After Occupy L.A., City Hall lawn to get a California makeover
The park surrounding City Hall will soon be getting a California makeover, with less green grass and more native and drought-tolerant plants.
The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday on a plan to restore the park around the building after the sprawling lawn was destroyed last year by the Occupy L.A. encampment. Officials considered several options, including one that called for much of the grass to be replanted, and another that would have eliminated nearly all of the turf and replaced it with plants that require less water.
In the end, officials chose an option in the middle. The plan approved by the council 14-0 calls for 51% of the lawn to be replaced with native plants such as succulents, salvias and California holly, but it also provides a swath of grass on the southern end of the park where public events can be held.
Officials said they plan to start the restoration this week, and hope to have it finished by early May. The project is estimated to cost $390,000, they said, with the annual bill for maintenance standing at about $135,000.
Those maintenance costs will be about $50,000 more each year than previous costs to maintain the lawn, according to Jon Kirk Mukri, general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks. He and other officials hope that the difference can be made up in part by private donations.
Supporters of the use of native plants hailed the park's proposed new look, and said the new plants may draw hummingbirds and butterflies to the area, providing downtown residents a taste of nature. "Urban dwellers deserve that kind of break," said Snowdy Dodson of the California Native Plants Society.
Parks officials said they were already considering making the park more sustainable when Occupy protesters set up hundreds of tents on the lawn last October. Initially, officials estimated that repairing the damage to the lawn and its irrigation system could cost the city up to $400,000.
They have since revised that estimate and on Tuesday said that restoring the park to its original condition -– lawn intact –- would have cost $76,000.
-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Winfred White with the Department of Sanitation clears piles of debris from the south lawn of Los Angeles City Hall last November after the LAPD sweep of the Occupy L.A. encampment. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times