(photo by Supermod)
A few years ago, Sophia and I were driving through Northern California and ended up in a cafe in Carmel. We talked with a local resident, this gray-haired man, who complained about how stringent the community was in their building code. You couldn’t change the color of your roof without going through five committee meetings. I remember thinking this was so fascist, but I’m changing my mind today.
Because of all the beautiful photos you send me of the Fall leaves and trees that you found in your neighborhoods.
Most of you look like you live in pretty nice places. The question on my mind: Why is Los Angeles so ugly?
The answer: Los Angeles is just a chaotic mess, built together with no rhyme or reason. The city of Los Angeles could learn from Carmel. It needs stricter building and aesthetic regulations, and I nominate myself to be the Design Czar.
Here are the first three intitiatives as Los Angeles’ new Design Czar:
1) As Los Angeles Design Czar, I will take down 75% of all billboards.
I have a TV guide at home. I know what is on TV on Thursday night. I don’t need to have you remind me in my face with a billboard every five miles as I drive. I get enough advertising on TV and on the sidebars of YOUR BLOGS! What right do you have — ABC, or Cingular, or Bank of America — to stick messages in my face everywhere I go? Can a company legally own this air space? Can I put a billboard on my own house advertising “Citizen of the Month?”
Some billboards are fun, but they should be restricted to high traffic zones like the Sunset Strip or Hollywood Boulevard. But one day, I honestly hope that some pervert gets into an accident while looking at a slutty model in an American Apparel billboard — and then SUES both the city and American Apparel for causing the accident.
When Sophia and I were driving on the highway in the Berkshires, the first thing we noticed was — “No Billboards!”
Ugly, annoying, brain-numbing billboards — I am taking you down.
2) As Los Angeles Design Czar, I will require every mini-mall developer and landlord to submit every single design decision to ME because I don’t trust anything you do. Who builds these ugly pieces of crap?
I’m not one of those frou-frou people who can only bear to look at beauty, but these structures literally hurt my soul. It’s obvious that you need someone with a little creativity to monitor your work. From now on, everything will be ORGANIZED, color-coordinated, and easy to read — like a blog header. I know many of you landlords will plead poverty. You don’t have money to do anything pretty. I should just be happy that you are building something in the inner city. I say bulls**t! Being creative and aesthetically pleasing doesn’t require money.
Look at this —
(stock photo via Cruisin’ Mom)
Randy’s Donuts looks like it was made for twenty bucks worth of cement and Play-doh, but it says LA to me more than the twenty billion dollar Getty Center. It is funny, fake, but innocent in a loving way — now that is the Los Angeles we love! How about doing something fun?
Sorry, enough is enough. All mini-mall decisions now go through me.
3) As Los Angeles Design Czar, I will REQUIRE every business and every homeowner to have a REAL tree in front of their establishment or home — and no more palm trees.
(photo from Peggy Archer)
Homeowners will have to pay for the upkeep of the tree, or be fined. There will be a surcharge every time you register your car, in order for the county to plant a tree on the side of the freeway. I know there are all these “treehugger” types who like to voluntarily plant trees here and there and teach their kids about the environment. There’s no time for this feel-good liberalism. Take your kids to Whole Foods and show them the goat cheese. It’s time to get serious.
(Al Gore in an Inconvenient Truth)
There’s global warming. There’s the awful air quality of the Los Angeles basin.
I believe scientific fact:
Research has shown that trees can act as biological filters, removing large quantities of particles from the urban atmosphere (Broadmeadow et al., 1998, and Freer-Smith et al., 1997). As much as 234 tons per year in the Chicago, USA, area, a recent study showed (McPherson, et al., 1994). This is predominately due to their large leaf areas relative to the ground on which they stand, and the physiological properties of their surfaces – e.g. the presence of trichomes or waxy cuticles on the leaves of some species. Interception of particles by vegetation has been shown to be much greater for street trees due to their proximity to high intensities of road traffic (Impens and Delcarte, 1979).
