Old MacDonald Had a Freeway

11_17_09_urban_insites.jpgImage from The Fletcher Studio’s presentation to Sci-Arc via Urban Insights

I usually don’t pull story ideas directly from The Metro Library’s daily headlines page, but this one was just too good to pass up.

Urban Insights L.A. reports on Other New Urbanisms, a symposium held last week by the Southern California Institute’s School of Architecture’s (SCI-Arc) ”New Infrastructure: Innovative Transit Solutions for LA” design competition.  Urban Insights focuses on the second place winner in the contest, who proposed building agricultural villages along freeway embankmnets throughout Southern California.

The Fletcher Studio, which won second place, proposed urban
agricultural villages that would convert freeway embankments into
terraced hillsides. Affiliated bungalow housing would be built
alongside. These developments would be a new source of “green” jobs,
employing farmers on a rotating, seasonal basis. Fletcher calculated
that along LA’s 527 miles of freeway, there are approximately 960 acres
of largely unused land that could be reclaimed as a productive
landscape.

Predictably, many on the panel scoffed at the thought of Caltrans giving up that much space.  Unspoken in the article, and perhaps in the panel, is that if freeway embankments became regional job centers it would be a lot harder, politically, for Caltrans to continue its destructive attempts to widen first and ask questions later.  But in the same way that cyclists are no longer focusing their reform efforts at LADOT and have moved on to elected leaders; perhaps the target audience for this idea shouldn’t be bureaucrats at Caltrans but the supposedly Green Governor to whom they report.

Oh, and Urban Insights, welcome to our blogroll.

  • Thanks for the warm welcome…I will be returning the favor :)

  • I’ve dreamed of the same thing for years, but never thought anyone else would share my same ideas.

    So strange.

    There are some serious problems with this, however. Few of these areas of the freeway are safely accessible (other than by car), and there are no barriers to protect you from careening cars. CalTrans workers get plowed into, a lot.

    Also, the pollutants from vehicles would produce … food and plants of questionable integrity (I think). The soil in those embankments can’t be that great nor healthy.

    It is really interesting to see one of my day dreams independently fleshed out by someone else!

  • M

    I of course have not tested all of the land for toxins along the freeways in LA, but really, there is so much wrong with this idea that it’s somewhat scary. I’ve lived *near* the freeway for years so that I can be near a Metro station and frankly would not want to grow food ADJACENT to it. How many times have the walls along the freeways been painted, repainted and trashed with other toxic materials like herbicide and pesticides and remains from the once-upon-a-time leaded gasoline? This would require tons of cooperation from drivers in not tossing their garbage and still lit-cigarette butts out of their windows anymore. What about all of the animals that currently live in these otherwise unusable (to humans) areas? I’ve seen coyotes, raccoons, all sorts of birds, ground squirrels, rats and mice in these, even in mostly urban areas. Nevermind the quality of life issues for the people living in the “freeway villages”. Even behind a sound wall, the freeway can be incredibly loud and dirty. Whenever I leave my windows open, my windowsills are quickly covered with thick layers of black “dust”. Sooooo gross. And those freeway resurfacing projects that go on all night long…. ugh…

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