Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In Search of the Engelmann Oak

Over the past few days, I've had the joy of finding a few Engelmann Oak trees, which only exist in a narrow band that stretches along the foothills of Southern California from Pasadena down through Orange and San Diego County into Baja California. They need to be twenty miles or more away from the ocean at an elevation of 500-4000 feet.

On Friday evening, one of my friends and I enjoyed the monthly 'Night Walk' at Descanso Gardens in La Canada, where I not only saw an Engelmann Oak but learned that Descanso is one of only two garden 'museums' (botanical gardens where every plant has been catalogued) in Southern California ~ the other being the Los Angeles Zoo. When I asked if there were any Engelmanns at Descanso, our wonderful volunteer guide turned to me and said, "How do you know about the Engelmann Oak?"

How could I not know about the Engelmann (quercus engelmannii)? As Arroyo Seco advocate Tim Brick notes, the majesty of the Engelmann can take your breath away. Their large twisted spreading limbs generally form a sparse crown. Their gray/green leaves are more elliptical or oval than the Coast Live Oaks, and their acorns more stubby. They often reside near Coast Live Oaks and Sycamores. Engelmann Oaks are probably the most imperiled of all tree oaks and are one of the most endangered natural plant communities in California.

Then, yesterday, I had the thrill of joining Roger Klemm and the Tom Sawyer campers as they planted Englemann Oak and Live Coast Oak seedlings in the Hahamongna Watershed Park, one of the Arroyo Seco's most spectacular nature parks with a terrific old-growth grove of native oak trees.

The planting ceremony was especially sweet because the young campers not only learned how to properly plant, water, and protect these young seedlings with chicken wire casing, but they also 'named' each tree they planted. The first seedling planted, a Coastal Live Oak, was named 'Michael Mayes' ~ commemorating the sudden deaths of Michael Jackson and Billy Mayes.

I'll always smile when I remember the students holding hands in a circle around their new planting, while chanting: 'Trees need people. People need trees. Welcome, Michael Mayes!'

Hopefully, in a few years, they will be able to return and point to 'their tree.'

While standing next to a magnificent adult Englemann Oak, I gazed upon a newly planted Englemann seedling and for a moment glimpsed at a future mighty oak.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Arroyo Property of the Week

Once upon a time, North Los Robles Avenue was the grandest tree-lined boulevard in Pasadena.

There, in 1911, Greene and Greene Master Builder Peter Hall (who also built the Gamble House) constructed the Tilghman Swaim Home with architectural plans created by Parker O. Wright.

A Pasadena Cultural Heritage Landmark, the Tilghman Swaim home reflects the rare Classic Box substyle of Chicago Prairie Design.

From its grand porch and entryway through its spacious common living areas, the home embodies the highest level of attention to quality and detailing that marked a Greene and Greene creation.

The 2800 square foot home sits regally on its 9100 square lot footprint. It has 4 bedrooms and 4 baths with almost all of its original detailing, including double hung windows and clapboard siding, still intact. The property boasts extensive use of redwood built-ins and cabinets.

The property also includes a legal duplex, perfect for separate guest quarters or an income opportunity.

The Tilghman Swaim home has now come on the market for sale for the first time in 30 years. House hunters and preservation/historic home aficionados alike will have the rare opportunity to explore the property's interior this Sunday, June 28th from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.

Take a Sunday drive and come see this special piece of living history: http://www.1165northlosrobles.com/.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Villaraigosa's Decision is Good for a Green LA

If you believe the pundits, the political career of Antonio Villaraigosa is finished.

So let me remind them of what His Honor said to a packed room of Green LA Coalition activists last week (for those of you who don't follow my @ArroyoLover tweets): "I remain committed to building a progressive LA." Those don't sound like the words of a man running for Governor.

Here, then, are my top ten GREEN reasons why the Mayor knows his destiny rests in LA:

10. Sacramento. This is a man who knows his way around the State Capitol but he doesn't have to live there to have influence. How quickly everyone forgets that Antonio was Assembly Speaker just a few years ago. I haven't...and the smart money hasn't either.

