July 18, 2013

"They Paved Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot"

In a recent editorial for the Architect's Newspaper, Sam Lubbel believes Los Angeles must find new uses for underused spaces: "As our urban fabric moves into the 21st century, we need to rethink our infrastructure in serious, holistic ways. While we’re stuck resorting to parking lot cultural space there’s so much wasted infrastructure that could be transformed into something better." Forced into existence by excessive minimum parking standards, the ever ubiquitous surface parking lot is now providing a tabula rasa for experimental architecture and cultural installations in most major cities throughout the US, not just Los Angeles. For proof, just look at the explosion of "park-lets" and popularity of "Park(ing) Day."
Source: Architect's Newspaper
Lubbel also provides the framework for rethinking our infrastructure in more holistic ways and makes some provocative suggestions that go beyond just parking lots: "Outside of turning parking lots into parks, why can’t the concrete-lined LA River become a place to show off art? How about the subway? Couldn’t that be a place for artists and architects to show off their stuff in a much more profound way than it usually is? Have you ever seen the amazing subway stations in Stockholm? You should take a look. And why do the spaces under freeways need to be vacant concrete zones? In Mexico City, for instance, they’re the spaces for parks. Smart infrastructure planning goes a long way. Then of course there’s the most famous example: re-using an abandoned train line to become the High Line in New York."

April 2, 2013

Los Angeles Electricity Use

Check out this incredible map showing electricity use by block group. The data is very fine grain and can even be manipulated to show change over time and monthly consumption. I could imagine this is particularly helpful for solar companies, like SunCraftsmen Solar, looking to find potential customers. Use the map here.

April 1, 2013

Smog Eating Buildings

Reducing point source emissions is a necessary first step in the fight against climate change and air pollution. Finding ways to merge science + architecture to create innovative solutions that reduce air pollution by design takes things one step further. It would be great to see Los Angeles, still ranked among the worst air quality in the US, build smog eating buildings like the one shown below in Mexico City. In fact, the new Broad Museum on Grand Avenue, with its honeycomb exterior facade, would be a perfect candidate for this sort of technology.
Fast Company describes the chemical process: "When UV light cuts through smoggy air and hits the titanium dioxide on the tiles, a chemical reaction occurs between the tiles and chemicals in the smog--mono-nitrogen oxides, or NOx. A lot of chemistry goes on in the interim, but for simplicity’s sake, the end result of the reaction is that the smog is broken down into small amounts of less noxious chemicals, including calcium nitrate (a salt used in fertilizers), carbon dioxide, and water. The titanium dioxide itself remains unaffected, so it can keep making reactions happen."

February 7, 2013

Parklets in Los Angeles

Source: Architect's Newspaper. One of two new parklets on Spring St. in DTLA.
Multiple news sources have reported on the opening of LA's first "parklet" last week. Here is a clip from The Architect's Newspaper: "On February 3, Los Angeles kicked off its pilot parklets program, announced last fall, with the opening of a miniature public space in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles. Designed by LA landscape architecture firm Shared Spaces, the park is located on the site of a former illegal parking space in front of Bobby’s Auto Parts near the corner of Avenue 50 and York Boulevard." You can find the rest of the article here.
Source: Architect's Newspaper. The other parklet on Spring St.

October 17, 2012

Measure J

The Presidential debates are raging and election season is in full swing. According to some recent poll of polls, the race between Obama and Romney is a statistical dead heat. As exciting as that is, don't forget about your local issues. One of of the most important and long-lasting is Measure J. According to Metro, Measure J will "extend an existing voter approved half-cent transportation sales tax, until 2069, in order to accelerate the construction of regional traffic relieving highway and transit projects. The measure will also provide 30 additional years of funding for local transportation improvements and operation of regional transit services."

Please consider the graphic above as you consider voting for Measure J. You can read the LA Times endorsement here, which said that "extending the tax increase approved by voters in 2008 would be a win for transit, the economy and the future of L.A. County." You can also read more about Measure J from Metro below:

What is Measure J?

Measure J will extend for 30 additional years the existing one-half cent sales tax that was approved in 2008 (Measure R) and is currently set to expire in 2039. The additional funds will be used to sell bonds, which will allow Metro to accelerate construction of transportation improvements. According to a 2008 study by the private non-profit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), the current tax costs residents an average of $25 per person per year. Because Measure J will extend the existing sales tax, it is anticipated the costs will remain the same, adjusted for inflation. Tourists and businesses also contribute money through the sales tax. The measure also allows transit and highway funding priorities to be shifted between projects within subregions of Los Angeles County, if approved by a two-thirds vote of the Metro Board.

