Tag Archives: California

This California Summer

This heat and drought in California is truly something else. I’m sure many of you have seen the “before and after” photos of bodies of water in California that have experienced devastating consequences from this drought (if not, check it out here). We are particularly feeling the effects of this drought here in Southern California. On top of that, we’re in the middle of a really horrendous heatwave right now that has led to some planned (and unplanned!) power outages around this region. I’m saying this in part to highlight a lot of the important issues that we’re facing in California, but also to really show that we don’t always have perfect, 75 degree temperatures in Southern California! In the Orange County area this past weekend, there was a fire burning over 1,000 acres of land in Silverado Canyon. This particularly hits close to home because it literally was close to my parents’ home in Orange County. Interestingly enough, this fire was started by the metal roofing of a vegetable garden! What a small way for such a devastating fire to start! You can find out more about the story here. Okay; end rant!

As a result of all of this, I have really made an effort to conserve as much water as possible. One way that I’ve been doing this is by choosing more drought-tolerant plants for my balcony garden. Of course, my small, unassuming balcony garden probably wouldn’t use up much water in the first place, but every drop counts, right? On top of that, keeping plants alive in this summer heat is a whole different ballgame, particularly regarding plants that are not suitable for high temperatures. As a resident of the top floor of my apartment complex, my balcony experiences inexplicably high heat. So instead of planting snapdragons and basil as I have before, I’ve planted succulents in my overhanging balcony planters! I feel like it’s a bit of a non-traditional way to use planters, but I love it!

Succulent Planter #1

Succulent Planter #1

Succulent Planter #2

Succulent Planter #2

This is a really great way to also use cuttings of succulents, propagate more succulents, and also, to minimize how many pots you use. I was tired of having so many separate little planters so I threw them all together.

Here are some photos of the rest of the balcony! It’s slowly but surely coming together!

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Balcony Gardening @ www.ecospired.com

What are you doing to keep cool in the last few days before fall begins? Leave a comment! 🙂

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Santa Monica: A Bicycle Safety Analysis

Today, I’ll be focusing in on a beautiful, vibrant city in Los Angeles: Santa Monica.  For several of my classes, I have focused on Santa Monica’s sustainability initiatives and have made a bike-safety map, done neighborhood design analyses on the City and its initiatives. Believe it or not, Santa Monica is one of the greenest and most sustainable cities in the US  I was amazed by how much progress they’ve made as a city and how seriously they take being sustainable.  For more information, take a look at Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Report Card and their Climate Action Plan. They have an Office of Sustainability and the Environment  as well!  Frankly, their initiatives are impressive and inspiring.

However, I wanted to further analyze their bicycle safety initiatives.  In my research, I discovered that biking in Santa Monica actually wasn’t as safe as I had previously thought. It’s easy to see how it could be dangerous- millions of tourists, pedestrians, cars, buses, and bikers all convening into one city could easily cause many problems.  Today, I’ll be posting a bike-safety map I made using ArcGIS (Geographic Information Systems), a program that allows you to make maps and overlay important information in a visual way.  In all of my research, I was not able to find a map of Santa Monica’s most dangerous intersections and roads, so I created one myself.

I used the top 10 most dangerous intersections from the collision statistics collected by the Santa Monica Police Department from 2006-2011 and hand-digitized them onto the map as well. The top 10 intersections most dangerous intersections for bicyclists in Santa Monica are listed below.[iii] 

Top 10 Most Dangerous Intersections for bicyclists in Santa Monica

Top 10 Most Dangerous Intersections for bicyclists in Santa Monica

The datasets I used to map Santa Monica were bike routes, bike paths, street centerlines, truck routes and city-block boundaries. I was able to download the bicycle data for this project from Santa Monica Government’s GIS data website,[i] which I downloaded as a shapefile and integrated into my project. For bus routes, I used the Big Blue Bus routes [ii] and hand-digitized them onto my map.

After adding the layers from Santa Monica’s GIS data (bike routes, bike paths, street centerlines, truck routes and city-block boundaries), I hand-digitized the main Big Blue Bus routes to provide a layer that can shed light on the most congested streets. Buses often drive on the most ‘popular’ and likely places for people to be, so this can substitute for a traffic layer that I was not able to otherwise find. The blue circles on the map account for the top 10 most dangerous intersections in Santa Monica. (Hint: click on the map to see a larger view).

