Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


El Cerrito Rain Gardens

Rain Garden Perspective Drawing by Gates and Associates

As part of the stimulus program and various water quality initiatives, El Cerrito got funding to add some rain gardens along San Pablo Avenue, the main commercial street in my neighborhood. A huge percentage of the area is covered with concrete, so when it rains the water has nowhere to go and the streets can look like this photo I took in May; sometimes I feel like I should get out a kayak. To help mediate that, the city redid two sections of sidewalkswith plantings set below the grade of the street. Instead of draining straight to the bay, stormwater will now flow from the streets and sidewalks into planting areas where sediment will drop out of the water and pollutants and trash will be filtered by the plants. There are 600 total linear feet of basins in the two separate areas, calculated to treat 1.23 acres of paved surface; the San Francsico Estuary Institute is going to monitor water quality to see how big of an effect the gardens have. There’s a podcast about the project here. It’s a nice use of plants to address an infrastructure issue.

San Pablo And Eureka Ave

The plantings are all natives. Juncus, leymus, and a grass that looks like a melica are the main species, peppered with some yarrows, two monkey flowers, two California fuchsias, two Ribes speciosa, several Verbena lilacina, two wild roses, a redtiwg dogwood, and a Doug Iris. There are one or two blooming plants in each planter right now, not a big impact, but just enough to focus the eye as you walk past each one.

Mimulus and Leymus

Monkey Flower and Leymus

The El Cerrito Patch says the cost of the project was $350,000 for the two sections of rain gardens.

San Pablo and Eureka

Island Pink Yarrow, Achillea millefolium rosea

There’s a meme about public plantings, Out on the Streets, hosted by Veg Plotting. Click through to see other posts about public plantings. I have a few more photos of the planters below the fold.

There was a city worker cleaning up trash when I took these photos, and I’m sure that will be an ongoing part of the maintenance. For a while we maintained a planting just off San Pablo, and it was surprising how much trash would get caught in the vegetation.

Monkey Flower, Mimulus aurantiacus and Wild Rye, Leymus

— Addendum 2/17/11 — Here’s a link to an article about some less than successful rain gardens in Ballard, WA. Different location and different construction, but a worthwhile counterpoint to the El Cerrito rain gardens. So far this winter, the El Cerrito ones have been continued to look good, though some of the plants have been swapped out. I’ll add some follow up photos of them at some point.

— Addendum #2 9/7/11 — And the Ballard rain gardens are gone. Meanwhile the El Cerrito ones still look good.


9 Responses to “El Cerrito Rain Gardens”

  1. August 28th, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Town Mouse says:

    What a great project! I hope the plants survive…

  2. August 30th, 2010 at 9:38 am

    ryan says:

    Agreed. It’ll be interesting to see. The Juncus and Leymus will thrive. I’m curious how some of the other plants do in the low parts of the planters. The scattering of perennials makes it seem like the designers are testing them out.

  3. August 30th, 2010 at 11:22 am

    VP says:

    Ryan – this is superb. A planting which solves a problem, enhances the street scene and makes good use of natives. As those trees grow and the plants fill in, it’ll also bring a cooler feel to all that paving too.

    I’m so glad you bought this to my attention for Out on the Streets. Thank you 🙂

  4. August 31st, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Buenorific says:

    Finally! somewhere outside Portland, OR with curbside stormwater infrastructure. Portland built theirs over a decade ago. With aging infrastructure and increased development (paved surfaces), I bet most cities can use low tech solutions like this. Hope Richmond jumps on the rain garden bandwagon soon.

  5. August 31st, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    ryan says:

    Thanks, VP. It’s an all around great public planting. Your Out on the Streets meme is a great idea.

    I’d like to see Richmond do some rain gardens too. It’s too bad that for the big project on Carlson Ave, one block parallel to San Pablo, Richmond retro-fitted the curbs to be ADA accessible without adding rain gardens.

  6. September 1st, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Scott Weber says:

    This is great! Living in Portland, we do have some of these around town, but I’d love to see even more…they look great and serve a useful purpose…love it!

  7. September 7th, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    lostlandscape (James) says:

    “Rain gardens”–kinduv poetic. I like it. I think I prefer the final realization to the proposal drawing–something that doesn’t always happen when I look at the souped up proposals versus realizations that don’t live up to the vision. At least the roses and dogwood and grasses should do okay with the seasonal wet/dry swings.

  8. September 8th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    ryan says:

    I don’t know how many there actually are in Portland, but I’ve definitely heard a lot about Portland’s rain gardens over the years.

    I agree that it’s nice to see the bloomers added to the grasses in the perspective drawing. I think it will eventually look a lot like the perspective drawing, though, when the leymus and juncus take over. It’ll be interesting to see if the other perennials spread or reseed. Leymus with California fuchsia look great when they are intermingled.

  9. August 17th, 2011 at 6:33 am

    DryStoneGarden » Blog Archive » L.A. Graffiti Day says:

    […] city while it performs ecosystem services, retaining and filtering stormwater headed to the bay. I posted about it last fall after the city first put it in, and I’m glad to say that it’s doing quite […]

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