9. CEO Hiring Decisions. The seeds have been planted. While everyone has been 'dissing' His Honor, Villaraigosa has made progressive key staff hirings to head the Departments of Planning, Housing, and Water & Power. He now has the chance to finish creating a team of department heads who understand that the 21st century challenges facing Los Angeles requires team playing, not territorial protection (see #7)

8. Security. While everyone else is playing musical chairs, Villaraigosa is not going anywhere. As the Los Angeles City Council sees leadership changes (already accomplished in CD5 ~ soon to be seen in CD2) coupled with a new Los Angeles MTA CEO and a new Caltrans head in Sacramento, Antonio is still Mayor. There's something to be said about stability in a time of crisis, especially when you have a Chief of Police who's doing a good job and has popular support.

7. Kobe Bryant. I remember not so long ago when lots of pundits thought Kobe was washed up, too. What a difference a few years and an NBA Championship Ring make! This win is just the type of spark to bring more attention to the Staples Center and LA Live, just the shot in the arm that downtown real estate needs right now (see #1). The Mayor also hangs out with that other comeback kid, Bill Clinton. His Honor and the William J. Clinton Foundation announced in February a plan to install 140,000 LED streetlight fixtures in LA over the next 5 years, the most ambitious program of its kind in the country.

6. The Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP). Yes, a river runs through LA and the LARRMP in conjunction with the related US Army Corps of Engineers special study, ARBOR (Alternatives for Restoration and Opportunities for Revitalization), offers the Mayor a chance to work with environmentalists, neighborhood leaders, LADWP and the Dept of Sanitation to create a showpiece urban river greenway. Anchored by the California State Historic Park (The Cornfields) on the south (see #1) and following upriver to a broad open Arroyo Seco Confluence ending at the El Rio de Los Angeles State Park, this green footprint connects to the innovative LEED Neighborhood Development Cornfields-Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (CASP), currently undergoing EIR review. CASP will create one of the most ambitious 'green street' neighborhoods of its kind, anchored by two Gold Line Stations, with mixed use green collar manufacturing, retail and housing.

5. The California High Speed Rail Project. With the blessing of California voters and extra federal stimulus funds, the High Speed Rail will run through downtown with a stop there as well as in Sylmar, a vital connection for Valley residents. My crystal ball tells me this means plenty of jobs. (Note to Mayor: Please coodinate the LARRMP, Downtown Community, Boyle Heights Community, and Northeast LA Community Plans with the Rail Authority's suggested 'alternative downtown depot' to ensure that all the good green work done so far is not undone).

4. The political will to support mass transit on LA's Westside. Finally, the traffic mess in West Los Angeles has become so unbearable that the Mayor, in his role on the MTA Board, can make some real progress on the 'subway to the sea' and the Expo lines. (Note to Mayor: Please throw the Gold Line extension communities support to get their shovel ready project done. These are vital votes for the time when you do decide to run for Governor.) More transit = less cars on the road = better air quality.

3. Hollywood. This is a show biz town, for goodness sake, and our guilty pleasure is having a movie star Mayor who is less than perfect. With all due respect for both Mayors Hahn and Riordan, weren't their Mayoral tenures a little boring? Angelenos like it spicy and Villaraigosa delivers! (OK, that's not really a green reason, except that I hope His Honor will use his Hollywood influence to get show biz to start acting sustainable. Enough with all those plastic water bottles and Esplanades!)

2. Water. California Water World is at a major crossroads. The City of LA and its Department of Water & Power have always been the powerful municipal water broker that could make or break regional and state water policy. Already, the City has shown leadership by biting the bullet on rate hikes for infrastructure support and the passing of a significant emergency water conservation program to wake up Angelenos to an increasingly dire water shortage and inadequate state infrastructure for California's 21st Century population. I'm confident that we'll see Mr. Mayor's influence in cobbling together a new state water bond plan next year which, in my opinion, leaves a much more exciting and long-term legacy than being Governor (see #10 above).

1. The Clean Tech Corridor. Just two months ago, Villaraigosa announced CleanTech LA, a world class partnership involving the City of Los Angeles, UCLA/USC/CalTech, and area business leaders which creates one of the world's largest clean technology research, development, and manufacturing corridors that will run from the Los Angeles State Historic (Cornfields) Park southward through downtown towards the already 'greening in process' Port of Los Angeles. (Please review items #2-10 above). Mix in federal stimulus funding and it's impossible to think that this won't ultimately bring the Mayor his own Championship Ring.

Why be Governor when you can re-invent Los Angeles? The Mayor has made the right call....but clearly not for the shallow reasons mainstream media would want you to believe.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What My Father Taught Me About Respecting Nature.

My father passed away in 2008 at the grand age of 90, and now more than ever I am grateful for the lessons learned from this Depression-era man.

