CURB CUTs to Collect Rain Water at Dan Long’s OFG

Ventura County Star, Special to The Star
by Kit Stolz, 10/1/12

Volunteers help Ventura homeowners rework parkways Ventura County Star


Ventura County Star, Special to The Star

Monday, October 1, 2012

Volunteers help Ventura homeowners rework parkways Ventura County Star

By Kit Stolz

More than 25 volunteers including contractors, gardeners, landscape architects and students, gathered Saturday morning to help Ventura launch a pilot program designed to encourage homeowners to rework parkways between the sidewalk and the curb to capture stormwater before it goes to the ocean.

The program is intended to let homeowners do the work and the planning, even though the parkways belong to the city and the project involves cutting gaps in the curb with concrete saws.

Although the idea of capturing stormwater and its pollution from the streets before it reaches the ocean has become standard practice in urban planning in recent years, Ventura’s “no-fee encroachment permit” concept is believed to be the first such program on the West Coast and possibly in the nation.

“I know — you could call it groundbreaking, right?” said Jill Sarick, environmental coordinator for the city’s Public Works Department, speaking over the sound of a concrete saw cutting into a curb.

The idea of the curb cut is to allow stormwater sheeting down the street during rainstorms to flow into a drainage, called a bioswale, that retains and filters the water with plantings.

Sarick, working with the ocean environmental group Surfrider and Santa Monica-based landscape architect firm G3, hopes to create a template for the bioswale design that garden professionals and homeowners can readily adapt to parkways, requiring a modest outlay on the part of the homeowner and minimal city involvement.

Using a water level, landscape architect Pamela Berstler made sure the volunteers had reached a depth of 12 inches below the height of the curb and then helped them dig a roughly 2-by-20-foot trench gently sloping downward along the former parkway.

At the top of the trench, a basin was dug with concrete chunks used as fortification. A 4-inch perforated pipe was installed, wrapped with ground cloth so as not to clog. This will be surrounded with gravel, then mulched and planted with native grasses or small trees.

Both planting methods work, said Kate Riley, a landscape designer based in Ojai. The next step is to design a plan that doesn’t require the homeowner or a design firm to come up with a unique design for every parkway.

“We want to go back to the planning department with a standard (bioswale) design so that other homeowners can do it themselves,” she said. “That’s the intention, but the city has not yet approved that.”

Before the pilot program, she said that a homeowner wishing to cut a curb had to show the city plans and proof of insurance from the landscape designer or the owner. The homeowner would also have had to pay a fee of about $150. The pilot program waives the fee as long as all other requirements are met.

With a landscape plan, the costs are modest. Builder Jeff Zimmerman donated his time to cut the curbs and estimated that would cost a homeowner $250 to $500. Riley estimated that with homeowner labor, the construction and planting of a bioswale would cost about the same amount.

The homeowner on San Nicholas, Dan LONG, who with Surfrider volunteers replaced his lawn with an ocean-friendly garden of native plants this year, suggested the curb cuts and the parkway bioswale.

“I pushed for it,” he said. “It seemed to be a natural progression to me. And having all these volunteers here is kind of like a barn raising. It lifts the spirits of all those involved, and it’s a benefit to the city.”

link to article

Nonprofit teaches sustainable gardening to save oceans

Green workshops benefit area residents

By David Percival 04/19/2012

With the help of Ocean Friendly Gardens, an organization formed by the Surfrider Foundation and other agencies, Ventura resident Jon Huber transformed his water wasting front lawn into an eco-friendly yard.
With the help of Ocean Friendly Gardens, an organization formed by the Surfrider Foundation and other agencies, Ventura resident Jon Huber transformed his water wasting front lawn into an eco-friendly yard.
The grass is always greener on the other side — unless the other side is Jon Huber’s front yard. Huber, a Ventura resident, ditched his emerald-green turf for native vegetation.

“I was initially kind of tired of feeding and watering my lawn all the time,” said Huber.  “I saw a thing in the [newspaper] about Ocean Friendly Gardens.  I went to a seminar and they explained about water usage.”
Ocean Friendly Gardens, a nonprofit organization formed by the Surfrider Foundation and other agencies, strives to educate people about ocean pollution caused by urban runoff from gardens and yards. It promotes a practical solution called conservation, permeability and retention or CPR.
Water conservation is the critical first step. Some people dump as much as four feet of water per square foot on their lawns each year in an effort to keep them green.
“[For] Marathon lawns, most people put on twice that,” said Paul Herzog, national coordinator for Ocean Friendly Gardens. “On average, 40 (percent) to 70 percent of the water people use is outdoors, and we think that a garden using native plants can use as little as 20 percent of the water that a traditional garden is using.”
Huber had his sights on native vegetation from the beginning.
“I’ve always been interested in native plants and biology,” said Huber. “I tried to pick plants that had green or flower all year round. I opted for things that looked good all year round.”
Permeability, allowing water to seep into the soil, is the second rule of thumb, followed by retention or trapping water on the property to prevent it from flowing off. By joining forces with Ocean Friendly Gardens, Huber covered these bases as well.
“I covered [the soil] with mulch so it cuts down on evaporation,” said Huber. “When we did the earth work, I dug a big trench so that it gathers as much water as possible.”
Huber’s property was selected by Ocean Friendly Gardens as a Hands On Workshop, a way to get residents directly involved with sustainable gardening.
“We’re going to focus on ordinary folks,” said Herzog.  “We want to teach people about CPR being applied to your home.”
As a regional coordinator for Green Gardens Group (G3) of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, Renee Roth helps Ocean Friendly Gardens develop the educational material for their Hands On Workshops and other programs.
She stresses the environmental consequences that can result from unnecessary runoff.
“When it rains, the runoff pollutes our rivers and streams, which drain into the ocean,” said Roth. “Runoff also leads to erosion of topsoil, which contributes to flooding that further pollutes our waterways and costs billions of dollars to clean up or prevent.”
But it all comes back to native plants. Bob Sussman, owner of Matilija Native Plant Nursery in Moorpark, believes more Ventura County residents are interested in adding native vegetation to their properties.
“I think there is just a general overall acceptance,” said Sussman. “Ten years ago the notion was ‘I don’t want my front yard to look like the hillside over there, it’s just too wild.’ Now the ‘open look’ looks pretty good.”
From planting drought-tolerant vegetation to using drip irrigation instead of traditional sprinklers, Ocean Friendly Gardens is on a mission to enlighten communities and heal the environment, one educational workshop at a time.
“I’m not an environmental evangelist,” said Huber. “But I walk past lawns, and every day I see the water running off the sidewalk onto the street and it’s such a waste. If we could get more people involved in this, it would be great.”

For more information on the next Ocean Friendly Gardens event, a Hands On Site Evaluation workshop, visit

link to Ventura County Reporter – Nonprofit teaches sustainable gardening to save oceans.


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