I had the privilege of meeting with Mayor Garcetti this week

I was honored and delighted to have a personal meeting with the Mayor this week. The Mayor goes way back with LAEV to before he became our Councilman, and we only owned one property instead of four.  So it’s always a delight to see how far both he and LAEV have come in the past dozen years or so.  I asked if we could take a photo, so I could have bragging rights when he’s our President some day.

Here a few of the topics we got to talk about, each of which the Mayor was supportive of.  Still a ways to go on advocacy work.  But with the help of the “less cars” folks, the permaculture folks, Teresa  Baker and her LATCH Collective, Hans Johnson leading the Styrofoam ban, and LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King, and, of course, the passionate folks who live in/at the Los Angeles Eco-Village, it’s all within reach!

  • Return the original intent of AB 744 for car-free affordable housing
    Mayor Garcetti and Lois

    Mayor Garcetti and Lois

    developments near transit.   The City watered this bill down so that developers couldn’t go less than 0.5 spaces per unit.  LAEV could demonstrate this for our future developments.

  • Tiny House Villages, legalize them, even on wheels.
  • Hillside terracing, using permaculture techniques for catching rainwater.
  • Joint City/LAUSD use of playgrounds during off-school hours
  • Styrofoam ban.  Let’s do it.
  • Vision Zero.  A few additional ideas.
  • Potholes and buses.  Best cost/benefits.

Let me know if you want a copy of what I recommended about these items.



Large Apartment available in L.A. Eco-Village

Recent mulch delivery at 4-plex

Recent mulch delivery at 4-plex

This is a great opportunity for a household ready to take the big leap to live its dream for participating in the creation of a more sustainable city by example.  Take a look and see if your household qualifies:

Large two bedroom available in transit rich/bicycle friendly permaculture oriented neighborhood (about 3 miles west of downtown and 4 miles south of the Observatory as the crow flies).

The Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust (BVCLT), a non-profit organization committed to securing permanently affordable, environmentally sensitive housing for low to moderate income households, owns a 4-plex in the L.A Eco-Village that it intends to convert from rental units to affordable condominiums in the next 3 years.  BVCLT is currently taking applications for a one-year lease with an option to purchase if the renter’s household meets purchaser qualifications and demonstrates timely rent payments. The building is located on the southeast corner of Bimini and White House Place. Opportunity to become a member of the LAEV Intentional Community. Approximately 1000 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, dining room, living room, kitchen, laundry room, shared front and back yards, extra closets.  Rent: $1200 per month plus gas and electric.  No parking. Car-free household or “on your way to car-free.”  Minimum of 2 people, not more than 4 people; families with children encouraged to apply. Length of lease: one year.  No pets. No smokers (residents or guests). Must be aligned with LA Eco-Village core values and BVCLT tenant guidelines

Move-in costs:  $3,000.  Includes 1st and last of  $1200 plus $600 cleaning deposit.

If you are interested, please email Kris Benjamin (140Bimini@gmail.com) to set up a time to view the unit and go over the application. Applications are due as soon as possible, and candidate selection will occur sometime in April.

Income restrictions:
Combined annual income of all people in the household
-Not less than $29,000
-Not more than $39,780 for a family of 2
-Not more than $44,760 for a family of 3
-Not more than $49,680 for a family of 4

Credit check and rental application fee:  $25. -4-year rental history check (provide addresses and contact information of previous residences)-Verification of employment and 2 months of pay stubs or comparable

Remembering the 1992 Uprisings and the start of LAEV

How LAEV came to be at Bimini and White House Place

First fruit tree planting on northeast corner of Bimini & White House Place,
Earth Day April 1993. Tree was named “Percy Persimmons.”

It was a Wednesday afternoon. I was sitting in my living room with Lottie Cohen working on the book we were co-authoring: Cooperative Housing Compendium. (Email me if you are interested in getting the on-line link to this book).

I lived in the four-plex across the street from the Bimini Apartments where the White House Place Learning Garden is going. Mine was the lower east unit. My front door was always open, weather permitting, and I didn’t use curtains or shades on the windows, so
there was a clear view out to White House, the intersection and Bimini Place. Lottie and I were sitting at a round glass table in the living room/library/office facing the windows and open door.