I often smile when I read stories about urbanites planting gardens. My father tended a family garden for years and I still remember how we were always trying to give surplus zucchini away to neighbors and friends.

My dad grew up in a small manufacturing city, but when he married my mom, they bought a plot of land in the 'country' ~ long before the current back to nature movement became 'nouveau.' My dad built the house my five siblings and I grew up in ~ yes, built it himself, with only subcontractor help for plumbing and masonry. My mom still lives there and keeps track of neighborhood goings on from her perch on the front porch.

I was probably in my forties before I truly came to understand the tremendous emotional impact the Depression had on both my parents, but especially my father, who was the youngest of seven children. I recall, among other stories, of his telling of only having boiled potatoes for dinner during those lean years.

This experience, though, made him the ultimate conservationist. We did not waste anything when he could help it. I must have been told a million times to close the front door 'because I'm not paying to heat the outside.' He was always admonishing us to turn off the water tap and put things 'back where they belong.'

Both through example and our regular road trips, he taught us the value of natural resources and the importance of taking care of things.

Oh, yes ~ the road trip ~ a now seemingly forgotten part of Americana in this age of getting everywhere fast. During the summers, just about every weekend we packed into the family station wagon and head out for a day 'adventure.' Dad rarely told us in advance where we were going ~ just that we were going for a 'ride.'

And what rides they were! We climbed natural glacier outcroppings at Nelson's Ledges, fed the fish at Pymatuning Reservoir, toured the cheese factory owned and operated by the Amish, and explored more museums than I can count, even obscure ones, like a place we stopped once where a man had collected thousands of Indian arrowheads.

Almost all of these trips cost nothing more than a tank of gas and a picnic lunch, yet by the time I was an adult, I felt that I had visited just about every corner of Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and upstate New York, including my still very vivid memory as an 8-year standing next to Niagara Falls and hearing the roar of the water while feeling its fresh mist on my face.

We took another annual excursion, too, 15 miles up the road to see my dad's boyhood friend, Harry, who still ran a large dairy farm. There we kids would run around the farm, slop the pigs, pet the horses, look for eggs, and even milk the cows. My grandfather's family had been farmers for years before moving into the city to work in the steel mills and I always thought that visiting the farm was a simple way that my dad touched his roots. More importantly, I learned at a young age where meat, milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables really come from...and it's not Trader Joe's.

My father was really into old things and history, so we explored 'historic' buildings and even old cemetaries, looking for the gravestones of recent family ancestors. He taught me how to capture butterflies, identify leaves from more than 100 varieties of trees, tell whether a piece of wood was 'crookeder than a dog's hind leg,' and build interesting 'toys' in his garage machine shop that he would call 'whim whoms for wozzers.' I really hated holding the boards steady across the wooden 'horses' while he worked, since I always thought he'd miss that nail with his hammer and hit my hand...but he never did.

On this Father's Day, I'm reminded that my passion for restoring our natural systems grew mainly from my dad's respect for and belief in the importance of human stewardship of the land, water, animal and plant life. That respect could only come from someone who lived close to the land. His actions remind us that from 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust' we are all intricately linked to our environment and that our natural world needs to be nurtured, especially in our now heavily urbanized culture, where most Americans have totally lost connection to our 'roots.'

I'm grateful that my father's lessons keeps me connected to mine.

Thanks, Dad.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Touch the Water Before It's Too Late!

Last weekend, my friend and I discovered the bowtie parcel of the Los Angeles River and found ourselves among the 'full house' of theatre goers for the LA River Play, Touch the Water.

This production by Cornerstone Theater was a surprisingly well-written and well-acted outdoor presentation, with quality audio and an amazing four piece band where I swear every musician was playing three or four different instruments each, including the accordian.

Touch the Water includes an interesting mixed cast of both professional singers/actors as well as community amateurs whose skills mesh together to tell the tale of living along the Los Angeles River in its current concrete prison. Through dialogue and song, the play recalls the River's natural history and verdant role in supporting indigeneous residents and later Angelenos

As I watched the sun set just prior to the play's opening, I couldn't help but wonder how Dan Turner's op-ed in the June 3rd LA Times http://bit.ly/5c784 might have turned out if he had actually gotten off the bike path and experienced the river through this play.

