Observed within a few blocks of each other, two volunteers and a planting. The first one is a small agave planted in a hole in the sidewalk. A valiant effort indeed. Given Caltrans and/or Sonoma County’s neglect of these areas, it may survive a while. The second one looks like volunteer tomatoes springing up at a storm drain. I hope that’s what they are! Third is a humble little California poppy growing in a crack between the curb and sidewalk. Symbolic of California today?
Sometime between March and November of 2019, Tony started constructing his installation of flowerpots, plants, garden ornaments, lumber, and concrete blocks on the side of the street in front of 67 Central Avenue in Boyes Hot Springs. I originally assumed his name was Richard because of the sign he posted in 2021. The sign, which is not up currently, is a bit puzzling, but I’m glad he gave himself credit, no matter what name he used.
Tony was born in Nayarit state, Mexico and came to the U.S. 50 or 60 years ago (he’s a bit vague on this). He has worked as a landscaper his whole life. “I know how to take care of plants,” he told me.
Joanie Bourg via Facebook:
“He used to come into Sonoma Mission Gardens where I worked for many years.. order plants or buy soil. The thing that struck me about Tony was his super boisterous laugh and spirit, and he obviously worked hard as a gardener.. I would see his truck everywhere. He’s a larger than life dude. I’m also a gardener by profession, so I know just how hard the work is. I love his fighting spirit.”
He has worked at that trade until he got sick. “The doctors took my money, and I’m still sick,” he said. He will go back to Mexico when it’s “time for the ‘cementary’,” he joked. He usually walks with two canes, which he made himself, because he doesn’t like the store-bought ones.
Tony has lived in the apartments next door to his garden for five or six years.
His garden evolves with the seasons. He grows geraniums and plants annual flowers in season. He also uses artificial flowers. Periodically he paints the pots a new color.
Tony drives a Ford work truck. I find it charming that he has replaced the Ford logotype on the tailgate with stick-on lettering, which is slightly askew. It’s a very competent looking truck.
Tony’s garden is getting noticed on social media, probably because it’s close to a popular restaurant, and it’s so great!
Thank you Tony Perez for your gift to our neighborhood!
This post will be updated as Tony’s Garden evolves.
June, July, and August 2022. Tony is bringing a lot of tools and material out of storage to sell.
Filterra units were installed as part of the sidewalk and streetlight project started under Redevelopment in 2009.
What is a Filterra?
What do they do?
Were the wrong plants used?
Has maintenance ever been done?
Are the missing plants going to be replaced?
Do the plants get watered in the dry season?
According to the brochure:
“Filterra is an engineered high-performance bioretention
system.” What is a bioretention system? Read on.
How does Filterra work? Again, from the brochure:
“Stormwater enters the Filterra through a pipe, curb inlet, or sheet flow and ponds over the pretreatment mulch layer,
capturing heavy sediment and debris. Organics and microorganisms within the mulch trap and degrade metals and
hydrocarbons. The mulch also provides water retention for the system’s vegetation.
2. Stormwater flows through engineered Filterra media which filters fine pollutants and nutrients. Organic material in the
media removes dissolved metals and acts as a food source for root-zone microorganisms. Treated water exits through an
underdrain pipe or infiltrates (if designed accordingly).
3. Rootzone microorganisms digest and transform pollutants into forms easily absorbed by plants.
4. Plant roots absorb stormwater and pollutants that were transformed by microorganisms, regenerating the media’s
pollutant removal capacity. The roots grow, provide a hospitable environment for the rootzone microorganisms and
penetrate the media, maintaining hydraulic conductivity.
5. The plant trunk and foliage utilize nutrients such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus for plant health, sequester heavy metals into
the biomass, and provide evapotranspiration of residual water within the system.”
They filter out contaminants in storm water using plants, soil, and microorganisms. Clear?
Page one of the Storm Water Treatment Plan of the Highway 12 Redevelopment project for sidewalks and streetlights. Dated 9/30/08. The table lists eight Filterra units. This is for the first phase of the project. When the entire project was done, there were twenty-one.
