It's Easy Being Green: David Hedden Brings Green Thinking to Long Beach
Article by Ryan Smolar
David built the Learning Garden at the new Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, and the aquaponics systems at The Growing Experience Urban Farm. He filled empty lots with whimsical birdhouses with the Arts Council for Long Beach, and he helps run the The Studio, a maker space at the downtown Main Library. And in his spare time (haha), he teaches design at CSULB. Busy, right?
The Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library Learning Garden
In September of 2016, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson sought a fitting entryway for the brand new, $10 million Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library. A garden seemed like a great idea since the library's namesake First Lady is an advocate for good food and healthy kids, and she planted a food garden upon moving into the White House with California local food advocate, Alice Waters.
Because I work for the Uptown Property & Community Association and Long Beach Fresh, the Vice Mayor worked with me to identify a partnership to create a garden at the site. The setup wasn't appropriate for a community garden, but showed promise for a managed communal food operation where food could be grown by volunteers and experts and harvested by the community as they needed it.
David worked with his partner David Rosenstein at OurFoods, a state leader in communtiy-driven aquaponics projects, to relentlessly design and install a dozen raised beds with an irrigated drip system in September for the launch of the Library. Just a few months later, hundreds of pounds of lettuce, kale, tomatoes, herbs, flowers and onion sprigs have been harvested from the site.
The Library staff says the feature has been a success, and has generated a lot of community interest. "I visit the library to get cookbooks, and then come out here to get the produce to make the recipes," one local resident told me during a visit in late October. Long Beach Fresh recently co-hosted a Community Harvest with Hedden at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library Gardens as part of their work with the Coalition for a Healthy North Long Beach, who helped fund and connect all of this programming through their Kaiser HealZones grant.
The library garden isn't David's first in North Long Beach. As part of his project, Leaf & Fin Aquaponics, David partnered with North Long Beach's The Growing Experience: an Urban Farm first to build rudimentary aquaponics systems -- a food growing method that creates a symbiosis between fish and crops.
After a few generations of systems, a lot of plants grown, and a fish fry or two, Hedden landed a $50,000 grant with The Growing Experience to develop a full-fledged aquaponics green house located at the Carmelitos Housing Project. Hedden relishes these types of project where he's able to "utilize design-thinking methods and problem-solving techniques to provide sustainable solutions and educational awareness."
David the Maker
Hedden helped lead up this project along with creatives at MADE in Long Beach, designer Gabriel Gaete and metal artist Sherry Ray-Von who casted the final designs. The design scored Long Beach national attention, and turned heads in the 3D printing community. It's amazing to think about all the talent and technology David is catalyzing across the city through his various maker mitzvahs as I call them.
Squeeze Art Collective, Xmas, Doodlefest & Beyond
Beyond the projects already highlighted, you can see David's fingerprints all over North Long Beach.
Earlier this year, the artist collective he and his parnter Katie Phillips help run held doodle sessions and figure drawing classes during UpLAB's pre-opening days, they also worked with the Vice Mayor and the Arts Council for Long Beach to help muralize North Long Beach through the $50,000 Creative Corridor Challenge program that resulted in nearly ten new murals in the area and had amazing effects on graffiti that we explained in "Hacking North Long Beach: Graffiti."
David also worked with local youth and eager neighbors to build last year's Uptown Xmas decorations, has co-produced zines about urban agriculture, and works to teach and share his knowledge with others. "I really enjoy coming up with ideas and solutions to challenging problems that have a positive social or environmental impact," explains Hedden. "I tell people to nurture your passions, especially those that have a positive impact, and you will be rewarded on many levels."
What's Next: Where David Hedden is Headin'
Despite an incredibly busy schedule, David sees no sign of slowing down. He explains, "I could really use a clone of myself to get more stuff done or perhaps a device that bends space/time... More realistically, volunteering with us at the makerspace or lending a hand with our urban agriculture projects will helps these trends to grow and flourish!"
