Los Angeles City Hall grounds to get a modified makeover

The park surrounding Los Angeles City Hall will soon be getting a California makeover, with less green grass and more native and drought-tolerant plants.

The City Council voted Tuesday on a plan to restore the grounds around the building after the sprawling lawn was destroyed last year by the Occupy L.A. encampment. Officials considered several options, including one that called for much of the grass to be replanted and another that would have eliminated nearly all of the turf and replaced it with plants that require less water.

In the end, officials chose a middle option. The plan approved 14 to 0 by the council calls for 51% of the lawn to be replaced with native plants such as succulents, salvias and California holly, but it also provides a swath of grass on the southern end of the park where public events can be held.

Officials said they plan to start the restoration this week and hope to have it finished by early May. The project is estimated to cost $390,000, they said, with annual maintenance about $135,000.


Those maintenance costs will be about $50,000 more each year than previous costs to maintain the lawn, said Jon Kirk Mukri, general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks. He and other officials hope the difference can be made up in part by private donations.

Supporters of the use of native plants hailed the park’s proposed new look and said the new plants may draw hummingbirds and butterflies to the area, providing downtown residents a taste of nature.

“Urban dwellers deserve that kind of break,” said Snowdy Dodson of the California Native Plant Society.

Officials said they were already considering making the grounds more sustainable when Occupy protesters set up hundreds of tents on the lawn last October. Initially, officials estimated that repairing the the lawn and irrigation system could cost up to $400,000.


They have since revised that estimate and Tuesday said restoring the park to its original condition –- lawn intact –- would have cost $76,000.

Also Tuesday, the council voted to rename City Hall East, the boxy white building across the street from City Hall, for former Mayor James K. Hahn.

Hahn, who served as mayor, city attorney and controller during his long political career in Los Angeles, is the only person to have held all three elected citywide offices, and he spent much of his career in the building, which houses the city attorney and controller.

It will be renamed “James K. Hahn City Hall East.” The idea came in part from Hahn’s sister, former City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, now serving in Congress.

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