Current Green City Studio Projects

Each year, the Master of Landscape Architecture candidates at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, (Cal Poly Pomona University) partner with communities as part of the Green City Studio – the students’ culminating experience for their degree.

In 2023-24, we are working with five different community partners on projects in Baldwin Park, Huron, Maywood, Mono Lake and Pomona, California. You can view past project reports on our publications page.

If you would like to learn more about the Master of Landscape Architecture Program, visit the department web site, or contact the faculty of the Green City Studio.

City of Baldwin Park, CA

Destination Baldwin Park: A Community Vision Plan for the City of Baldwin Park, California

Rebecca Cheung, Eugenia Connelly, Hayley Stansell & Tessa Wiley

Baldwin Park is home to approximately 70,000 residents located on Tongva Land in the eastern portion of Los Angeles County, California, approximately 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The city’s walkable downtown origins, centered on the Pacific Electric (RedCar) Railway, have become embedded in an automobile-centered urban landscape as rail has fallen out of popularity in the last century. Interstates I-10 and I-605 intersect in Baldwin Park’s southwest corner, earning it the title of “Hub of the San Gabriel Valley”. While this may be an economic asset for the city, the dominance of automobile infrastructure presents several challenges common to most Southern California communities, including a lack of park and open space, poor pedestrian and bicycle connections, and pollution. Urban sprawl associated with the transition to automobiles has also blurred the boundary between communities and facilitated the establishment of superstores and chain businesses. The impact of this is a loss of imageability and identity for the city.

Our strategy to address these challenges leverages Baldwin Park’s existing assets and anticipated opportunities through a system of activated places, safe and sustainable networks, and community districts. To develop our vision, we met with city officials and used existing plans to understand what values drive planning efforts across Baldwin Park. We also conducted community engagement and an online survey. The community’s experiences, as well as our own, inspire our concept which expands the ethos of the Downtown Specific Plan across the city. We supplemented these data with spatial analyses to identify and prioritize opportunities and develop a cohesive vision of a livable, sustainable city.

Our vision plan positions Baldwin Park as a memorable destination by highlighting local identity, fostering connectivity, enhancing experiences, and activating new, exciting places. We address community, climate resilience, and sustainability on four functional levels: place, connection, experience, and identity. We create multi-use, neighborhood spaces across the city which are connected via safe, pleasurable pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit networks, elevating the role of each neighborhood in the city as hubs of activity. Neighborhood places provide opportunities for recreation, relaxation, and engagement with local businesses, supporting sustainability and economic vibrancy by offering the community the resources it needs close to home, reducing dependency on car travel. We cultivate neighborhood identity by proposing a number of districts which highlight the unique places and experiences offered across the city while still embodying the essence of Baldwin Park. Each district has a vibrant neighborhood center which enriches the local experience of the city. The resulting vision plan ultimately aims to encourage residents to feel pride in where they live, and to explore Destination: Baldwin Park.

Download the Report (80 MB)

City of Huron, CA

Huron the Beautiful: A Model of Multi-Benefit Restoration for Agricultural Communities in the San Joaquin Valley, California

Connor Rudmann, Antonio Olea, Andy Sett, Francisco Salas-Tamayo, & Alfredo Zuniga.

“Huron the Beautiful” is a vision for the future of California’s San Joaquin Valley. As climate change and groundwater depletion threaten the future of industrial agriculture, a new model for sustainable land management and economic opportunity is desperately needed. Forged from a partnership between Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Landscape Architecture, the City of Huron, the LEAP Institute, and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance, the “Huron the Beautiful” vision plan proposes transforming a 3000-acre federally owned flood detention basin bordering the California Aqueduct into a multi-benefit recreation area that restores native habitat, attracts regional visitors, creates “green jobs,” provides environmental learning opportunities, and empowers local communities through co-management.

This vision emerged from a multi-scalar, systems-based approach to landscape analysis, informed by geospatial modeling, peer-reviewed literature, public reports, multiple site visits, and community engagement activities. This analysis process revealed the major challenges that must be overcome. First, the severity of asbestos contamination in the flood detention basin—an unfortunate result of the construction of the California Aqueduct and a glaring example of environmental injustice for the community of Huron—must be mitigated. The vision plan proposes landscape-scale solutions to the threat of asbestos contamination that include the capping of high-density recreation areas to the diversion of the seasonal stream carrying the polluted sediment.

The second major challenge is the removal and management of invasive saltcedar (Tamarix spp.), which degrades native upland habitat that rare species depend on. The “Huron the Beautiful” vision plan proposes a community- based approach to ecosystem restoration, where native plants and seeds are grown on-site, contract grazing is incorporated into the adaptive management program, and the resulting jobs, internships, and educational programs help local residents transition out of agriculture and into the “restoration economy.”

