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Fate of City Hall lawn decided; compromise between sustainability and accessibility

By Hayley Fox
Published: Thursday, February 09, 2012, at 10:16AM
Hayley Fox

Construction to begin on City Hall lawn after council chooses Option #2 for the redesign.

Over the course of the last month City Council has been gathering input from the public as well as multiple city committees to finalize plans for the restoration and redesign of the City Hall lawn. This week, they made their decision - choosing an option that has a little something for everybody.

"I believe that the plans for our City Hall Park represent a wonderful, public and open collaboration," said councilmember Jan Perry. "When opened, the park will incorporate native plants that will reduce our city's water usage while remaining true to the history of this important open space."

After the Occupy camp was dismantled last November, councilmembers decided to not just fix areas that were damaged but give the historic lawn a complete makeover.

In January, the council released three options for the new lawn's design.

Option 1 used the most grass and was the closest to restoring the lawn to its original appearance. It also had the cheapest price tag.

Option 3 was the most dramatic departure from the original lawn as well as being the most expensive, with an estimated cost of $1 million. It used the least amount of grass and favored drought-resistant plants and expansive areas of the decomposed granite.

The Los Angeles Times reports that councilmembers voted Tuesday, 14 to 0, to approve lawn Option 2. This choice is a relative compromise between the other, more drastic choices.

Under Option 2, 51 percent of the lawn will be replaced with native plants such as succulents and California holly, the L.A. Times reports.

The central plaza area that borders 1st street will now have large patches of "low water use" plants and pathways of the granite, but also maintain a center area of grass (hybrid turf grass) for people to gather.

At a Downtown Neighborhood Council meeting earlier this month, residents emphasized the need for this part of the lawn to be preserved as a public venue. Maintaining some amount of grass was important for hosting farmers markets, rallies, concerts and facilitating an outdoor oasis Downtown.

"Many of our public spaces aren't truly public," said Valerie Watson of the Downtown Neighborhood Council.

Many "public" plazas are actually pretty private, she addded. They're tucked away between skyscrapers or removed from public view, making the City Hall lawn one of the few truly public gathering spots in Downtown.

City Hall's north lawn which lines Temple and Spring streets, will have all its grass removed and the irrigation system will be redesigned. Native, low water use plants will be put in as well as pathways connecting entrances.

According to the renderings released online, the north lawn will sill be dotted with plenty of trees and shade and the palm trees lining the walkway around the stairs will be preserved.

The entire project is expected to be finished by May.

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