I had just returned two days before from Adelaide, Australia where I had been invited as a keynote speaker at the Second International Ecocities Conference and was full of enthusiasm for finishing the book and starting to focus more heavily on ecovillage planning.

There were always pedestrians on Bimini, and there were pedestrians that day. But suddenly, Lottie abruptly interrupted our work: “Lois, there’s rioting out there. We need to leave now. Grab what you need, I’m taking you home with me!” Continue reading

Anti-Gentrification Rally at the Rayfield

Watch this video, by Jerold Kress of the Bresee Foundation, to see the recent protest at the Rayfield building, located at the northwest corner of Bimini and 2nd Street. According to Bresee Community News:

…protesters gathered in our park to mount a protest against gentrification they claim is happening at the [Rayfield].  The protesters are upset that Latinos are being targeted for eviction and replaced by more affluent renters.  Continue reading

Diana Leafe Christian Ecovillage Talk Feb. 22

If you haven’t heard Diana’s talk before, don’t miss this one.  OR if you have heard it, you won’t want to miss this one either, because it’s new and better than ever!

Ecovillages: Where They Are, What They’re Doing, Why They’re Important
Diana Leafe Christian (in person)

Diana Leafe Christian

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm
at L.A. Eco-Village
117 Bimini Pl, LA 90004  directions

Fee: $10 to $5 (sliding scale)
Reservations required: crsp@igc.org or 213/738-1254

With over 400 photos, this slide show demonstrates how ecovillages worldwide integrate ecological, economic, and social/cultural/spiritual sustainability, through:

• Permaculture design
• International peace activism
• Natural building
• Service to populations in need
• Renewable energy/off-grid power
• Local currencies
• Alternative technology
• On-site cottage industries
• Sustainable agriculture
• Participatory decision-making
• Earth-restoraton projects
• Conflict resolution & communication skills

WHY people are devoted to developing ecological settlements.
HOW ecovillages are beneficially influencing the wider culture.
HOW ecovillages will probably affect patterns of human settlement in the near future.

Continue reading

Loan Your Dollars for Local Ecological Good

Eco-Village is looking for some investors. Eco-Village’s non-profit parent, the Cooperative Resources and Services ProjectCRSP,” has utilized an innovative Ecological Revolving Loan FundELF” to crowd-source purchasing property for permanent ecological and affordability benefits.

Help crowdsource Eco-Village's purchase of additional housing!

In 1996, CRSP purchased our initial 40-unit apartment building at 117 Bimini Place. In 1999, we expanded by purchasing the adjacent 8-unit Bimini Terrace. These two apartment buildings have been instrumental to the success of the eco-village project. They’re where we live, gardengatherdine, host, even give birth. They’re where we’ve planted fruit trees, spread compost and mulch, harvested rain, installed solar and greywater, where we steward bees and chickens, where we helped incubate the Bicycle Kitchen, Cafecito Organico and CicLAvia.

Both of these buildings were purchased with no bank loans. Really. No bank loans. Through the Ecological Revolving Loan Fund, eco-village borrowed money from from friends and supporters. By cobbling together more than 20 loans from $3000 to about $100,000, CRSP was able to purchase Los Angeles real estate. Using rental income, these loans were all paid back, with modest interest. I can vouch for this. In 1998-99, I loaned the eco-village ELF $3000 at 3% interest per year. I received semi-annual interest checks, and the principal was repaid in 2002-03.

Los Angeles Eco-Village and CRSP, working through the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust are working on another property purchase in the eco-village neighborhood. We’re looking for some investors to loan money to the CRSP ELF. Here’s a message from eco-village founder and CRSP executive director Lois Arkin: 

January 12, 2011

Dear Neighbors and Friends of L.A. Eco-Village,

A Happy and Healthy New Year to all. Of course, never before in the history of our species have so many bad things been happening so fast. But it is also the case that never before have so many good things been happening so fast.  You are all among those whom I know to be making a difference on the good side of this challenging equation.

