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Cities Go Green With Native Plants

May 24, 2003|Joy L. Woodson | Times Staff Writer

Azusa will create native-plant landscaping at the foothills of the Angeles National Forest. Santa Monica will dress up the front yards of two homes.

They are among 11 cities that will share nearly $500,000 in grants from the Metropolitan Water District to promote native and drought-resistant plants.

Azusa, San Clemente, San Jacinto, Rancho Cucamonga and Oceanside each received a $75,000 award. Santa Monica, San Juan Capistrano, Corona, Montclair, La Mesa and Camarillo got $20,000 each.

The MWD received 43 applications, with at least one from each of the six counties served by the district. This surprised the judging team of native-plant enthusiasts, water experts and historians, said Adan Ortega, vice president of the MWD. The team expected a dozen applicants, he said.

"I think this has become a successful project beyond all our wildest dreams," said Phillip J. Pace, chairman of the water agency's board of directors.

The MWD wants more native landscaping because such plants require less water than traditional ground covers, such as grass.

Azusa will use its grant to build an interpretive garden at a park near the San Gabriel Mountains.

"As a canyon city here, up against the foothills, there is a rather profound rediscovery of our roots in the figurative and literal sense," said Rick Cole, city manager.

The interpretive garden is one of five projects the city has begun using to promote native landscaping and water conservation, he said.

"People will be able to come to Azusa and say, 'This is native landscaping,' " Cole said.

The Smart Garden Project in Santa Monica will create native gardens on the front lawns of two homes owned by Santa Monica College.

The gardens will present an example that can be followed by homeowners, said Kim O'Cain, water resources specialist for Santa Monica.

"It's hard for people to go into these really big parks and see how they can replicate this," she said. "We're hoping that people, residents especially, can go to these gardens and get ideas about how they can use this landscaping in their own yards."

Actress Rene Russo supports the program, and she attended a news conference in which the grants were handed out. An enthusiast for native plants, Russo said that when "most people think of native, they think of weeds and cactus."

The City Makeover project will change that and will honor California's heritage, Russo said.

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