Sadly, what Turner and other naysayers miss is that there are compelling reasons why the Los Angeles River needs to be and will be restored. Unfortunately, many of these reasons deal with critical water transport shortages, sanitation TMDLs, and the heat island effect on a City where 34% of all surfaces are impervious materials ~ not the type of sexy issues that tend to garner the attention of the average Angeleno.

This is why poets like Lewis MacAdams of Friends of the Los Angeles River and other artists try to speak to our souls about the importance of urban nature and a restored ecosystem that can holistically support a thirsty region of 16 million residents while providing access to the outdoors in an era of extreme housing density.

Turner's piece ironically comes at the time of the death of cultural historian, Thomas Berry, one of the first thinkers who advocated that Earth's ecological crisis was in fact a crisis of the human spirit. http://bit.ly/bgcVS. I share Berry's philosophy and have observed throughout my life how individuals, families, and animals/birds of all kinds seem more at peace when they Touch the Water.

One of the sad legacies of early 21st Century California living is the almost total disconnect that most people, like Turner, have with the natural systems of our community. When I moved to Los Angeles almost 30 years ago, I was shocked to find both the River channelized and all schoolyards with asphalt, since this was so foreign to my Midwestern upbringing. In the ensuing years, I've sadly noticed that the friendly, laid-back personality of Angelenos has deteriorated, too, into a sort of 'Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto You' credo, underlined both by a massive population increase and a focus on secularist lifestyles in wealthier neighborhoods. (In fairness, some of this attitude is beginning to change because of the impact of our current financial difficulties.)

Happily, for 90 short minutes last weekend, I was able to sit among the stars (nature's ones), feel the cool breeze of the River on my face, and share the love that many of us have for connecting with the land and water that still underlys this great urban experiment.

I invite all of you to hurry over to see Touch the Water before it closes on June 21st. It's the best kind of play to go to: no need to dress up, there's free parking, and your admission is on a donation basis. I don't recommend the play for children under 14 due to some adult language and situations, but it's a real treat for those of us who love the river and those who want to learn how to love the river. Reservations here: http://bit.ly/14dTH2

I want to hear from you, too, about how communing with water ~ both through the River Play and from direct experience along the LA River and the Arroyo Seco ~ has touched your spirit.

Please post your comments!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Get Your Motors Running.....

I confess. I love rivers. I love bicycles. I love art. I love music. I love my dog. But I REALLY love my 4-wheel drive Jeep Grand Cherokee, which I've already driven almost 180,000 miles.

I confess. I grew up in car culture in a small GM town in the midwest. When I got my driver's license, it was the symbol of freedom ~ I could finally get on the open road and explore miles of backcountry and quaint little villages.

I still like getting out on the open road. I do my best creative thinking while I'm driving. My trusty Jeep and I have visited all terrains from jeep trails in the Sierra Nevada to the beaches of Mexico.

The great sadness of modern America is that, due to population density, there is no longer any open road or fun in driving through Los Angeles' alphabet freeways (5-405-110-60-710-605-210-10-134, etc).

So you can imagine my excitement when I learned that the fabulous Angeles Crest Highway was finally re-opening after 3+ years of closure due to landslides.

Before romancing about ACH, I want to give kudos to Caltrans who constructed an unbelievably difficult connection bridge that should be immune to future landslides. You can read about this great engineering feat here: http://bit.ly/QI3aS.

The Angeles Crest Highway's western leg starts in La Canada-Flintridge and wanders into the Angeles National Forest along the magnificent Arroyo Seco River (the same one that becomes an urban channel from Pasadena south to Downtown). It continues 66 miles through the Forest to Wrightwood where it connects with Angeles Forest Highway that ultimately descends down into the Antelope Valley. It's a scenic drive extraordinaire and has long been popular with motorcyclists and road trip car buffs.

I first remember driving this terrific road (disclosure: for serious drivers only ~ it's a two-lane road with lots of twists and turns) over 25 years ago with my family, taking the desert route to its eastern leg in Wrightwood where we spent the day skiiing.

When I lived in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Kernville, one of my favorite outings was a road trip through the forest. Now, I'm excited that I can begin the same type of road trip with a starting point less than 8 miles from where I currently live.

Orignally envisioned as a fire safety road into the forest to provide access to Edison powerlines, the Angeles Crest Highway was championed by both Arroyo Seco and San Gabriel River leaders as a scenic highway that would follow the rivers into the forest. Ulimately, the Arroyo Secons won and construction became in 1941 with completion in 1956.