Page two shows the units near Thompson St. the drawing shows two units at the parking lot. Only one was installed.
There were two problems from the start: the trees were not watered, or not watered enough, in the months after they were planted, and they were repeatedly vandalized. Well, three problems actually. Some of the units were installed in sidewalks so narrow that you couldn’t easily push a baby carriage around them or walk two-abreast around them. This is particularly glaring on the west side of the bridge over Pequeno Creek.
From the “Common Issues” section of the brochure:
“the most apparent sign of an issue with a Filterra is dead vegetation. A dead tree will not absorb any pollutants through its roots. If you notice any of these issues occurring in your system, or if you have recently installed a unit that needs maintenance, it’s time to call AQUALIS. Our maintenance and repair teams will ensure that your Filterra units are regularly inspected and operating at peak efficiency,” and
“Typically, using vegetation that naturally grows in the area is the best option, and there are specific plants required by the manufacturer. If you notice that the plant in your system is dying, it may be because the wrong type of vegetation is being used.” What species were used? I know one of the units contains nandina domestica, a decidedly non-native plant that has toxic berries and is considered invasive in some places in the U.S.
Current conditions of the plants in the Filterra units: 12 alive, 5 vandalized but still alive, 4 completely missing.
In 2021 your correspondent had this exchange with Supervisor Gorin’s office about maintenance along the highway.
My original question:
Can you tell me who has responsibility for the areas between the sidewalks and the building along the highway in the Springs? These areas are always full of weeds and look terrible. A Caltrans worker told me the County was responsible per an agreement. At any rate, nobody is paying attention to them. Also those “Filterra” trees need attention. Thanks!, Mike
Below the response from TPW:
…the trees in the filterra bioswales in the sidewalk are the responsibility of the county. Evidently, these trees have been repeatedly destroyed/broken by the public. Anything behind the sidewalk is the responsibility of each property owner. This means that the property owners are responsible for the grass strips noted below. Thanks!
Let us know if we may be of further assistance.
From: Mike Acker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sunday, November 7, 2021 8:59 PM
To: Karina Garcia <Karina.Garcia@sonoma-county.org>
Cc: Arielle Kubu-Jones <Arielle.Kubu-Jones@sonoma-county.org>; Hannah Whitman <Hannah.Whitman@sonoma-county.org>
Subject: Re: Highway 12 jurisdiction
Thanks you Karina,
I’m very impressed that you work on Sunday, but do get some rest!:)
On Nov 7, 2021, at 8:52 PM, Karina Garcia <Karina.Garcia@sonoma-county.org> wrote:
On behalf of Supervisor Gorin thank you reaching out and bringing this matter to our attention. We also thank you for providing a clear description and picture.
Your email was shared with our Caltrans contacts as well as Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works. I am including Arielle Kubu-Jones and Hannah Whitman from our office for follow up, as I will be out of the office for a week starting Tuesday.
My answer: Thanks for your reply Karina. That the areas in question are the responsibility of the property owners does not square with the fact that Caltrans cleaned up a large strip in Agua Client a few months ago. At the time, the worker told me it was really the county’s responsibility, but they were doing it. However, if it really is the responsibility of the property owners, how can the County help inform and coordinate efforts at clean up and beatification? Whoever has the legal responsibility, it’s a community matter that effects us all. We fought long and hard for the sidewalks and street lights and are happy to have them, but these eyesore diminish that positive impact. Below is an example of the cleanup Caltrans did in July. (Image)
Actually, Caltrans was cleaning up the sidewalk of debris that has fallen from the private property along side. But my comment about this being a community matter, no matter who is responsible for what, stands. The County should lead on this, as on many other matters on which they are hands–off.
A Tour of The Filterras
Fences and trees: they have conversations, disputes, collaborations. Time is involved.
