Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


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Making Hellstrips

Harrison Street Greenway 2007 Harrison Street Greenway, plantsf.org

We went to a planting party in the Mission this weekend. I hadn’t noticed before, but many parts of San Francisco don’t have hellstrips, the strips of dirt between the sidewalk and the street. Whole neighborhoods are wall to wall concrete with only an occasional little cutout for a street tree. It’s not good; all that concrete causes various problems, especially with stormwater management. Stormwater has nowhere to infiltrate during a storm, so it ends up in the city sewer system where it sometimes overloads the system and causes sewage to dump into the streets and the bay. Yuck. Much better to have a hellstrip, which allows the water to infiltrate instead of running straight into the sewers.

Plantsf.org is a non-profit in the city that encourages and helps people to remove concrete and create planted areas on their streets. Their website has demonstration photos and information about the process; there’s a permit to apply for and grant money is sometimes available to help pay for materials. If I live in SF and had a sidewalk seven feet wide or wider, I would go to their website immediately.

Thirty different homes were getting plantings at the project we helped with, enough to to make a big difference in the neighborhood. A lot of volunteers showed up, the weather was great, and I got a free ice-cream cone.

ryan 1/14


sustainable sites test case  

sustainable sites native garden case study

Sustainable Sites Initiative has a collection of case studies that illustrate green building practices. The most interesting to us is Garden/Garden:A Comparison in Santa Monica, where the city installed a traditional front yard lawn garden and a low-water, native, sustainable design garden on adjacent lots so that people could see the side by side comparison. 

The native garden cost about one third more to install, $16,700 vs. $12,400; that cost difference came from the installation of a DG walkway to replace the existing concrete walkway and installation of rain gutters and a stormwater infiltration pit.

The native garden used 77% less water, 283,981 gallons/year vs. 64,396 gallons/year.

The native garden generated 66% less green waste, 219 pounds/year vs. 647.5 pounds/year.

The house and yard of the traditional garden look like relics from the sixties. I sure wouldn’t want my front yard to look like that, so I salute the owners taking a hit for science.

sustainable sites traditional garden test case

sustainable sites traditional garden case study

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