Along the way, road lovers can stop at Red Box (near the source of the Arroyo Seco), Mount Wilson's Observatory, numerous picnic areas and, of course, the ski resorts that surround Wrightwood. When traveling in the forest, it's always important to drive for safety. That means carrying chains (yes, even in summer!), plenty of water, blankets, flashlights, and canned/packed food, in case car trouble strands your vehicle overnight. This is an adventure road, so don't count on your cellphone working. That's why it's important to stay on or near the road during your first drive through it.

Best of all, what a great inexpensive summer nature vacation Angeles Crest Highway offers!
Don't forget your Forest passes, though. You will be ticketed by rangers, I promise. Details here:
So ~ get your motors running and head out on the highway with your family for spectacular scenery, interesting stopping points, and a day-trip that won't break your wallet.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Arroyo Seco Property of the Week

If there is one thing that I'm as passionate about as river restoration, it's real estate, especially historic and architecturally interesting homes.

One of the best restored Craftsmans I've seen in quite awhile is looking for a new owner (that means it's listed for sale) in the Historic Highlands Landmark District of Pasadena.

Built in 1912 and almost completely remodelled in 2005, this charming California Bungalow boasts 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, including a spacious master suite. With 1569 square feet of living space on a 6878 square footage tree-canopied lot, this home includes a cozy living room with built-ins and a Batchelder fireplace, dining room with picturesque window seat, and bright, functional kitchen with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances.

Oozing with original character, this family home also features a spacious old style front porch, large outdoor wood deck, California basement, huge unfinished attic storage space, and large detached two-car garage.

Best of all, it's all turn-key, with newer central heat and air conditioning, high quality interior and exterior paint, automatic sprinkler system, fountain, and secluded backyard.

A great find in a great neighborhood. Another reason why life is good in the communities along the historic Arroyo Seco. Details and price here: http://bit.ly/1aifbg

Arroyo Culture Lives On at the Lummis Day Festival

In just a few days, Angelenos and visitors from near and far will gather at Sycamore Grove Park (Los Angeles' oldest public park) along the Arroyo Seco to celebrate the history and culture of Northeast Los Angeles in memory of Charles F. Lummis, Father of Arroyo Culture.

Lummis walked from Ohio to Los Angeles in the late 1880s to become the first City Editor of the Los Angeles Times. He built his home, El Alisal, along the river's shore made entirely of Arroyo Seco river rock. He was a champion of Native American and early Californio culture and he hosted several on-going 'soirees' at his home, that he preferred to call 'noises.'

Among the numerous cultural institutions he founded were the Southwest Museum and the Arroyo Seco Foundation. He was a city librarian, photographer, editor, poet, but most of all a raconteur, who helped introduce the concept of multi-culturalism to Southern California.

Now in its 4th year, the Lummis Festival is a day-long celebration that includes tours of the Lummis House, poetry readings, and, most of all, the wonderful Festival at Sycamore Grove which last year attracted over 10,000 participants.

The Festival opens with my personal favorite: the Tongva Puppets along with their drummers, parading from the Lummis House to Sycamore Grove Park to 'officially' open the Festival ~ a celebration of Arroyo indigenous culture with lots of color, pageantry and joyful marchers.

Festival goers will have ample opportunity to nosh, visit community organization booths, and listen to outstanding music all afternoon from the likes of Culture Clash, Wil-Dog Y Su Banda, and I See Hawks in LA.

A great family event, get on the Gold Line train, ride to the Southwest Museum stop, and walk on over to the 4th Annual Lummis Day Festival.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cruising Down the Arroyo Seco

Last Saturday, 100 bicyclists of all ages and abilities came together for the first Tour de Arroyo bicycle cruise along the 9.6 mile urban portion of the Arroyo Seco.


First, to honor the memory of Pasadena bicycle activist, Dennis Crowley, who died suddenly last fall at the age of 60. Dennis excited everyone he met with his vision of an Arroyo Seco Cycleway that would allow commuters to ride on a Class I Bicycle Path between Pasadena and Los Angeles (or Los Angeles and Pasadena, depending upon the starting point) without the hassle of street crossing or street riding.

Secondly, to enjoy the varied terrain that surrounds the Arroyo ~ starting from tree lined streets in Pasadena to the in-channel bicycle path from the South Pasadena border to Los Angeles' Montecito Heights Recreation Center through graffiti tagged industrial areas of LA over the Spring Street Bridge with a destination of the new Cornfields State Park, nestled next to Chinatown with an amazing view of the LA City skyline to the south and the San Gabriel Mountains to the North.