This year there have been a lot of volunteer sunflowers all over the neighborhood. Why this year? Whatever the reason, they are a welcome sight, even amongst the weeds and bromes.
Artists and obsession:
Artists, aging, and obsession:
“I have drawn things since I was 6. All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting. At 73 I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At 90 I will enter into the secret of things. At 110, everything – every dot, every dash – will live. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age, I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'” ~ Hokusai
“Mount Fuji is a popular subject for Japanese art due to its cultural and religious significance. This belief can be traced to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where a goddess deposits the elixir of life on the peak. As the historian Henry Smith explains, “Thus from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai’s own obsession with the mountain.”” Wikipedia
Here in Boyes Hot Springs, we have a similarly visible, tall monument, and while the Spa does not claim to bestow eternal life, it definitely makes life more enjoyable, and is a worthy subject of an artist’s obsession.
“It all adds up to a reminder that, even as the art historians have been slowly trying to squeeze the history our their discipline, artists have been assiduously turning them selves in to historians, archivists even collectors of a sort.” Barry Schwabsky, The Nation Magazine, April 2014
“Historically revered by Native Americans for its healing power, the elegant Spanish mission–style Inn boasts an enviable location atop an ancient thermal mineral spring, flowing from 1,100 feet below the surface. The tranquility and beauty of this environment is echoed throughout the 40,000-square-foot spa, which offers endless opportunities to find your energy.” From the SMI website
Photographs courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the author.
In 2008 final construction drawings for “Phase 2 Stage 1” of the Highway 12 sidewalk project were issued. The drawings are detailed and very specific, as they would be. Everything is spelled out, down to the design of the hardware used to hold up mail boxes, sign details, and the depth of fence posts.
One thing that was not thought about is the space created, or delineated between the edge of the sidewalk and buildings, fences and walls along the highway. Formerly just part of the shoulder of the road, these unpaved spaces became the chaotic province of weeds and trash, unclaimed and untended by anybody.
This 300’ strip on the east side of the highway between Hawthorne and Thomson is a good example.
Other examples of wasted space.
The new sidewalks, streetlights, and other amenities provided by the project are much appreciated in the community. It’s a shame that the interstices of the design were not dealt with originally, but they now represent an opportunity for creativity and community engagement. Let a hundred fledgling landscape architects bloom!
Update at the end of post
“As Ellen Dissanayake has observed, the function of art is to “make special”; as such, it can raise the “special” qualities of place embedded in everyday life, restoring them to those who created them…”
“Psychologist Tony Hiss asks us to measure our closeness to neighbors and community and suggests ways to develop an “experiential watchfulness” over our regional ‘sweet spots,” or favorite places. Seeing how they change at different times of day, week and year can stimulate local activism.”
From The Lure of the Local, by Lucy Lippard.
It’s all about paying attention.
The course of the seasonal Lily Creek starts somewhere in the open space above Monterey Ave. (in the “Mountain Avenue Canyon”), goes under the street at Central and Verde Vista, travels below ground along Verde Vista, pops up at the corner of Verde Vista and Arroyo, ducks under again then is visible curling around the foundation of a house on Las Lomas, then parallels Arroyo Rd. traveling through back yards.
It’s curious that what is essentially an east-west water course would turn south very close to Sonoma Creek.
Tracy Irwin Storer was a biologist, not an artist or a poet or a historian, but a trained observer nonetheless. He thought it was worthwhile to note, in 1922, that “the French bullfrogs for sale,” he found near Boyes Hot Springs, “had been caught locally, along the creek, by two small boys.” Posterity thanks him for that evocative snapshot.
Thanks to Dan Levitis for showing me how to find field notes from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.
Addendum 3, December 20, 2019
Photos from author’s collection. Index Tribune courtesy of Sonoma Valley Historical Society.
December 2021 Update: Lily Creek with water!
A fiesta on Mothers Day, 2019:Mariachi in Boyes Hot Springs. https://youtu.be/fUv7VsVHFw4