Public Works hosts inaugural event: Sustainable Practices for Residential Landscapes

Justin Szasz says there is no “one-size-fits-all” prescription to making Piedmont a more environmentally friendly place, and a more resilient city in facing the challenges that come with climate change.

CivicSpark fellow Justin Szasz

“Different approaches help in different situations, even from one garden to another,” said Szasz, who as a CivicSpark fellow works with Piedmont city departments to help prepare for climate change-related issues. A rain garden — a garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers designed for maximum soaking in of rain and runoff water — in may be of most benefit for one parcel, he said, while the property across the street is better suited for a bioswale, a planted area that cleans and guides rain water.

And in a city that is 90 percent residential, the owners of those residential properties hold the key.

“Every residential property, every home, every garden … adapting to the crisis can help prevent the worst effects of heavy rains and wildfires,” Szasz said.

To help show local property owners various steps they can take to make Piedmont more resilient as weather gets hotter and more erratic, Piedmont’s Public Works Department will host the inaugural “Sustainable Practices for Residential Landscapes” on Feb. 27 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the city’s Community Hall, 711 Highland Ave.

The bioswale at Ramona and Ronada Avenues, into which storm runoff flows for natural filtration through soil.

The event’s various gathered experts will provide Piedmont residents and others interested (Oakland residents are invited) information on how they can – in their own gardens — use more sustainable practices to keep the environment cleaner and make the city better fight, and cope with, climate change.

“I think there’s a real growing interest, especially with the Piedmont Climate Action Plan,” said Nancy Kent, Piedmont’s parks and project manager. “There are some residents all over everything we’re talking about here, but we want to handle talking about them where they’re all in one place.

“We also completed our Green Infrastructure Plan through the Alameda County Clean Water Program,” Kent continued, “and as a result our residents want more green infrastructure included in our civic projects.”    

This Feb. 27 gathering, Kent said, was borne of city staff discussions of how they could engage Piedmont residents to be more sustainable. And Piedmont residents seem to be ready; Kent said many locals have been actively involved with the city’s Climate Action Challenge, which provides resources for residents to increase their environmental friendliness, with an element of competition. 

And now, Szasz and Kent say, that awareness needs to be nurtured in Piedmont’s yards and gardens.

The event will be set up with information tables people can visit and discuss options with experts manning the tables. Hopefully people that come to the event will learn about sustainable options and grab literature they can take with them. In concept — the event is formatted like a trade show where each table hosts a topic and experts are available for conversations.


Among the participating organizations/individuals and their missions are:

*** StopWaste, an Alameda County public agency charged with help;ing people, businesses and agencies waste less, recycle properly, and use water, energy, and other resources efficiently, will focus on landscaping for waste reduction and water conservation. There will be information on composting, sheet mulching, “carbon farming” (keeping carbon in the soil, plants and leaves, and CO2 out of the atmosphere), lawn replacement, plant suitability and green waste reduction;

*** Piedmont Connect, a local collaborative organization and community network, with information on its organization efforts and the Piedmont Climate Challenge;

*** East Bay MUD, the area water and sewage treatment provider, discussing “water smart” gardening and water conservation, and information on water-smart plants, mulching and water-saving irrigation practices;

*** Rain Harvesting, capturing it and using it around the house, as demonstrated by folks from The Urban Farmer Store;

*** Firescaping, which is landscaping with enhanced “defensible zones” to help protect property from fire. This will be hosted by Piedmont Fire Chief Bret Black;

*** ReScape, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that teaches and advocates for a “whole-systems” approach to landscaping that works in harmony with the natural world, and which addresses the changing environment. It will, on Feb. 27, discuss  a Bay-friendly approach to foster soil health, water conservation, carbon farming and protecting valuable resources while reducing waste and preventing pollution;

*** Our Water Our World, affiliated with the University of California, with information on managing homes and gardens in a way that helps protect the environment;

*** The Pollinator Posse, a consortium including Oakland’s Public Works Department, with information on how to create pollinator-friendly habitats;

*** The Piedmont Garden Club, with information on Native California Plants;

*** The Alameda County Clean Water program, hosted by Piedmont Public Works, with information to prevent pollution run-off;

*** Beekeeping, as described by Piedmont resident Carter Dunlap;

*** Alexis Millar, a Piedmont-based landscape architect, with information about establishing a rain garden, which can collect rain runoff, foster groundwater recharge, help minimize flooding and reduce polluted waters flowing  into local rivers, creeks and lakes.


Kent and Szasz both said the Feb. 27 event, which is free, should have usable information for all Piedmont residents.

“Society had had a hard time conceptualizing the risks of climate change; it’s too big in people’s heads, but not big enough. There are small actions that can be taken right now that can reduce the effects of global warming, and the risks we face because of it.”

Justin Szasz

Reach Sam Richards at sam.richards4344@gmail.com

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