This month, a pro-bono project that our Los Angeles office has championed for more than three years of community effort, fundraising, permitting, city process and construction hurdles, ended with a community Planting Day. This project has given a Hawthorne, CA neighborhood a new park along the Dominguez Creek with native plants and native trees, seating, a bike trail, interpretive signage in English and Spanish and a community mural.
We took this project on through the Patrick T. Curran Initiative (PTCI). Patrick Curran was a Landscape Architect at SWA in our Sausalito and Los Angeles offices who had an unrelenting passion for the environment. After he died at a young age in 2009, a group of co-workers, friends, and family members were inspired by the positive influence Patrick had on their lives and formed the PTCI to support a variety of environmental, sustainability, and humanitarian undertakings that foster community and/or advance the profession of landscape architecture.
Together with the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, Friends y Amigos of the Dominguez Watershed and From Lot to Spot, we collaborated with students from the Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) and the surrounding community on the Dominguez Enhancement & Engagement Project (The Deep).
In 2010 we started a series of design charettes with the ECHS students and From Lot to Spot. The student’s visions, guided by SWA landscape architects, were to revitalize 20,000 square feet of cracked and uneven pavement and graffiti throughout what was then characterized by the community as “Triple U” (Undesirable, Unsafe and Unusable).
The ECHS students played an active role on the team, designing site elements and leading the community engagement effort. They hit the neighborhood streets around the project to present their ideas to residents and passersby and they ultimately won the support of the community who was eager for the implementation.
But before the landscape design could be realized, certain improvements were required. As a part of the first of a muilti-phased plan to revitalize the areas surrounding Dominquez Creek, The LA County Flood Control District amended the soil of The DEEP site, installed irrigation for the trees and shrubs, new fencing along the channel, new entry gates, interpretive signage, decomposed granite slabs for seating opportunities, and resurfaced and striped the bike path.
On Friday, September 21, 2012, at the corner of 7th and Flower, The DEEP project was introduced to downtown Los Angeles pedestrians on a sign of the “park” designed by SWA as a part of the international Park(ing) Day event. SWA LA created the “Displaced Forest” installation, a mini-urban forest for a shaded respite from the harsh downtown streetscape— with the help of Sunny Slope Nursery who donated 20 boxed trees. After Park(ing) Day the trees were relocated to The DEEP site and planted.
On Saturday, December 8, 2012 the culmination of the ongoing work ended in a community Planting Day for The DEEP. With the help of 70+ volunteers ranging from local high school students, community members, SWA employees, From Lot to Spot members, friends and the Curran family, 21 native trees and more than 600 shrubs and groundcovers donated from local nurseries were planted along the Dominguez Creek.
Inspired by the students’ ideas for the mural and the natural environment, community muralist Mike Gower depicted a historic landscape scene of Los Angeles and the Dominguez Creek. If you look close enough, you can see Patrick Curran sitting on a rock reading a book. Final touches to the artwork were painted by Patrick’s brothers and sister.
These partnerships speak to a unique and unparalleled environmental justice collaboration where the community meets real-world planning. We are so happy to have participated in it.