The Los Angeles Women in Landscape Architecture Walk

image: Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA

Four Los Angeles landscape architecture projects were highlighted during the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting’s Women in Landscape Architecture Walk, organized by Stephanie Psomas, ASLA, of Pamela Burton & Company, and the local host chapter, ASLA SoCal. Nearly 80 participants braved the early start time on the final day of the meeting and were rewarded with the rare treat of watching light break over the historic and modern cityscape of downtown Los Angeles.

1: Biddy Mason Park

The crowd of began gathering at the centrally located Biddy Mason Park. This L-shaped pocket park is distinctly urban and makes up the interior space of nearly an entire city block. Despite being immediately adjacent to the popular local and tourist stop of Grand Central Market, the park entrance is subtly marked and the space is quiet.

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A Need for Green Schoolyards

One of The Kitchen Community's Learning Gardens image: The Kitchen Community
One of The Kitchen Community’s Learning Gardens
image: The Kitchen Community

Scalability as Driver of Schoolyard Greening Initiatives

Childhood obesity and the widely acknowledged and worrisome trend of urban food deserts are major health concerns facing Los Angeles and other communities today. According to the Mayo Clinic, unhealthy lifestyles marked by poor food choices and inactivity are the leading cause of obesity in children. Latino youths suffer disproportionately from obesity, and Los Angeles contains 4.9 million Hispanics (9% of the nation’s Hispanic population). At the same time, there is a groundswell of professional interest and research in the topics of Children’s Outdoor Environments and provisions for opportunities for organic, spontaneous, natural play. Add to this equation the vast, underused asphalt expanses of typical urban schoolyards, and the problem-solver in each of us begins to see a window of opportunity.

The Kitchen Community (TKC) was founded in 2011 with the goal of connecting children to nutritious food by building Learning Gardens at schools and community centers across the country. TKC was established as the philanthropic arm of The Kitchen restaurants in Boulder, Colorado, and rapidly expanded to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Memphis. TKC has built over 200 Learning Gardens across the country to date.

TKC’s early goals for expansion include build-out to 100 Learning Gardens in each city. This scale will establish a presence that will enable TKC to enter into larger conversations with school district decision-makers and funders about fundamental shifts in policy that will change the way schools influence the physical and emotional health of our youth. Chicago was the first city to reach this goal, reaching scale in just one year within Chicago Public Schools. As the third-largest school district in the nation, this was an incredible milestone that exemplifies the possibilities of reaching scale in other cities. Los Angeles is now nearly midway to reaching scale, with most of those 100 Learning Gardens anticipated to be built on Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schoolyards. LAUSD, the second-largest school district in the country, is demonstrating its support for schoolyard garden projects with a publicly-funded bond that will provide the infrastructure for outdoor learning environments at over 160 schools within the District.

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