So here is another opportunity, a rare one that doesn’t crop up often for us.  We here in L.A. Eco-Village–specifically CRSP and the Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust–are in escrow on our third building in LA Eco-Village. Continue reading

Cohousing Talk this Friday with Betsy Morris and Raines Cohen

Join us this Friday night for an evening of questions, dialog and exploration of the complex issues in established and emerging communities:

Betsy Morris and Raines Cohen - photo from East Bay Cohousing

The Cohousing Experience: An Evening of Exploration
with Raines Cohen and Betsy Morris
at 7:30 pm
this Friday, December 10th 2010
Los Angeles Eco-Village, 117 Bimini Place, L.A. 90004
Suggested donation:  $7 (sliding scale ok)
Reservations requested:  crsp [at] igc.org  or (213)738-1254

Raines Cohen has visited over 100 cohousing neighborhoods.  He is a board member of the Fellowship for Intentional Community.  Betsy Morris has served as Research Director for the Cohousing Association of the United States.  Together, they advocate for cohousing and intentional community formation in the San Francisco Bay Area, including working with Cohousing California and East Bay Cohousing. Raines wrote the chapter Aging in Community in the book Audacious Aging.

One agreement, Twenty-seven Words

i’m pretty happy with this agreement we crafted at a recent meeting.  we wanted to keep it short and simple and someone suggested that we could make it rhyme.  it’s about the use of common spaces like the courtyard, the community room or the community kitchen and it applies to events or just casual use:

Follow the policy to the letter
and leave our spaces as you found them or better.
Do all within your powers
to make this happen in 24 hours.

if you want to read other agreements we have crafted you can check out our wiki page.  the content there and on this blog is released under a creative commons license so feel free to adopt and/or remix these policies if they fit the needs of your group or community.

This week: TV Appearance and Sustainability Talk

Federico and Yuki's sign appearing on network news, click to view

Federico and Yuki's eco-village sign appearing on network news, click to view

Los Angeles Eco-Village appeared briefly on yesterday’s network news (6pm KABC Channel 7), in coveage of California’s changing greywater laws. Click here for an earlier longer blog entry on one of our washing machine greywater systems. The TV clip focuses more on complicated high-tech high-cost systems… but it does show the equally dependable low-tech low-cost unpermitted Greywater Guerrillas style system near the end.

Unrelated but also this week: on Friday night, eco-village hosts a talk by longtime eco-village architects and leaders Ian MacIlvaine and Victoria Yust of Tierra Sol y Mar.  The free talk and slide show entitled “Old Ideas that should be new again…and other dreams for L.A.” will be Friday, July 31, 2009 at 7:30 pm at L.A. Eco-Village. As shown in this earlier post, Ian’s design work has been critical in our negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Bushtits Nesting in the Bimini Slough Park

Bushtit Nest in the Branches of a Willow Tree at the Bimini Slough Park

Bushtit Nest in the Branches of a Willow Tree at the Bimini Slough Park

At the south end of Bimini Place, there’s a small park called the Bimini Slough Ecology Park. It used to be called just “2nd Street” until the Bresee Foundation, with some help from Los Angeles Eco-Village, got the street closed… or should I say opened?

The Bimini Slough Park probably deserves its own blog entry at some point, but I will give a brief background here, and maybe do another entry later. You can get more information and see videos, etc. at the link. The park was designed by North East Trees, and includes a creekbed running though it, where street runoff gets cleansed before entering a storm drain, then on to Ballona Creek and the Santa Monica Bay. The Bimini Slough was a historic wetland in this area, and part of Arroyo de la Sacatela – a creek that ran through here. Each of those deserves their own blog entry too.

Bushtit (from Williamalane Parks and Rec website)

Bushtit (from Williamalane Parks and Rec website)

The bushtit is a small brownish-gray bird – not much bigger than a hummingbird – I’d say about 3 inches from head to tailfeather. The bushtit nest is about 10 feet off the ground, in a willow tree, very near the front entrance to the park. The nest is made mostly of small branches and leaves, but being an urban bird, it also incorporates small bits of paper and other trash. The wholes nest is maybe 8-12 inches tall, and shaped like bag. There’s an entry hole in the side that’s propped up by the nest being woven through a small branch.

There were two bushtits (a mated pair) going in and of the nest this afternoon, so there are probably already baby birds inside the nest.

