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San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo High School hosts a Green California Partnership Academy designed to help students gain awareness and preparation for the green collar jobs of the future. Student leaders have a strong tradition of participation in civic engagement in environmental issues and regularly testify at public meetings to encourage elected officials to implement green policies. The campus boasts a native plant garden and solar panel that provide students with hands on opportunities to design, plan and implement systems such as solar powered irrigation. San Lorenzo also hosts a strong student designed recycling system that serves as a model for many other schools.

Water Savvy Garden Design: A Case Study in San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo High Students Review Water Savvy Designs from UC BerkeleySan Lorenzo High Students Review Water Savvy Designs from UC BerkeleyOn Friday, patient October 24th, viagra 100mg a group of slightly nervous graduate students from UC Berkeley revealed their draft water-savvy landscape design plans to an expert group of San Lorenzo community members: students from San Lorenzo High School.

2014 opened with mixed messages about the drought. At the same time that Governor Jerry Brown was declaring a drought emergency, many cities and homeowners’ associations in California were fining residents for failing to maintain a green lawn.

In Alameda County, the San Lorenzo Village Homeowners’ Association (one of the country’s first planned communities of the post WWII era) made the news for its heavy-handed enforcement of landscaping regulations.

Following the news coverage from San Lorenzo and around the state, California passed legislation restricting the ability to penalize home owners for reducing their water use on landscapes. The San Lorenzo Village Homeowners’ Association (SLVHA) also began work to expand their community’s vision of what a well-maintained lawn might be.

News coverage of San Lorenzo Village from KTVU

For assistance in re-thinking landscapes, the SLVHA contacted UC Berkeley where lecturer Dawn Kooyumjian took up the challenge and developed Landscape Architecture 254:5, “Water Savvy Garden Design: Case Study in San Lorenzo,” a graduate level course in the department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning.

Extended Course Description

THE SUBURBAN LAWN + HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATIONS + DROUGHT = An Opportunity for Design to Change the Look of the Suburbs in Drought-Challenged California

San Lorenzo, governed by the nation’s oldest homeowners’ association, seeks new designs as replacement for the typical suburban front yard. In this class, working with the community, we will develop four prototypes for water-savvy front gardens, embracing strong design, beauty, function, and accessibility to the homeowner. Complementing the designs, we will produce a handbook to guide homeowners through the process of transforming their yards, with information on plants, water needs, maintenance, and best practices for sustainability. The course content includes site and planting design, water-budgeting, public speaking, and producing a publication. The course offers an unequaled opportunity to be on the vanguard of the new look of water-savvy California design. • Open to both undergraduate and graduate students • Prerequisite: LD ARCH 112 or equivalent • Satisfies the Natural Factors requirement (MLA).


SLVHA then reached out to StopWaste and ultimately received a grant for $7,000 to fund the studio at UC Berkeley.  StopWaste was also able to provide technical assistance on sheet mulching, design review, and resources from their “Lose Your Lawn--Gain a Garden” program, including sources for plants and materials.

Kooyumjian notes, “With the drought, SLVHA realizes that the typical front lawn is not necessarily a viable option.  The designs developed by the UCB students show that residents can have a beautiful front garden with less water than a well-maintained lawn requires.  This is a significant project as SLVHA is the oldest homeowners’ association in the country.  Most HOAs require a certain percentage of turf.  However, does this make sense in a climate with little water? SLVHA is leading the charge in rethinking the suburban front lawn.“ 

Over the course of the semester, Berkeley’s students researched the history, aesthetic, and local micro-climate of San Lorenzo, then produced themed water-savvy design drafts for review and comment. 

According to Kooyumjian, “The idea of engaging high school students came from a class discussion.  Who after all is more in touch with the neighborhood than high school students?  High school students are also educators, taking home with them the lessons learned in school. That so many, 30-plus,  students were willing to stay after school on a Friday show that there is real interest in conservation and community participation.“

Teacher Alan Fishman invited students who regularly volunteer at the high school’s native plant nursery to participate in the event. “These students have shown a real dedication to gardening and improving our landscapes,” said Fishman.