Thirdly, to build awareness of the importance of an Arroyo Seco Bikeway in advance of tonight's (Tues. 6/2) meeting with Los Angeles County planners on such a route, slated for 6pm at the Los Angeles River Center, 570 W. Avenue 26, Los Angeles, CA 90065.

Most of all, TO HAVE FUN!! And fun we had ~ a perfect overcast morning in the 70's, no flat tires, no accidents, and lots of laughter. Even the novice riders proclaimed: that was easy!

Upon reaching the Cornfields, the bicyclists held a short rally honoring Dennis' memory and talking about the importance of a commutable cycleway, especially needed in light of Los Angeles' very poor options for on-street bicycle riding with any degree of safety.

After the rally, some bicyclists cycled back to Pasadena, stopping at notable spots along the way, including the Southwest Museum (LA's oldest), the Audubon at Debs Park, and the Lummis House (built entirely from Arroyo Seco river rock).

Others took the Gold Line 'sag wagon', the terrific light rail service between Downtown LA and Pasadena where passengers can ride with their bikes.

A few of us though couldn't resist a feast of dim sum at Chinatown's Ocean Seafood Restaurant ~ yum~yum!

Best of all, we captured it all on videotape and our ride leader, Dan Sharp, even got his 15 seconds of fame aboard his monster bike on the early local television evening news.

In case you missed this ride, you'll have another chance to ride along the river ~ this time, the Los Angeles River, this Sunday, June 7th as part of the 9th Annual LA River Ride: http://www.la-bike.org/.

Summer is Here and the Water is Gone.

If you thought the gas crisis of Summer 2008 was painful, wait until you feel the impact of the water crisis of Summer 2009.

Although the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) has been warning its water agency members for 18 months that curtailments are coming, the public will now feel the first impact as the City of Los Angeles begins today enforcing its new water conservation rules, coupled with a 15% rate increase. http://www.ladwp.com/ladwp/homepage.jsp

This water shortage is due to a number of factors coming together, creating the 'perfect drought:' cutbacks in water supply from the Colorado River, low reservoir water storage, below normal rainfall/snowpack for the past three years, and reduced water flow from the Bay-Delta due to a court order protecting the Delta smelt.

But this water train wreck has been brewing ever since the Peripheral Canal, designed to be the second phase of the State Water Project, was disapproved by voters in 1982. We continue to rely on water supplies that were negotiated in the Colorado Compact in the 1920s based upon faulty hydrologic supply information and were designed to support a California population that peaked in 1990 (the State Water Project).

Last Friday, I attended a business community meeting where Pasadena Water & Power executives outlined in an intelligent, detailed manner how the current water crisis occurred and what the impact will be upon Pasadena Chamber of Commerce members and business district property/business owners.

Needless to say, this business community, a major tax base economic engine for the City of Pasadena, was not happy to hear of an average 10% rate increase on July 1st of this year and another average 8.7% increase on July 1, 2010.

Note the 'average' word, because to hear some businesses tell it, they will be hit with anywhere from a 60% to 75% rate increase, at a time when retail is dying and many businesses are struggling for survival in a City that already has a high permit fee and business tax structure.

In my opinion, most water agencies throughout Southern California have not done a good job in communicating this dire water shortage situation because they've tried to soft-pedal it to their customers. Even Pasadena admitted that there was only a 3% decrease in water usage this past year (with a target of 10%), despite an expensive 'humorous' water waster media campaign and various water conservation outreach meetings. Sadly, Californians have had cheap, plentiful water for so long, they have no idea that living in a Mediterranean climate means a semi-arid landscape.

Beginning today in LA and July 1st elsewhere, residential and business water users will be shocked into a new reality: much higher water bills and heavy penalties for water waste. http://www.bewaterwise.com.

If there is a blessing here, it is that our current economic recession and restructuring means that we will all be forced to re-evaluate our water usage, since we no longer live in the good old days where we could just throw more money at the problem. Moreover, with MWD's 10% curtailment already in place, there is still the possibility by late this year that actual water rationing may take place, if water usage does not drop.

Hopefully, people will begin to make the connection between urban river restoration, whose stream beds hold stormwater run-off and allow groundwater percolation, and local water supply, our best hope for water security and sustainability.

To paraphrase the Founding Fathers' motto: Adapt or Face Very Unhappy Consequences.