Here’s a story I like to tell about the willow trees there. When the park was opened in, I think 2002, it included three large sycamores – probably 12+ feet tall when they were planted. There weren’t any willows, but thanks to urban runoff water soaking into the creekbed, willows have sprung up – probably the seeds were brought there by birds, who pooped them out and they just grew. Within 4-5 years, the willows are as tall as the sycamores.

I also spotted a hawk nesting in a tall ficus tree at Shatto Park. It’s a good day for bird nest spotting! Thanks to my friend Vicki for some background on bushtits. Here’s one more shot (apologies for the mediocre cell-phone photos) of the bushtit nest:

Closer Shot of the Bushtit Nest

Closer Shot of the Bushtit Nest

Watering Trees from my Washing Machine

That's my washwater, flowing out onto a mulch bed!

That's my washwater, flowing out onto a mulch bed!

A few weeks ago, the Greywater Guerillas visited the Los Angeles Eco-Village. They delivered a public talk, and held a workshop where we installed two basic greywater systems. Both systems pipe washing machine output water to water trees and plants.

What is greywater? It’s basically any waste water that we generate from our sinks, bathtubs or washing machines. (Blackwater is from the toilet – and that’s another story.) For most Angelenos, right now, all this water gets combined into our sewer which takes it to big energy-intensive “water reclamation” (aka: sewage treatment) “plants” (factories.) A few of these are along our local rivers: the Tillman Plant in the Sepulveda Basin, and the LA-Glendale Plant. The local plants discharge tertiary treated wastewater (nearly as clean as drinking water) into our rivers, creeks, and the Pacific Ocean. For the L.A. River it’s generally not such a bad thing – adding unpolluted water helps keep the river’s wetlands wetter. It makes up for missing natural flows that we’ve dammed and otherwise blocked.

Mostly we import this clean/fresh water from other regions at great costs (fiscal, environmental, energy), then we use it once and send it down the drain. One way to conserve water is to re-use greywater on-site. There are many ways to go with greywater… from simple to very complicated. For this blog entry, I’m going to tell one story: how my new system works. If you’re looking to do your own system, you might want to check out resources on the Greywater Guerillas website, or read Create an Oasis with Greywater: Chosing, Building, and Using Greywater Systems by Art Ludwig.

Joe's Washing Machine

Joe's Washing Machine

Here’s my washing machine today, sitting in the back room of my second story apartment at eco-village. It’s a front-loader, which is generally a bit more water and energy efficient than a top-loader. You can see the greywater piping at the top behind the machine – the end of the machine’s black flexible-pipe outlet has been hooked to a T-valve (see close-up and explanation below.)

Note also the piece of paper taped to the front. I had guests in town staying at my place last week, so I put up a small sign that reads: “GRAY WATER / Washwater drains to garden / No conventional soaps or toxins.” When you do a greywater system you can’t use regular detergent (not even your basic eco-detergent) because they can accumulate salts or other toxins in your soil. There are a few different biocompatible detergents available at local health food stores. I use Oasis laundry detergent which is specially formulated for greywaters systems.

One problem I’ve had is that the down-pipe (the connection to the sewer) doesn’t really work in my apartment. If we hook the washer up to the sewer, then it leaks into the apartment below me. What I did in the past to get around this was to set up a very rudimentary system – which is an example of how NOT to do greywater (and is not pictured here.) I set up the washer to drain into a 50-gallon plastic tub. From the tub, I used a hose with a quick-connect to siphon drain the water into the garden. The system basically worked, but has many drawbacks and hassles. Most notably that the water in the tub gets rather nasty and smelly after a while (needs to be washed out periodically, probably every month if you don’t want it to smell at all.) I lived with it for nearly 10 years. It was a bit more convenient and much more eco than toting my laundry to a laundromat, but right now, I am very happy to have a reliable eco-friendly system that I don’t have to actively siphon the last load’s water before starting the next load. I do suggest that “tankless” systems are the way to go… and never set up anything where you let greywater stand for any length of time.

Close-up of the 3-way Diverter Valve above the washer

Close-up of the 3-way Diverter Valve above the washer

Back to the new system. Here’s a close-up of the “T” that is right above the washing machine. The valve is called a 3-way diverter valve. Normally there would be one more pipe extending horizontally to the right in this image – which would allow me to send water to sewer when I wanted to (by just turning the red handle.) As I mentioned, the sewer connection leaks, so for now, we didn’t connect to it. We included the valve though, in case we ever repair the down-pipe. I used a black plastic-tie to wire the red handle into the only proper direction – sending the water that’s coming up the black pipe leftward into the white pipe. The water then leaves the building.

