Sep 17 2015

OPINION: A Tale of Two Landscapes

Garrett Keating urges the City to follow the example of the Ramona/Ronada Traffic Triangle drought tolerant landscape for the Highland Garden Walk:

Landscape 1:  Ramona/Ronada Traffic Triangle.  A traffic island built to improve pedestrian safety that uses drought-tolerant landscaping.  Supported by the neighborhood, the project cost was $185,000 with $30,000 in private contributions ($25,000 from the Piedmont Beautification Foundation and $5000 from the neighborhood).  At this, the peak of the drought, the triangle is in full bloom.
Landscape 2: the Highland Garden Walk.  A drought-tolerant landscape with pathways, pedestrian seating and themed gardens proposed to replace the Sheridan Avenue “crescent”, the swath of lawn where Sheridan runs into Highland Avenue. Supported by a majority of the neighborhood, the project is estimated to cost $90,000 and is in line for $30,000 in grant funding ($20,000 StopWaste, and $10,000 from EBMUD).  At this the peak of the drought, the project would replace an ornamental lawn that uses 600,000 gallons of water per year.
The difference between the two projects?  The Traffic Triangle is completed and is an asset to the community. The Garden Walk is at a standstill and at risk of losing it’s funding.
If you are interested in more details, watch the Park Commission meeting at minute 58 to see staff’s assessment of the project (,  Park Commission, September 2 meeting).  The main reasons for the delay seem to be preference for the lush lawn and “50/50” support for the project by the Piedmont Beautification Foundation.  Additional meetings will be held to tweak the project but unless the design is resolved soon, funding for the project will be lost as well as the planting window for a new garden.
The lawn at Sheridan and Highland Avenues is the most water-inefficient public landscape in Piedmont.  This small lawn uses 600,000 gallons of water per year, 4% of municipal water usage, yet goes virtually untrodden on by the public.  Commenters at the Park Commission suggested that the lawn provides a pleasant visual “drive by” landscape for Piedmonters.   I suggest they drive by the Sheridan lawn and the Ramona/Ronada Triangle today and see which provides a better visual drive by.
Drought-tolerant landscaping is the future for California and Piedmont should take advantage of any available funding. Is the city’s legacy for the worst drought in California history going to be that it rejected funds to replace water-wasteful landscaping?   And how can the city honestly ask for neighborhood contributions when it won’t avail itself of these funds?
Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont Council Member
Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association. Comments on the opinions are welcomed.

2 Responses to “OPINION: A Tale of Two Landscapes”

  1. A tastefully designed drought-resistant garden will be a wonderful way for us Piedmonters to view how to best do our own gardens.

    In my neighborhood (Monte/Pala/ParkWay), the parking strips are a nightmare at 7′ width. Yes, we do need landing platforms for car exiting, and the trees are causing a nightmare with plantings and hardscape, but there is still a lot of square footage that needs to be planted to replace the lawns and the immense water run-off. Show us the plants, pathways, benches that can most appropriately meet the needs for beauty for the homeowner as well as public gardens.

  2. Great idea Margaret – a showcase garden for drought-tolerant landscaping in the middle of town. The Ronada/Ramona Triangle does that now but the Sheridan lawn would provide even better exposure. Perhaps our generous garden clubs sponsor/maintain gardens in that location and educate their fellow Piedmonters on drought-tolerant plantings.

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