Thousands of native California trees and plants will be planted at the Getty art museum site in Brentwood as part of a massive landscape plan that architects say will help prevent fires, minimize land erosion and preserve the natural beauty of the hillside.
Major revegetation at the site, Sepulveda Boulevard and Getty Center Drive, began last week with the planting of hundreds of trees and shrubs.
The 12-building museum complex--which was approved by the Los Angeles Planning Commission last June after two years of negotiations between the J. Paul Getty Trust and Brentwood homeowners--will be built on a hilltop northwest of the intersection of the San Diego Freeway and Sunset Boulevard.
Landscape architect Emmet L. Wemple, whose Los Angeles-based firm also landscaped the Getty art museum in Malibu, said the design plan will create "harmony between the man-built (structures) and the natural existence."
"The tendency would be to come in, level the top of the mountain and build a building on a flat pad," he said. "We want to maintain as much of the natural topography as possible and as many of the native plants."
"The Santa Monica Mountains are so wonderful, the natural chaparral is so beautiful, that we want to make every effort to protect it," Wemple added. "It's a very delicate ecology."
Denis L. Kurutz, vice president of the Wemple firm and landscape manager of the Brentwood project, said: "We are going to be getting visitors from all over the world, and we want to introduce them to the wonderful plants that are more or less unique to Southern California."
Half a mile of a winding road that will carry visitors to the museum is being lined with groves of sycamores and oaks. Nearly 400 trees, 2,000 shrubs and a variety of ground cover from Southern California nurseries will be planted during the initial landscaping phase through January, architects said.
In addition, 12 large pine trees that once stood in the path of the road were boxed and replanted at various locations.
However, the elaborate landscaping, billed as one of the largest privately sponsored landscape projects in an urban setting, is meant to be more than just aesthetically pleasing, landscape architects said.
Kurutz said the fire hazard posed by the shrubby and oily chaparral will be minimized by reducing the height of shrubs and combining the chaparral with other native plants which have lower oil content.
The use of native plants and the grading of several hillside slopes will also help control erosion, Kurutz said.
"The root mass kind of knits the soil together," he said, reducing the threat of landslides.
$1-Million Price Tag
The cost for initial landscaping, which includes a computerized irrigation system, is more than $1 million, according to Getty Trust spokesman Welz Kauffman.
The Brentwood Homeowners Assn., which originally had opposed the project as a threat to the environment, is supporting the effort to preserve the natural surroundings.
"We are very happy that Getty is there," said Betty Hume, a member of the association's board of directors. "They are doing beautiful planting. Getty is very cooperative and, so far, everything is going along fine."
Los Angeles Councilman Marvin Braude, whose district includes Brentwood, praised the Getty for helping preserve open space at the development site. He said the new landscape "will be compatible with the natural hillside."
"The Getty will preserve the natural hillside much more so than private development," Braude said.
Plans for Gardens
Other landscaping plans around the 110-acre museum complex, which designed by award-winning architect Richard Meier, include formal, natural and terraced gardens and citrus and olive groves.
Landscapers are also planting trees on the south and west slopes to screen the center from the view of nearby homes.
Terraced gardens will lead to a reflecting pool in a ravine that divides the site of the museum complex and the location of the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities.
In addition to the Getty's two-story exhibition center, an auditorium, dining facilities, a research library, an institute dedicated to preserving art and the art and humanities building will be built on the landscaped hillside.
An underground parking facility at the base of the hill will provide space for more than 1,000 cars and will be heavily landscaped with gardens. "We are putting the park back into parking," Kurutz quipped.
The center, with a projected construction cost of $100 million to $150 million, is expected to open to the public in 1993. Construction is scheduled to begin during the summer of 1989.
The 100,000-square-foot museum building will showcase pre-20th-Century Western European art, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture and photographs. Ancient and classical art will remain at the Getty museum in Malibu.