The Color Of Infrastructure by Tom Grode

securedownload - CopyIndustrial District Green held their Kick Off event on February 13th in the Arts District, an opportunity to introduce themselves and their vision of a “green infrastructure” for the Industrial District of Downtown Los Angeles.

Developing, implementing, and maintaining a green infrastructure is sweeping cities across America.  The idea is to partner with nature in the realities of urban living.  A twenty-five year green infrastructure plan in Philadelphia projects saving the city billions of dollars.

Industrial District Green focuses on greening DTLA from the Financial District high rises to the L.A. River.  Primarily that means Skid Row and the Arts District which leads nicely to Katherine McNenny and Gabrielle Newmark.

Katherine McNenny moved to Skid Row in 2010, noticed her block had no trees and decided to do something – plant a few.  She then spent more than a year navigating the complex waters of Skid Row politics to plant several trees on San Pedro Street, chronicling her adventures as the Trees On San Pedro Street Project blog.

That planting led to a more ambitious effort along the border of Skid Row and Little Tokyo in partnership with Million Trees LA & the L.A. Conversation Corps.  Trees On San Pedro Street Project was now Industrial District Green, a non-profit founded by Katherine and some of her condo loft neighbors.

Skid Row community activist General Jeff Page sensed Katherine and Gabrielle were tree-huggers needing to meet and so he set up the introduction.  A partnership soon blossomed.

Gabrielle Newmark is following in the footsteps of her mother, Sheila Newmark, an artist working in print images in the Arts District since 1983.  Mother helped daughter plant thirty-seven trees in the Arts District in recent years.

Gabrielle is a Landscape Architect with eighteen years experience in landscape design.  To design to community needs, she’s worked closely with community members, youth groups, schools, and various city agencies and departments.

And The Next Step…

Katherine –”Getting our Maintenance component up and running is definitely the next step. Basically, there needs to be a crew set up to go out and water & care for newly planted trees. In a highly urban & industrial area like the eastern portion of downtown LA- Gabrielle & I have found that asking individuals to go outside & water trees on their own is simply not feasible in most cases (although many do this)- connections to hoses/water, the mostly retail & wholesale businesses that line the streets- the logistics make it very challenging! Getting a crew together to handle this work is the best way we think to grow a healthy urban forest for the area. There are several local organizations that transition people into work from homelessness. Chrysalis in one of them & we are interested in partnering with them to create a crew trained in environmental stewardship.”

Gabrielle – “There are a few next steps- but they all include getting funding funding funding.

1) On the Green Planning side- we are currently working towards mapping all of the existing trees in the Arts District and Skid Row for the purpose of using this information to create what’s called a ‘master tree plan’.  As part of my own business, I received funding from HCNC to begin this for the Arts District, but IDG will utilize this information and look to fund the mapping of trees in Skid Row and the other industrial neighborhoods.  IDG will also be working with TreePeople and utilizing their new TreeMapLA program to map the existing trees with volunteers for all the industrial district’s existing trees.

2) On the Green Build side- we hope to be able to organize, with a variety of City agencies and non profit organizations, the planting of new trees along 7th street this Fall.

3) On the Green Maintenance side – this is probably our MOST important element before we can do anymore Green Build! We are working hard to fund and coordinate our Maintenance program.  Currently the City does not have funds to water and care for new street trees, so it has been up to businesses and residents to water newly planted trees. Needless to say many trees die. We want to be in charge of the trees and green space that we plant and install and make sure they are all watered and cared for because although planting the tree is fun and hard work – – the hard work is for nothing if the tree or green space doesn’t survive.”

The Kick Off had the enthusiastic support of José Huizar.  From the CD-14 weekly internet Downtown Community Newsletter:

“Councilmember Jose Huizar and Industrial District Green want to invite you to the inaugural Kick-Off Event for the ambitious new project to create a cohesive “green infrastructure”. The plans are to expand the current initiative to beautify and “greenify” the area between the Financial District and the East River — a project that has already planted dozens of trees in downtown this year.  We want you to be a part of this revolutionary transformation of the Industrial District.”

And A Year From Now…

Katherine – “We will be tending to newly planted trees along 7th st. if all goes well- and planning our next big tree planting based on community input- I’d like to take a good look at the lower portion of the industrial areas around the produce & piñata districts- spend some time outreaching and learn what the needs are over south towards the 10.”

Gabrielle – “A year from now I’d like to have our programs funded!

If this happens then I would like to have all of the existing street trees in the Arts District and Skid Row mapped as well as the empty tree wells mapped.  I would also like to have a good portion of the drawing completed showing where new trees could and should be planted based upon our existing tree map.

I would also love to have at least 20 new trees planted on 7th street and have our maintenance crew up and running.  The crew will be caring for all our trees and we will have created new green jobs for people transitioning out of homelessness.”

Handsome Coffee Roasters, an iconic Arts District business, hosted the Kick Off, with support from several other local businesses.  About 125 people attended and learned the basic Industrial District Green Vision which very much involves continuing the partnerships developed plus expanding the base of relationships.

If a future green infrastructure in the Industrial District needs anything right now, it needs a team.

By Tom Grode

Blogger’s note: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Trees on San Pedro Street Project editrix, Ms. McNenny. This is a Community improvement blog and not faith-based.

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