Make Our Own Luck

7 Ways We Save LA by Digging In Together

By Cassy Aoyagi: If a lifetime of digging in with Angelenos has taught me anything, it is that one person can transform a community. Here are a few things we can accomplish right now with just our hearts and hands.


Give Kids a Head Start

Sustainable school gardens can do everything from improve student test scores and mitigate food scarcity to improve neighborhood property values. Vickere Murphy, head of former Senator Carol Liu’s Green 21 program, instigated the creation of a lovely native garden at Pinewood Elementary School to honor the senator as she termed out. The Pinewood Legacy Garden now serves as a resource and a model for the whole community with educational programing from LA’s Best Beyond the Bell and the Theodore Payne Foundation.

Prevent Forest Fires 

LA’s “natural” disasters are anything but natural. By removing invasive plants that dry and become fuel for fires, we not only prevent fires but floods and slides. Our hero Roger Klemm made great strides in protecting the communities of Sunland and Tujunga by recruiting community members to help replace highly-invasive highly-framable plants with fire resistant natives.

This month, Travis Whitcomb sponsored an Eagle Scout Troop project to further fire-proof the community. They surrounded LA Fire Department Station 74 with another fire resistant native garden.

Neighbors of the Rosemont Preserve also took proactive steps to prevent semi-perennial December slides from damaging homes. Their hillside restoration project replaced invasive foliage with a wide variety of fire resistant and slope-saving native plants.

Save the Whales! 

In one fell swoop, Hilda Weiss may have saved the whales along with feeding and housing troops of birds, bees, and butterflies. Hilda guided a Santa Monica Conservancy team to plant an ocean friendly garden surrounding the Preservation Resource Center in Ocean Park. Like her own monarch preserve in the middle of Santa Monica, the Shotgun House Coastal Garden features foliage authentic to the beach, so it cleans LA runoff before it reaches the ocean. Toxin free water makes for healthier plankton, surfers and whales alike!

Combat Climate Change

This is a big one, right? Yes. Long term it takes treaties and regulations and enforcement, but it also takes us. We can cool our properties more than 20 degrees by planting trees. Our established tree canopies help our neighbors keep their cool as well.

LA’s tree canopy has faced incredible hardship through the drought. If this is an area where you want to dig in, look for trees in your community that could use a little support or areas that would benefit from something that can throw some shade. If you have the opportunity to plant or replace a tree, look for approved LA parkway trees adept at riding the waves of a Mediterranean climate.

Connect the Community

The City of Sierra Madre looked at its broad expanses of lawn around city hall and saw an opportunity to conserve some water – and a little green. They reached out to Glenn Putnam with the Sierra Madre Garden Club to instigate a redesign of the space into a vibrant park comprised of water-wise, foothill-friendly plants.

The Garden Club involved the full community in the project. The Sierra Madre Community Foundation joined the Garden Club to raise funds by selling bricks and benches to mitigate the costs of the renovation. The Sierra Madre Senior Commission sponsored the Authentic Foothill Shade Garden. The Garden Club also recruited community groups and residents to help plant the new foliage.  The Authentic LA Foothill Gardens at Sierra Madre City Hall are now a source of pride and cost savings for the city.

Facilitate Economic Development

Jobs are important. While not all are in a position to create jobs, we can all create an environment that attracts businesses. Landscapes in commercial spaces can actually improve business! Beautifying medians, parkways and abandoned spaces can increase visitation to commercial spaces, the amount of money and time people spend in a retail area, and the happiness of people who work there.

If increasing business in your neighborhood is of interest, check out the work of  the  Studio City Beautification Association and La Canada Valley Beautiful for ideas.  These neighbors make a great impact!

Level the Playing Field

Sustainable landscaping does so much for our physical, mental and financial health. For how we learn. How our communities are perceived and what is possible within them. There is no reason all Angelenos should not have access to these benefits. If you see a place where you want to dig in, let us know. We’ll dig in together!