Finally, the history of environmental injustice at the flood detention basin must be addressed. The City of Huron, less than 1 mile from the site, faces yearly risks of flooding and the threat of airborne asbestos, challenges exacerbated by climate change, dredging of the project site, and limited control of off-road vehicle use. In the San Joaquin Valley, marginalized, farm-working communities such as Huron often bear the brunt of the environmental impacts resulting from industrial agriculture. In the case of Huron, the project site presents an opportunity to reverse some of these environmental injustices by repurposing the flood detention basin for the educational, recreational, and economic benefit of Huron. The vision plan accomplishes this through three distinct programming areas: (1) a research and education campus that serves as a hub for school field trips, outdoor learning, and environmental research, (2) a community recreation area that provides local residents with a nearby opportunity to connect to nature in an overwhelmingly agricultural landscape, and (3) a regional landmark where the project site intersects with the California Aqueduct that would attract visitors from across the state to observe the California Aqueduct, appreciate the ecological restoration of the project site, and reflect on the agricultural past, present, and future of the San Joaquin Valley.

Download the Report (110 MB)

City of Maywood, CA

Unlocking the Gateway: A Resilient Future for Maywood, California

Nathan Peterson, Todd Siefke, Petronella Sovella & Soozy Zerbe

As the impacts of the climate crisis continue to intensify, densely urbanized cities are recognizing their lack of preparedness for future extreme weather events. Many Southern California cities are working to develop Climate Action Plans to create safe and healthy futures for their residents. These plans help identify areas of improvement so that they can achieve their climate goals and adhere to the State of California’s emission reductions requirements.

Our study demonstrates the role of Landscape Architects in this process: cultivating creative and tailored solutions for cities as they retrofit to meet future benchmarks. For this project we partnered with Maywood, a small, one square-mile city located in Southeast Los Angeles County, California, where a dense population is surrounded by freeway traffic, heavy industry, and the Los Angeles River.

We met with various city leaders, both elected officials and city staff, to determine the scope of work and understand their needs and concerns. We connected with the community through participation in multiple civic events to learn about their interests and concerns. We collected and analyzed spatial data to understand systems and issues impacting daily life in Maywood. We also conducted numerous site visits where we walked the streets, talked with residents and business owners, dined in local restaurants, and visited Maywood’s parks.

Through our research and analysis, we found a number of challenges facing Maywood as it strives for resiliency in the face of climate change. The city is completely developed, which presents challenges to overcoming deficits in park land and has resulted in a high percentage of impervious surface. The city is surrounded by a lot of industrial activity, which creates pollution concerns and contributes to significant industrial truck traffic through Maywood. Pollution, crime, and social challenges such as poverty present substantial challenges to the health and wellness of residents. Maywood’s density coupled with a lack of access to regional public transportation has created significant demand for personal vehicle use and correspondingly, for parking: on-street, driveways, and even front yards.

At the same time, there is a wealth of opportunities present in Maywood. The city’s small size creates a greater opportunity for walkability. There are existing public spaces that are beloved by the community as well as opportunities to create more in underutilized spaces. Maywood is centrally located with access to many regional amenities, most notably the Los Angeles River. Its unique Art Deco architecture and small-town feel present potential to establish a strong community identity.

Our vision is for Maywood’s landscape to reflect its residents, prioritizing their needs over industry. Our concept acknowledges the constraints of the city and proposes small, but mighty changes that give the community the tools to be resilient in the face of a changing climate. Our plan includes diverting truck traffic around the heart of the city, a dense ecological buffer for the city edges, converting inner city spaces to reflect the city’s identity, and developing a network of safe transportation and recreation options.

Download the Report (87 MB)

Mono Lake, CA

Co-Design for Reconciliation: A Reimagining of the Ancestral Homeland of the Kootzaduka’a People in Mono County, California

Cindy Camberos, Phillip Cooper, Megan Lassen, Julian Ordaz Fernandez & Scott Payne

The Mono Lake Kootzaduka’a tribe is one of seven traditionally associated tribes of Yosemite National Park, and one of only two who lack federal recognition. As an unrecognized people, the tribe has been denied land ownership, sovereignty, social services, and federal funding. This project originates in that status, and in the tribe’s desire to achieve their goals through alternate means, rather than waiting for federal recognition.

The tribal territory, known as Kootzagwae, extends from Yosemite to the Great Basin of Nevada, encompassing much of Mono County, California . The post colonization history of this region is driven by extraction, and its future is inextricably linked with climate change processes. In response, the tribe seeks to revitalize their culture, take a leading role in ecological stewardship, create new economic opportunities, and build their capacity. They formed a partnership with the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (NPSRTCA), who subsequently connected with Cal Poly Pomona for planning and design assistance.