His partner Katie's group Squeeze Art Collective has been hosting an interesting series of artist talks and there are rumors of them expanding in exciting ways in 2017. The Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library Teaching Garden is slated to run for all of next year and is forming partnerships with the North Long Beach Crop Swappers and a possible chef skills series at the Library.
I'm glad I know David, and I'm a big fan of all of his exciting projects. If you're interested in urban agriculture, eco-design, aquaponics and the intersections of art, environment and technology in Long Beach, I recommend you start by lending David Hedden a hand or inviting him to come to speak to your group.
Question: Where does Graffiti happen in NLB?
Through hacking North Long Beach, we hope to proliferate 21st-century thinking and tools in Uptown. In this example, we take a closer look at graffiti in the 9th District to show you how to hack a civic problem. Is there a local issue you would like to hack in North Long Beach? Contact us to collaborate.
Mapping Graffiti: Where do We even Start?
Gavin Newsom's book, Citizenville: Connecting People and Government in the Digital Age, lays out a vision for 21st century America where the government empowers citizens to manage and improve the city. Long Beach is an early-adopter of this concept: in 2010, we launched the Go Long Beach App, giving anyone with a smart phone the ability to report graffiti and other city problems anywhere and anytime.
To find out where graffiti happens in our neighborhood, we sent the City of Long Beach a public records request. They promptly sent us a PDF with 7,000 graffiti reports that their Public Works department or graffiti abatement subcontractor had handled over the last 5 years.
Finding the Graffiti Hotspots in North Long Beach
The city's data showed major hotspots along the Artesia Blvd. corridor, the 91 freeway sound walls, and on Cherry Ave and Long Beach Blvd. The sites that are being tagged again and again are typically busy corridors with few eyes on the street. They have large blank walls and/or street furniture (like a bus stop, signs or poles). One of the most surprising spots is an unsuspecting intersection on Cherry that is the most tagged location in NLB according to the records. One report at that address mentions "2WC," a tag that indicates the wall may have been used for two-way communication between taggers.
How to Visualize Graffiti (or anything else) on a Map
We saw immediate trends in the data file provided by the city, but we wanted to turn this information into a compelling map. Using Adobe Acrobat, we saved the City's data into a spreadsheet file which we uploaded to Google Sheets. We installed a free app called Geocode by Awesome Table, and converted around 6,400 of the reported graffiti incidents into geographic data that can be put on a map.
We downloaded a free trial of a business analytics program called Tableau, which gave us a lot of flexibility to explore the data more deeply. With a slider, we could isolate date ranges, hone in on specific types of graffiti and even map the graffiti against census data like neighborhood income levels.
Going Back in Time for more Clues with Google Maps
We utilized Google Maps to "visit" some of the interesting sites the data pointed to. A great new feature in Google Maps is the ability to see what the site looked like in previous years. The site below was photographed by Google in both 2011 and 2015, and at both times, the building looks empty, the walls are tempting to taggers and have clearly been painted over by graffiti abatement many times.
OK, We found the Graffiti. So, what's the Solution?
Through a quick Google search, we learned that in 2014, Long Beach spent around $2.30/citizen per year to clean-up graffiti throughout the City. The Graffiti Removal Program is split between the City of Public Works and a paint subcontractor who perform a combined 60,000+ clean-ups per year for around $1 million. This constant clean-up effort is a major deterrent for future graffiti and is incredibly cost-effective because of its deployment scale. Make sure you do your part by reporting graffiti using the Go Long Beach app and learning about the full Graffiti Removal Program. If you see someone tagging, call 911 and do not approach them.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, local artists and the Arts Council for Long Beach transformed some of North Long Beach's most tagged spots into beautiful art pieces via his Connected Corridor Challenge that funded several new murals in the area.
According to District 9 Staff, one of the mural sites was tagged 100 times in 2015. Nearly one year later, the mural there has only been tagged twice (a 98% reduction). This evidence warrants more murals and environmental design ideas like grow walls, patterned street furniture and active streets.
