Stormwater Pond Reflection

It rained pretty hard last night near home, and clearly it rained hard enough here that mud was flowing over the sidewalks, and the stormwater detention pond still had water at noon.

It’s funny how, four years into the worst drought in ages, we’ve had one of the wettest summers on record. Considering that LA usually gets no rain to speak of during the summer, that’s not saying much, but we’ve had several storms strong enough to cause floods and mudslides in the middle of a drought. We’re all hoping for a wet winter.

On a related note, yes, they’re still watering the lawn too much here. At least there’s a lot less of it than there used to be before the renovation, between the hollow and all the planters full of native and otherwise less-thirsty plants and wood chips behind where I was standing.

Also, ZPizza opened earlier this month, completing the trio of restaurants on the ground floor of the new hotel. More lunch options!

I’ve been kicking myself for not checking out the neighboring building’s stormwater pool during the last spring rainstorm of April, figuring I wouldn’t get another chance to see it in the rain until winter. But over the last few weeks, two storms have blown into town from up north. One hit overnight, leaving behind only wet ground the next morning…and one hit in the middle of the day, making it easy to run next door.

Stormwater Pond 1

That actually doesn’t look half bad! Though the barrel embedded in the middle still looks kind of ugly.

I took one other shot where you can see water pouring out of one of the drainpipes.

Stormwater Pond 2

As for the rest of the office-to-hotel conversion:

  • The hotel has been open for a couple of months now, since the beginning of March (or maybe late February?)
  • So has the new Starbucks — the fourth within easy walking distance. At least this one seems to have normal inflated coffee prices, not hotel-markup-inflated coffee prices. And there’s an interesting piece of art inside.
  • The new second-floor elevator in the parking structure still looks like an upturned shipping container. I really expected them to cover it with something that looked nicer, or at least something that would blend with the rest of the structure. Though they did tear up and replace the sidewalk in front of it earlier this week, for no reason I could see.
  • Signs for Jersey Mike’s and ZPizza went up this morning, and I saw people loading kitchen equipment yesterday, so I’ll have a few more options for lunch soon. Update: Jersey Mike’s opened the last week of June.

The city of Los Angeles recently finished replacing all of its streetlights with high-efficiency LED lights. They use less power, last longer, and require less maintenance than even the sodium vapor lights — an all-around win. They also cast a slightly bluish light, eliminating the amber look of sodium. But my first thought was that with all that work, they could have taken the opportunity to combat light pollution. The night sky doesn’t seem any darker than it did when we moved up to this area.

Then I took a good look at these LED street lights near work. The new fixtures actually do aim all the light downward, shielding upward leakage. They’re plenty bright from the ground, but from a few stories up, I couldn’t tell which lights were on without looking below them to see whether there was a pool of light on the ground.

So if the streetlights really are leaking less light into the sky, why is it still so hard to see stars to the north? Seriously, I can see Orion clearly most nights, but the Big Dipper is practically impossible to pick out.

  • It was a city project, not a county one. There are plenty of other cities in the area that either haven’t been converting their lights, or have only converted a few.
  • They didn’t actually convert all the streetlights in town, just the standard, boring ones (141,089 of them). Phase 2 is converting decorative street lights.
  • There are lots of other lamps that leak light upward: Parking lots, building lights, private roads. LAX is to the north, and there’s a reason for the phrase “lit up light a landing strip.” There’s also a park nearby with a baseball field; those lights drown out quite a bit when they’re on.
  • The ongoing drought has caused smog levels to climb, making the skies hazier.

Rain lit up by a car headlight.Speaking of the drought, I found myself wondering: How much water would we save if the city did a similar project to replace all the grass along street medians, parking lot boundaries, etc. with drought tolerant native plants? A home lawn at least has a potential use as a gathering place, or a play area. But a little strip of lawn six feet across? What’s the point?

And what do they do with medians out in the high desert, anyway? I remember driving out to Joshua Tree once and noticing in one of the towns along the way that all the houses were built on a standard suburban lot plan with space for a lawn, but that they used it for rock gardens, or native plants, or just left it empty. But I can’t remember what they put along the sides and middles of city streets.

And that gets me to the other article: It was a summary of a study on the vulnerability to climate change in various parts of the region. Most of LA will handle a rise in sea level fine, except for the beaches, Marina del Rey, and San Pedro…but depending on how the climate changes, most of LA would be vulnerable to severe flooding.

In any given decade in California, you can expect at least one drought and at least one winter of heavy rains and flooding. And sometimes those floods can be spectacular. A flash flood in 1825 changed the course of the Los Angeles River (it used to flow into what’s now Marina del Rey). And then there’s the Great Flood of 1862, which covered huge swathes of California and Oregon with water, including all the lowlands of what are now Los Angeles and and Orange County.

So in addition to planning for drought, the region also plans for the occasional flood — unfortunately, by trying to channel all that water out of the way as quickly as possible, because, as the study pointed out, more than 80% of the ground in the area is covered with impermeable surfaces — you know, asphalt, concrete, buildings, etc.

They do have spreading ponds to replenish groundwater from at least part of the storm drain system, but a lot of that water just goes straight into the ocean, and in heavy rains, the ponds get overwhelmed anyway.

It just seems like there ought to be a better way to capture the rain we do get.

Well, technically, during a lull in the storm. The clouds were moving very fast, with light and shadow moving over the empty fields and office parks, and I waited several minutes for the sun to play over this scene.

I particularly liked the contrast of the dead brown tumbleweeds scattered around the bright green meadow.

My one regret with this photo is not being able to capture the steep drop-off into a wash right below the frame. I could get the wash, or the sky, but not both.

The large barn-like structure used to be a packing house for the Irvine Ranch farms, and is now split between a motel (the La Quinta Inn) and a group of restaurants.

This afternoon I found myself entertaining the notion that Orange County, California had somehow switched places with Orange County, Florida. The weather was certainly more typical for Florida in July than California.

It was 90 degrees and sunny when I left the office a little after 6:00 pm, though the eastern half of the sky was dark with clouds. It started raining before I pulled out of the driveway. Just a little. I was halfway home before I decided enough of the raindrops were staying on the windshield that it would be worth turning on the wipers.

It was still spattering a little when I got home, but nowhere near enough to soak the ground. The drops were evaporating quickly. A far cry from the heavy rain and thunderstorms a few miles farther inland.

The rain’s stopped here, and the half-and-half cloud cover and sunset are giving the sky a dingy yellow color.