Medians Might Be the Savior of L.A.’s Streets

Drought-tolerant plantings, coming soon to San Vicente, could de-ugly our roads

As Los Angeles convulses over how much density is enough or too much and we try to correct the aesthetic mistakes of last century (strip-malls, drab, low-slung boulevards), the People St program, which just won a planning award for its assortment of parklets and plazas, reminds us that little fixes can beautify the cityscape.

Take medians, for example. A 10-person team of UCLA Extension students just won a $2,500 award from the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works for their offering of drought-resistant California plants like desert willow, California gray rush, and Pacific stonecrop that will sit atop concrete blocks, which retain storm water and promote irrigation. The plan is to eventually install the medians along a stretch of San Vicente Boulevard, between Pico and Fairfax where there is lots of thirsty grass (even though almost no one walks on it because the of car traffic). The improved medians will provide better visual stimulation for drivers inching along San Vicente—as well as pedestrians on the sidewalks—and require less H2O.

“The students’ design is a modern take on a traditional bioswale, a landscape element that removes silt and pollution from surface runoff water,” according to a UCLA press release.

Though San Vicente is wide enough to accommodate medians, others boulevards (many of which once carried streetcars) are making way for them as well. (West Hollywood installed some skinny ones on La Brea Avenue in 2013.) Obviously space is at a premium on L.A. streets, but being stuck in traffic is a little less depressing when there are pleasant things to look at, right?