• Center for Community Change

Alliances Across Issues: Theodore Payne Foundation Partners with the Housing Authority of Los Angeles on Native Flora and Water Conservation

It started as a means to save water in drought-stricken Los Angeles, California.  Last spring the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles came to the Theodore Payne Foundation searching for ways HACLA could save on their water bill and provide interesting environments if they planted native flora for their landscaping of public housing sites.

The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants was established in 1960 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the understanding, preservation and use of California native flora.  The Foundation provides a full-service native plant nursery, seed room, book store, art gallery, demonstration gardens and hiking trails open to the public year round.  The Foundation offers classes for adults and families, as well as field trips and classroom programs for children.  More than 250 active volunteers are the backbone of the Foundation and its success in Southern California.


Image courtesy of the Theodore Payne Foundation

So no surprise that HACLA staff, with more than 160 acres of landscaping to manage, recognized that their goal could not be reached without some expertise and commitment.  Their practical approach resulted in partnering with the Theodore Payne Foundation to train HACLA’s landscape crews in native plant horticulture and maintenance with three pilot projects.   Now the Foundation is training more than 50 people and guiding the development of 1.6 acres of pilot gardens at Imperial Courts in Watts, Estrada Courts in Boyle Heights, and San Fernando gardens in Pacoima.

Working with the entire public housing landscaping staff and some residents from the three pilot sites, everyone joined tours of the nursery and demonstration gardens and included basic native plant horticulture and design, along with plant identification and selection.  The final sessions of the six-month program, focuses on developing the skills to establish and maintain the new landscapes.  Participants are excited both about saving water and learning new landscaping skills.  Each pilot site is designing its own gardens, updating their irrigation system, and feeling the satisfaction of meeting new challenges.

Impressed by the success of the pilot program, HACLA invited Theodore Payne Foundation to design the garden at the Boys & Girls club of Mar Vista Gardens, creating a beautiful and enriching environment for the children and all Mar Vista Gardens residents.

For more information, visit:  www.theodorepayne.org

By Mary Brooks, Senior Advisor, Center for Community Change–Housing Trust Fund Project