, racially and economically segregated cities are the result of many factors, including the nation’s interstate highway system. In states around the country, highway construction displaced poor and minority households.  And it cut the heart and soul out of thriving minority communities as homes, churches, schools, and businesses were destroyed.  read more…

The Future of the California Lawn

The Future of the California Lawn

Paloma Avila is Program and Development Manager at Arlington Garden Pasadena and co-host of Beyond Freeways. 

According to the University of California Cooperative Extension, landscape irrigation accounts for about 50% of annual residential water consumption statewide. Since lawn irrigation makes up such a large proportion of this consumption, one simple way we can reduce residential water use quickly is by removing non-native, water-demanding lawns. In addition to the water demands of turf, lawn irrigation wastes water through run-off and introduces pesticides and chemical fertilizers into the ecosystem. Even “water-wise” technologies create harmful impacts when installed incorrectly.

Given the negative environmental impacts, why are lawns so pervasive in California?  read more…

A Climate Change Garden

A Climate Change Garden

Andrew Jewell, Communications and Volunteer Manager

It is now widely appreciated that the global climate is irreversibly changed and will continue to change in our lifetimes. The magnitude of the change depends on what human beings can accomplish in the years ahead. The recent IPCCC report shows an average temperature increase between 1.2 degrees C (the most optimistic model) and 3 degrees C (the least optimistic model in which carbon emissions double by mid-century) by 2040-2060. [1]

This means that, within the next 20-40 years, the global average surface temperature will increase by an appreciable amount even in the best case scenario. Even in the best case scenario — and, to be clear, this is not the scenario that current policies put us on track to face — many parts of the world will experience an increase in extreme heat events, flooding, and droughts. This is dangerous to both human beings and the great diversity of life on this planet.  read more…

Why a tree survey?

Why a tree survey?

by William Hallstrom (Arlington Garden volunteer)

For the past few months, most of the volunteer crew at Arlington Garden have spent at least some of their time wrapping the trunks of each of the garden’s trees with the kind of soft tape measure you might use for sewing, looking up to the highest branches and pacing underneath them while jotting down notes. It’s all part of the tree survey, one of the recent volunteer projects at the garden, whose goal is to determine how much carbon is being sequestered by the trees in Arlington Garden. read more…

Nature Relations w/ Evellyn Rosas

Nature Relations w/ Evellyn Rosas

Evellyn Rosas and Krystle Yu are members of the LA Nature for All Leadership Academy 2020 cohort. As part of their final project for LA Nature for All, they designed and implemented a digital audio tour for Arlington Garden that you can access here. In this interview, we talk with Evellyn Rosas about the tour, her inspirations, her relationship with nature, and how she is working to promote inclusion in outdoor and conservation circles. 

AG: Evellyn, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how it might have led you to LA Nature for All? 

Hello, my name is Evellyn Rosas, and I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. Since I started living in the San Gabriel Valley about three years ago, the natural surroundings provide a balance in my life. I enjoy finding ways to advocate for people or places that I love by searching for resources online or hearing from friends. 

I happened to see the Fall 2020 Leadership Academy application through an Instagram story, so I thought, “If this training is specifically for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) interested in environmental protection, I should try it since I identify as a person of color. “If not me, then who? If not now, when?”

The opportunity appeared at the right time when I needed a connection to people and nature during the Covid-19 pandemic.

AG: You and your partner Krystle Yu were both part of the 18th Cohort of LA Nature for All Leadership Academy. What is the Leadership Academy? What is its overarching goal or purpose? 

The Nature for All Leadership Academy is a leadership training program where Los Angeles community members learn to organize for the environmental protection and enhancement of our mountains, forests, rivers, parks, and urban open spaces. For more information about Nature for All’s mission and programs, you can also visit lanatureforall.org

To combine what we learned in the Academy, we were asked to organize a community engagement project. Krystle and I combined our ideas to develop a project that advocated for protecting urban green space(s) in Pasadena. Based on the 2016 Los Angeles Countywide Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment, we learned how much of the Pasadena population has accessibility to parks, recreation, and open spaces. Arlington Garden happened to be the ONLY public garden in Pasadena that was still community-supported and open during the pandemic.  read more…

Meet Our New Board Members!