Greywater Pipe from the Second Floor to the Ground

Greywater Pipe from the Second Floor to the Ground

Outside, here’s what the pipe looks like. The washing machine is behind the window at the top left.

The pipe comes horizontally out through the wall, then makes a turn downward. There’s a little one-way air-vent device extending upward at that T (it’s white with a black top.) I have to confess that I don’t entirely understand what kind of vent it is, nor how and why it works, but it’s supposed to prevent an inadvertent siphoning that could suck water from the delivery pipe back into the washer.

There’s another T below that (it’s right below the wiring and above the door – with a red handle.) This valve is for a potential future container wetland that I fantasize about doing in this area someday.

The pipe continues between the back doors of my unit and my downstairs neighbor’s.

At that point we needed to get across a very tiny courtyard space. We sawed through the concrete to get below grade (so the pipe wouldn’t be trip hazard.) We ran the pipe across underground, then came back to the surface. This does create a small sump spot where some water collects and sits. The Greywater Guerillas suggest that this won’t be a problem because it’s a very small volume of water that won’t sit for too long before the next load of laundry completely flushes it. It might get somewhat gunky if I go on vacation and don’t do laundry for a few weeks.

Our excellent handyman, Dale Kreutzer mortared in over the pipe, adding a strip of tiles for decoration. I like that the tiles serve to draw attention to how the system works. One of my many missions in life is to reveal water processes that we generally tend to hide.

Greywater Pipe along base of wall

Greywater Pipe along base of wall

As the pipe resurfaces it makes a turn to run along the base of the wall of the building. (I’ve stepped across the small courtyard and am taking this photo from my back door – the tile over the underground pipe is visible in the bottom right corner of the picture.)

The pipe transitions from the rigid (and somewhat environmentally nasty) white pipe to the more flexible (and less environmentally nasty) back tubing. The real names for the materials are in the book and website referenced above.

Greywater Pipe continues around base of wall

Greywater Pipe continues around base of wall

The tube follows the base of the building, turning right at the opening of the courtard, continuing along the back of the building.

In the upper left corner of this photo, there’s another T-stub for a future project. We’re beginning to take up some of the concrete in this area, which was formerly dedicated to parking, but will soon be a garden.

The pipe then goes through a gate and below a sidewalk (not pictured, but imagine another tile strip, though we haven’t gotten to it, yet) to emerge into a garden space. The area watered is along a fence. We dug a very small trench there, filled that trench with mulch. We planted blackberries along it (they’ll grow up the fence.) There’s a also a pair of feijoa trees (sometimes called pineapple guava) there. The trees are actually pretty drought resistant and do fine with the rainwater available here, but they will be happier and will yield more with added water at their roots.

Greywater "Emitters" running along mulched trench

Greywater "Emitters" running along mulched trench

The “emitters” are small T-joints which you can see in this image (or in the close-up photo at the top of the blog entry.) There’s a fence to the left (where the blackberries are beginning to grow) and a path to the right. The mulch trench runs along the left half of the photo – between the fence and the mostly-exposed black pipe.

It’s most clear from the photo at the top of the entry, but the greywater is indeed discharged into the air, then immediately soaks into the mulch bed, so there’s no standing water. If the end of the pipe is underground, then you can have problems with roots growing into it. There are fancier ways to discharge below ground – again see the book and website listed above.

You don’t want to use greywater on things like potatoes (where you eat the roots) or lettuce (where you eat the leaves that grow very close to the soil surface.) It’s best for perennials like trees or vines or even tomatoes. There’s a small health risk which can result from eating something that’s been contaminated by directly exposure to greywater. If you set things up right and keep them maintained in working order the risks are negligible.

The system has been up and running for about a month now and is working great!

(In the spirit of those 3-way diverter valves, this entry has been triple-cross-posted at the L.A. Eco-Village Blog, the LAEV Garden Blog and L.A. Creek Freak. Apologies to folks like my mom, who I am sure reads all three.)