The project team worked with the tribe to: (1) co-develop strategies for cultural heritage revitalization and education; (2) help identify opportunities to improve ecological health and resilience to climate change impacts within Kootzagwae; (3) explore potential economic opportunities for the Kootzaduka’a tribe within new projects; and (4), support the tribe’s efforts to become a model for other unrecognized tribes, building capacity through mutually beneficial collaboration with agency partners.

The team worked within a co-design framework, inhabiting the role of designers as facilitators, in partnership with community leadership throughout all stages of the project. This approach requires a critically socially conscious mindset to be embraced by designers, empowering the community to shape the project with their needs and values in mind to realize their own vision.

To assess the landscape, students worked with the tribe as well as government agencies to understand regional and local context. This included mapping and analyzing cultural assets, ecological systems, climate issues, and socioeconomic factors. Methods included field study, participatory mapping, spatial modeling, and UAV technologies. The team maintained consistent contact with the tribe and the NPS-RTCA, facilitated design charrettes and workshops with tribal leaders, and joined meetings with regional stakeholders. Students traveled to Kootzagwae each semester, recording their experiences, ground truthing ideas, and empathizing with the tribe’s relation to its ancestral homelands.

The collaboration resulted in plans and designs for a tribal heritage park, an interpretive trail and trail-builder prototype, ecological restoration, recognition of sites of consciousness, and design for a community housing & health center, as well as a climate impact report. The implementation of these plans relies on partnership and negotiation with a mix of governmental and nonprofit agencies. The results of our collaboration will enable the tribe to be ready for new opportunities as they arise, and may serve as a model for unrecognized tribes throughout North America.

This multi-partner collaboration is an affirmation of the capacity of landscape architecture to support tribal communities in reconciling human-land relationships. It offers valuable lessons to other designers working with indigenous tribes.

Download the Report (107 MB)

City of Pomona, CA

The Equity Network, Pomona California: Every Neighborhood Counts

Chip Erwin, Trinity Gomez, Aliah Mitchell & Abraham Vera

This project, in partnership with the City of Pomona, California develops an equity-based approach to enhancing green infrastructure, and improving access to amenities for historically underserved neighborhoods. Traditionally, equity has been defined in terms of even distribution of resources, often overlooking historical patterns of unequal treatment. This project focuses on equality of outcomes for each neighborhood to ensure a more inclusive approach.

Pomona, situated on the easternmost edge of Los Angeles County, is the 7th largest city in the county, with a population exceeding 150,000 residents. Its development began in 1888, initially consisting of a small network of streets surrounded by vast agricultural fields. Over time, the urban landscape has undergone significant changes, influenced by historical policies like redlining, multiple freeways intersecting the city, and railroad development. These changes have left many neighborhoods vulnerable to neglect, environmental hazards, safety concerns, and health-related issues.

The project commenced with site observation, geospatial technical research, and community analyses. Pomona is divided into six council districts each characterized by distinct features. The district system was created for equal representation but has also caused division within Pomona. Interviewing city staff and officials, as well as surveying locals during community engagement revealed many diverse perspectives of Pomona, which makes project allocation and decision making even more complex. Since every council district is different, each council member feels pressure to demand and advocate for specific requests, improvements, as well as necessities for the people within their own district.

An equity index was developed to identify areas most affected by stormwater issues, environmental burdens, pedestrian safety concerns, and demographics challenges in order to reveal how neighborhoods are being impacted by local issues. The observational analysis revealed various issues across these districts, particularly evident in the central areas of Pomona, in neighborhoods in proximity to the railroad tracks. These issues include poor pedestrian infrastructure, lack of climate-resilient features, stormwater management issues, and high numbers of vulnerable demographics based on age, median income, population density, and cardiovascular disease.

To address the issues identified by the equity index, the Equity Network is proposed. The concept intends to foster a more cohesive and connected community throughout Pomona. It is a starting point for an updated general plan that lays the foundation for long-term community development and well-being.

The Equity Network aims to direct resources to areas most in need by establishing vibrant neighborhood centers, enhancing cross-town connections through pedestrian-prioritized infrastructure, and implementing stormwater management solutions. The ultimate goal is to improve the overall quality of life, foster a sense of belonging, develop climate-resilient infrastructure, and enhance pedestrian safety while furnishing the city with access to resources throughout Pomona. These efforts will provide city officials with valuable insights to guide resource allocation decisions effectively.

By focusing on these crucial factors and vulnerability, the Equity Network seeks to ensure that all neighborhoods in Pomona are accounted for to receive equitable access to resources and amenities. This approach acknowledges the diverse needs of the community and strives to address historical disparities effectively.

Download the Report (63 MB)