Meet Our New Board Members!

Vishaal Khanna is a project Manager, landscape designer, plant installation layout supervision, plant sourcing, and repository of botanical information at Elysian Landscapes. Melissa Weinberger is co-founder and partner at Touchton & Weinberger LLP. She is a supporter of criminal justice reform and a member of the federal indigent defense panel. Sybil Grant works for PolicyLink, a national research and action institute, advancing racial equity and community-driven public policies.

Arlington Garden: What is your background, and how do you think it will inform your work as a new board member? What are you most excited about working on?

Melissa Weinberger: I am a criminal defense attorney and for the past 15+ years have handled a wide variety of cases in both state and federal court. As one of the few lawyers on the board, I expect to use my legal skills from time to time, and I think my background and experience working in criminal justice will bring a unique and useful perspective. I am excited to work on Arlington Garden events where we bring diverse stakeholders together in a beautiful setting.

Vishaal Khanna: My passion for plants goes back to my early childhood.  My Grandmother Sybil was an avid gardener and instilled in me the love and patience of gardening. I studied Botany & Soil Science in school but realized I loved working with people and plants more than labs and wanted to do something that merged the two. My background in Landscape Design informs my perspective on how people interact with outdoor spaces. Thinking how present and future generations will use the gardens is incredibly inspiring! I’m looking forward to bringing more plant education and signage into the gardens and also working on a Master Plan for Arlington Gardens.

Sybil Grant: For the past five years, I have planned, planted, and maintained a native plant garden at my home. My professional background is in political advocacy, working to advance racial equity and pass community-led public policies. I’m excited about our initiatives to bring more outdoor learning opportunities to Pasadena students. read more…

Year-Round Birds of Southern California: Bob Gorcik

Year-Round Birds of Southern California: Bob Gorcik

Image credit VJAnderson, adult male Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)

Bob Gorcik volunteers in Arlington Garden when his work schedule allows him to do so and has been a birder since he was in middle school.  As an undergraduate, he had multiple opportunities to as a wildlife research assistant, where he got to study birds up close.

In this month’s column, I will be talking about some of the bird that can be seen in and around Arlington Garden that can be commonly found in parks, gardens, and large residential properties that contain some native landscaping and small habitat fragments but are not likely to be seen right outside your window in your apartment complex’s courtyard.

These birds discussed this month lie somewhere between Wrentits, California Thrashers, and California Quail that are typically only heard and encountered on hiking trails that run through larger tracts of chapparal and coastal sage scrub and those that can easily be found in small city parks in the heart of urban centers, such as mockingbirds, house finches, black phoebes, and hummingbirds. Unlike the birds discussed in my previous segment, these birds discussed below are year-round residents.

One bird that many find to be cute due to their tiny size and their tendency to form large flocks that flit from tree to tree is the Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) which can be found nearly anywhere where you have large, branching trees, especially our native Coast Live Oaks. Wherever seed heads of many kinds of trees and wildflowers are allowed to be left on branches, grasses, and wildflowers, you will certainly see pairs of Lesser Goldfinches (Spinus psaltria) in many parks, gardens, and fields. read more…

Arlington Garden IDEA Statement

Arlington Garden IDEA Statement

Arlington Garden’s Commitment

When 275 Arlington Drive was nothing but a barren lot, our founders Betty and Charles McKenney envisioned Arlington Garden to be a place where everyone, no matter their background or circumstance, could find joy and inspiration amongst nature.