A recent vandalism behavioral study in Brent, London found that most graffiti there was committed by young men aged 13-17 who were seeking thrilling activities. Even worse, some graffiti is associated with status-seeking behavior, promoting drug sales, marking gang territory. Youth need productive activities to engage in to keep from vandalism, and falling into gangs and drugs.
Earlier this year, the City of Long Beach released the My Brothers Keeper Local Action Plan to frame the challenges and opportunities of ensuring everyone in Long Beach has full access to the American dream. The plan encapsulates many of Long Beach's programs and investments oriented towards motivating youth to matriculate and enter the workforce from Mayor Garcia's Internship Challenge to the College Promise.
North Long Beach Youth Engagement Spaces and Programs
Photos (left to right): Workout equipment at Houghton Park, PADnet production crew, Shared Science at UpLAB
Activation, Safety & Security
Jane Jacobs' idea of "eyes on the street" as the principle deterrent of bad behavior in cities is a guiding rule for ceasing lawless behavior on the streets. While police protection and security from the Uptown Property & Community Association are effective, achieving a dynamic mix of people on the streets for as much of the day as possible is the best way to improve overall neighborhood quality of life.
The new Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, new commercial developments, bike lanes, safety cameras, patio dining and proposed pedestrian sidewalk enhancements are encouraging more adults to appear and hang around on the streets and their prevalence discourages youth from acting unruly.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson continues to lead his team and community partners to write grants and find funds for Uptown placemaking projects like his latest announcement, UpLink, which provides free Wi-fi on Atlantic Avenue between Houghton Park and the library.
Photos (left to right): Installing Wi-Fi along Atlantic Ave., ribbon-cutting of Artesia Blvd. bike lane, new library on Atlantic Ave.
Where do We go from Here?
This project was fun and interesting to work on and helps clarify what we all can do to help North Long Beach tackle graffiti:
Aside from graffiti:
UpLAB is a new Creative Hub for North Long Beach
An excited crowd piled into a retail storefront on busy Atlantic Avenue one Monday morning in September. They came to celebrate the opening of UpLAB, a new Co-working Space and Community Creative Studio in the heart of the Uptown business district.
What is a Co-Working space?
A Co-working space provides office space for creatives, freelancers, small business owners, social entrepreneurs and non-profits to rent a desk, or just the ability to drop-in and use wi-fi and conference space. Co-working spaces are popping up as a new, affordable and social way of working in cities like Los Angeles, Pasadena, Santa Ana, Santa Monica and even downtown and central Long Beach.
What's Different About UpLAB? The Community Creative Studio bit?
UpLAB is even cooler than your average Co-working space because we are co-tenanted with the Uptown Property & Community Assoc. This proximity to Uptown's economic development and marketing organization means the creatives at UpLAB are connected to the pulse of what's happening in North Long Beach. By being at UpLAB, we are always in the know about the big events, developments, government programs and business strategies being hatched and rolled-out.
OK, OK, Now Tell Us More About the Party
The festivities were plentiful with a mobile BBQ pit parked out front by Robert Earl's BBQ. He was slinging smiles and sliders to attendees on UpLAB's front porch. We had a great DJ and Chameleon Chair Collection created a temporary patio parklet on Atlantic Avenue with stylish black chairs.
The presentation program was short and sweet and starred Jason Mercado, the CEO of Sweet Mission Cookie Company, who told his story of rebounding from being homeless and a felon to owning his own baking company. "A co-working space helped me grow my business from nothing into something that's bringing joy to a lot of people," Mercado told the crowd.
Ryan Smolar, who wrote the grant that started UpLAB, explained how his passion for this project stemmed from talking to kids in the neighborhood: "A lot of the high school kids we talk to seem to think there's only two jobs -- the army or gang-banging," said Smolar, "I hope UpLAB can anchor 21st century jobs right here in the neighborhood."
UpLAB is renting dedicated desks for $250/month or you can drop-in anytime and use a shared workspace for just $50/month. Please apply online or come in for a tour.