Santa Monica Bike Safety Analysis Map.

Santa Monica Bike Safety Analysis Map. Please feel free to share, but give credit to http://www.ecospired.com

As evident in the map, the intersections of bus routes and truck routes undeniably are the most prone areas to bicycle accidents. This is evident by the intersection of yellow and red lines through a blue circle. For a majority of the top 10 most dangerous intersections, it seems to be clear that they are 4-way intersections that are wide, packed with cars, trucks, buses, and have the potential for serious vehicular accidents. Additionally, within 6 of these intersections, I noticed that there were no bicycle lanes or paths on the intersecting streets. These intersections included Wilshire and 4th St., Lincoln Blvd. and Pico Blvd., Pico Blvd., and 17th Street, 4th Street and Santa Monica Blvd., Broadway and 4th St., and Colorado Ave. and 2nd St.

I have done a much more extensive analyses of this map with policy recommendations  in my courses at USC, but I will include that information in my next post.  What do you think? Are you surprised? Leave me a comment and let me know!

[i] http://www.smgov.net/departments/isd/gis.aspx

[ii] http://bigbluebus.com/Routes-And-Schedules/Routes—Schedules.aspx

[iii] http://www.santamonicainjurylawfirm.com/Personal-Injury/Bicycle-Accidents.aspx

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Spring Renewal

Spring in Southern California is kind of a joke. We have “perfect” weather year-round. California’s subtleties in seasonal cycles can make it difficult to differentiate between the months. You have to go through the darkness to see the light, right? Figuratively, we don’t have that “darkness.” At the risk of sounding unappreciative, sometimes it’s hard to appreciate that beautiful day outside because we can trust that it’ll be there tomorrow and the day after. At least that’s how I feel.

My point is, it’s easy to fly by the seasons doing the exact same things when you live in a place that doesn’t obviously display its seasons. But I’ve made it a point of mine to change my actions/attire/perspective seasonally. That’s why I’ve planted a colossal amount of seeds. Even if spring is practically year round, it’s finally that time of year! So I went a little overboard at Home Depot and Orchard the other day. I always feel so dorky when I talk about plants, like I’m “too young” to be gardening. Then I realized that it doesn’t actually matter because at the end of the day, you’ve got to be unabashedly YOU.

Seeds

Yep. This happened. I usually never buy/plant any thing other than herbs, succulents and ferns. I’m branching out (puns)! I’ve decided to grow more vegetables and flowers. I used to think flowers were frivolous on such a small balcony but I’ve changed my mind. Flowers are awesome. Some flower seeds I got were Foxgloves, which are TREMENDOUSLY BEAUTIFUL and definitely too big for my balcony, Zinnias, Poppies, Baby’s Breath, Lupine and a few more. I also got more vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard, lettuces, arugula, malabar spinach, etc. AND herbs, as usual. Here are some herbs I cut today from my balcony.

Rosemary, grapefruit mint, chives, dill and parsley

Rosemary, grapefruit mint, chives, dill and parsley

I bought the 72 pod Greenhouse Jiffy kit from Home depot and put some seeds in! I was wondering how to label the seeds so I used some plastic-y tabs and wrote on them with permanent marker and devised a little organizational system to make sure I don’t mix them up.

seeds at www.ecospired.com

seeds at www.ecospired.com

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At first, this was the container I was using. Jokes! It’s too small. So that’s when I bought the 72 pod container and transferred these guys over (that’s why you’ll see that there are a couple of already-sprouted rows).

seeds at www.ecospired.com

What do you think? I’m so excited for these little guys to grow. My balcony/apartment will be a complete jungle. No complaints here!

Sushi, my little parakeet

Sushi, my little parakeet

This is my bird, Sushi. Don’t ask about the name. Named her 13 or so years ago! Ironic that I never had tried sushi at the time that I named her, and no longer eat sushi now…

terrarium at www.ecospired.com

Also, I got bored with the moss terrarium so I took some of Sushi’s bird seeds and just threw them in the terrarium. They’ve sprouted. Surprise!

Lastly, this is some seaweed concentrate that I got for the plants from Orchard. It’s apparently really great for the soil and foliage of plants and apparently keeps bugs from infesting your plants because they don’t like the taste. We’ll see!

seaweed concentrate for gardening!

seaweed concentrate for gardening!

Have you started planting yet? Spring cleaning? Let me know!

-Daria

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