Over the years, the Garden’s leadership has sought to carry forward this vision by keeping the garden free and open to the public, as well as by engaging with our stakeholders and in our own governance. But we know we cannot be complacent. As a community-built habitat garden, we want to represent our community’s cultural and ecological diversity, advance gardening practices that regenerate and heal the planet, and be an advocate for the right of all to equitably access nature and public space. And so, after a year-long journey of self-reflection, honest conversations, and learning, we are humbled to share with you our first Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) statement. It seeks to underscore our organization’s commitment to these fundamental values, lay the groundwork for how they will affect our priorities moving forward, and hold us accountable.

Our path certainly does not stop here. As a society, we are facing monumental challenges posed by climate change, racial inequity, and environmental injustice. But we truly believe that Arlington Garden has a role to play in driving local solutions to such global problems. Indeed, the Garden’s very existence is an embodiment of the positive change that is possible when we come together with an open heart. We invite you to join us in exploring how the Arlington Garden community can contribute to this historic moment and uplift voices working for a better, more just world. We hope to hear from you.

As always, with immense gratitude,

The Board and Staff of Arlington Garden in Pasadena

Please read Arlington Garden’s IDEA Statement below. read more…

Birds of Arlington: Bob Gorcik

Birds of Arlington: Bob Gorcik

image from Michelle Matthews

Bob Gorcik volunteers in Arlington Garden when his work schedule allows him to do so and has been a birder since he was in middle school.  As an undergraduate, he had multiple opportunities to as a wildlife research assistant, where he got to study birds up close.

Arlington Garden in Pasadena is a local birding hotspot.  The native California and Mediterranean flora found throughout the garden provide food sources for a great diversity of bird species. The fact that the garden is made up of smaller sections representing the many ecosystems that can be found in our region also contributes to the diversity of birds that can be found in it. Throughout 2021, I will be sharing a short segment on different subgroups of birds that can be found throughout Garden and in backyards around Pasadena.

The Garden can be a great spot for birdwatching anytime of the year, but the winter months from December through March are particularly productive. In order to escape the cold weather, many birds who spend their summers and breeding seasons in the mountains and northern conifer forests overwinter here in coastal California. Below is a summary of some of the winter residents one may find in Arlington Garden and surrounding areas of Pasadena.

Birds that can be frequently seen in the garden include Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus), Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa), and Western Tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana). The Hermit Thrush has one of the most beautiful flute-like songs of any bird, evoking forested wilderness, however they do not sing this song in the winter. The oak grove and conifer grove on the northwest side of the garden are perhaps the best places to spot these birds. Another bird that is commonly found here in the winter is the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), a bird with a great slick-back crest with dark marks around the eye and a spot of red and yellow on the tail. These birds are major fruit and berry eaters. They fly around in flocks and can be quite common, although they tend to stay high up in the canopy of trees, so that it can be difficult to observe them. read more…

Friends of Arlington: Roberto Gabriel, Raptor Photographer

Friends of Arlington: Roberto Gabriel, Raptor Photographer

Michelle Matthews: In a new occasional interview feature, we talk with friends of Arlington Garden about their passions. I first met Roberto Gabriel in July of 2017 when I started as Executive Director of Arlington Garden. I spoke with him on his way to work, and this is an edited version of our conversation. All images courtesy of Gabriel Roberto. 

MM: Can you give us a little background about yourself? What drew you to photography? And how do you think it relates to the rest of your daily life?

RG: I’ve been taking photos for about three and a half years now: a friend at my Muay Thai gym lent me his camera and encouraged me to take photos.

I was born in El Salvador and my grandmother is Palestinian. I was raised in Belize and came to the US when I was 14. It was a shock to me how developed LA was, and I didn’t find natural spots until I was in my 20s while running and training in Eaton Canyon and Ascot Hills. I’ve been an EMT for five years, and typically work 12-14 hours each shift.

MM: You are clearly a raptor enthusiast: what is it about raptors that interests you?

I love all birds of prey – love owls and their big eyes, and try to catch them before sunrise – you have to be patient and wait, because they are really good at blending into the environment. I love when their eyes are all dilated first thing in the morning and the way they hunt. read more…

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