Did you that 16% of HC emissions evaporative emissions that occur during daytime heating of fuel delivery systems of parked vehicles?
Evaporative emissions, as well as exhaust emissions during the first few minutes of engine operation are sensitive to local microclimate.
A simple solution: tree shade in parking lots. The California Air Resources Board came to conclusion after doing this experiment:
Two automated weather stations and instrumented passenger cars were located in unshaded and shaded portions of a parking lot in Davis, CA for a week in August 1997. Air temperature, solar and net radiation, wind speed and direction, and vehicle cabin and fuel tank temperatures were measured. Shaded surface area was approximately 30%, and canopy density was sparse and variable due to leaf drop. Peak daytime air temperatures at the shaded parking lot averaged 1 to 2°C cooler than the unshaded site. Temperature differences here are considered conservative due to the relatively sparse tree cover. Fuel tank temperatures of the shaded car were 2 to 4°C cooler than fuel tank temperatures of the unshaded car.
Larger temperature differences between fuel tanks of shaded and unshaded cars, compared to air temperature differences between shaded and unshaded lots, indicate that direct shading of the vehicle influenced fuel tank temperature (hence HC evaporation rates) as much as, or more than, the aggregate effect of trees on air temperature. Average vehicle cabin temperature was 26C cooler in the shaded vehicle for the period 1300 to 1600 PST.
Trees remove pollutants from the air. The leaves absorb gaseous pollutants—ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Not all trees are made equal for this job. There are some trees that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can ADD to a city’s pollution, including eucalyptus, liquidambar, sycamore, poplar, oak, black locust, and willow trees.
The following trees are the best in lowering ozone:
hackberry; white and green ash; Canary Island and Italian stone pines; shoestring acacia; maple; palo verde; camphor tree; Australian willow (Geijara parviflora); Chinese pistache; thornless mesquite; flowering pear; frontier, prospector, Chinese, and lacebark elms; and zelkova.
Despite the iconic symbolism of the palm tree, most of the tall Mexican Fan Palms are not native to the area.
They were planted for promotional reasons or for the first LA Olympics in the 1930s. After that, they became symbolic of LA.
“They have no ecological or environmental value whatsoever,” says Carmen Wolf, program director for the Theodore Payne Foundation, which operates a native California plant nursery. Organizations like Wolf’s and the California Native Plant Society say that because palm trees are not native to the region in most cases (with the exception of the California Fan Palm or the Desert Fan Palm), they are not only more susceptible to disease and rot, but also damaging to the native ecology.
Sure, palm trees are cool-looking, but THEY GIVE NO SHADE. There is a reason no one walks in LA. You can get heat stroke walking the streets. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some REAL TREES — even if the leaves don’t change as dramatically as in Vermont?
I’m a realistic person. Los Angeles is never going to become as historic as Paris. Los Angeles is never going to become as green as Yellowstone National Park. But it doesn’t have to be SO UGLY!
And that’s going to change RIGHT NOW — with me as the new Design Czar.
Of course, I haven’t been elected yet as Design Czar, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been voted in a mayor — and he seems to be interested in trees. He has started a program called “Million Trees LA.” Here’s what he says on the website:
“I have launched the Million Trees LA initiative; the plan is to plant one million trees over the next several years. This is a partnership between the City of Los Angeles, community groups, businesses and individuals like you, working together to plant and provide long-term stewardship of one million trees, planted all over the city with a focus on areas that need it most.
The trees will provide shade and save on energy costs, clean the air and help reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, capture polluted urban runoff and improve water quality, and add to the values of our lives.”
I’m not sure how serious this is being taken. Frankly, I read the LA Times every day and I never even heard of this inititative until today. But until I’m elected, it’s a start…
Thank YOU for inspiring me with all the beautiful photos of trees and fall leaves that you sent to me through email. I’m still waiting for a few more Fall photos from some bloggers, so I’ll post them all next week.
California owes you one for giving us a little bit of Fall. I’ll send word to Arnold.