Regional Impact

LAEDC reports that the projects accelerated through Measure J will advance the creation of 250,000 new local jobs (direct, indirect and induced workers). By starting construction on seven rail and rapid transit projects, and up to eight highway projects within the next five years, instead of the twenty years currently planned, this job creation will be accelerated. The measure will also provide an additional thirty years of continued funding for local transportation improvements (ex. pothole repair, signal synchronization, local roadway and bridge safety improvements), countywide bus and rail service operations, Metrolink and Metro Rail capital improvements, and administration. The LAEDC projects that these activities will generate another 220,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs in addition to the employment advanced by the transit and highway project acceleration noted above.

Taxpayer Oversight

Under the existing measure, there is an annual independent audit and report to taxpayers, and ongoing monitoring and review of spending by the independent taxpayer oversight committee. The reports are available for public review on the internet and in public libraries. This oversight will continue with Measure J.

October 15, 2012

Parking Garage Photo Essay

Cincinnati, Ohio
From Atlantic Cities: Parking structures "are increasingly seen as opportunities for mixed uses and attractive design as cities become more aware of the bad impression they can leave on the sidewalk and the skyline.
Malmo, Sweden
Outside of Miami, most cities are less inclined to see their parking garages as opportunities for starchitect-driven visions, but still see them as opportunities for design." There are some interesting photos from the US and Europe. See the other 13 garages here.
Utrecht, Netherlands

October 12, 2012

Carbon Emissions Map for Los Angeles

It's hard to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when you're not sure where they're coming from. This new map from The Hestia Project shows the exact source of carbon dioxide emissions throughout Southern California. Freeways are the most obvious feature, which are clearly present in the ribbons of red that criss-cross the region. The density of the westside and hollywood area is also clearly delineated on the map.
The "Carbon Emissions by Sectors" key is hard to read and major regional polluters, like the Port complex in Long Beach, do not appear on the map as clearly as they routinely do in statistical calculations about regional pollution.

August 22, 2012

Go Solar Today

There are three indisputable facts about the world today: Energy prices are rising; Our fossil fuel resources are finite and dwindling; and Traditional energy production is degrading our environment.

Now is not the time to double down on dirty and increasingly expensive fossil fuels. Now is the time to invest in alternative energy sources that: Protect consumers from increases in energy prices; Are infinitely renewable and readily available; and Good for the environment and good for our economy.

You can read more about my solar installation business and thoughts on solar in this American News Report article, "Renewable Solar Energy Looking For A Foothold."

April 6, 2012

Transit-Shed by Neighborhood

Combining mass transit and biking data, Mapnificient creates an interactive google map overlay of Los Angeles to display how far you can travel without a car during a certain time frame. Depending on the time of day and how long you're willing to travel, i.e. 15 minutes or 30 minutes, it creates an interesting visual illustration of what I call your transit-shed - the distance one can travel in a given amount of time by mass transit. Since Mapnificient layers its information (taken from Metro Trip Planner) on top of a google map, you can search for things like "ice cream" to see how accessible certain attractions are without a car.
Sunset Junction
Drag the pin around and adjust the time cursor to test your transit-shed. Maybe you could increase your transit mobility if you moved to another neighborhood? This tool allows you to test those hypotheses. Try it out.
Warner Center Orange Line Terminus

January 18, 2012

Not Enough Trees

Source: la.curbed.com
Los Angeles is 21% covered by tree canopy, according to the Million Trees LA initiative, a fact confirmed by a recent study from the Woods Hole Research Center. This doesn't even compare to the national average of 27% and is even less impressive considering the region's temperate climate and decentralized pattern of urbanization.

When thinking about the impact trees have on urban and global sustainability, consider a few of the highlights from TreePeople's "Top 22 Benefits of Trees."

  • Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
  • In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.
  • Trees cool the city by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.
  • Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent.
  • Shade from trees slows water evaporation from thirsty lawns. Most newly planted trees need only fifteen gallons of water a week.
  • Trees reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree, which prevents stormwater from carrying pollutants to the ocean.
  • Tree prevent soil erosion by slowing runoff and holding soil in place.
  • Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 50 percent
  • An apple tree can yield up to 15-20 bushels of fruit per year and can be planted on the tiniest urban lot.