First, student Han Zhen Li gave a short presentation about UC Berkeley and the Landscape Architecture program.  He gave an introduction to profession of Landscape Architecture, as well as explaining  what it is to be a landscape architecture student at Cal. Eli Bailey then talked about the drought, explaining the current situation, domestic water use and the need to conserve.  After these two introductions, each Cal student presented his/her designs, ranging from a California native woodland, to a sleek modern design to a Japanese-inspired design -- all beautiful, with minimal water.

Following the presentations, the class then broke into small discussion groups to review each design and learn how SLHS students perceive the neighborhood.  UCB students learned that shade trees, the use of front yard for recreation (soccer) and gathering (patios), as well as the need to minimize yard chores were all important to San Lorenzo youth.

On Thursday evening, October 30 the Cal students presented their designs at a San Lorenzo community meeting.  Both the SLVHA and the class were delighted by the turnout -- close to sixty people came to hear the presentations.  Along with the presentations, the attendees had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with students about the designs, providing invaluable feedback. 

The students are now refining the seven designs to four, incorporating the comments from the high school students and community.  Along with the designs, the students are also busy preparing the accompanying publication which will include information on how to adapt the designs to a particular situation (e.g. corner lot, cul-de-sac lot), with plants lists and general information about how to have a beautiful front garden with minimal water.

Even before the designs are finalized, the San Lorenzo Village Homeowners Association is starting to change its ideas of a vibrant front garden, as reflected in their periodic newsletter to residents. In January 2014, the featured front yard showed a lush, green lawn. By May and July the newsletter was featuring amazing yards with lower water demands.

As 2014’s water year comes to an end, it’s clear that it will go down as one of California’s driest years in history. It’s also clear that slow-moving systems and long standing traditions are able to adapt in response to a changing environment.

San Lorenzo High Builds a Hedgerow

Hedgerow PlanHedgerow PlanOn October 22, students from Jane Nikkel's Environmental Science classes at San Lorenzo High visited the Sunol Ag Park to continue their investigation of agricultural systems and to help install a hedgerow habitat to support organic farming and permaculture projects.

The field trip was part of a series of visits between the school and the non-profit organization, Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE). Earlier this year, students visited the Ag Park to learn about the natural history of the area including historic flooding patterns on the alluvial plain that led to rich agricultural soils. Recently, educators from SAGE visited the high school to work with students on the design plan for a hedgerow installation at the Ag-Park. The program, Youth Bridging Nature and Agriculture, will culminate with a career day in the classroom where students will continueto meet professionals whose work spans nature and agricuultuure.

For Nikkel, a veteran teacher, the partnership provides a valuable kick-off to the school year. "This course is designed around four major themes: Systems, Waste, Energy, and Independent Projects," explains Nikkel. "To better understand the broad concept of environmental systems, we are studying a range of agricultural systems to investigate their environmental impacts and the relationships between humans and natural systems. Additionally, this partnership provides students with hands on experiences and exposure to a range of career possibilities that include environmental principles."

Planting the HedgerowPlanting the HedgerowUpon arriving at the Ag-Park, students were welcomed by a team of SAGE educators led by Suzanne Pegas. Pegas reviewed the plan and purpose for the hedgerow, reminding students that hedgerows provide valuable habitat for farm-friendly creatures, especially pollinators.

SAGE educators provided an overview of best practices for planting, then divided the group of students into teams who immediately set to work planting over sixty native plants into a 100' section of hedgerow. The efforts of San Lorenzo High School are part of a broader partnership between SAGE and local high schools which has resulted in 400' of planted hedgerow in the past two years.

An important aspect of the program is raising career awareness for high school students. The group was joined by Farmer Shawn Seufert, the owner of Terra Bella Family Farms which leases 3 acres from the Ag-Park for organic farming. Farmer Shawn provided an overview of his business model which includes a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery service, direct contracts with local restaurants, and direct sales at farmer's markets. Farmer Shawn also worked side by side with the students installing the hedgerow, offering planting tips and encouragement for the students as they worked.

Hedgerows provide habitatHedgerows provide habitatBy lunch time, the hedgerow was fully planted and students retreated to a shady area of the farm to enjoy a lunch of squash soup prepared by a local restaurant using produce grown at the Ag-Park.

After lunch, students divided into two groups to continue working at the Ag-Park. One group worked with Farmer Shawn to harvest late-season tomatoes and peppers, while another worked with Susanne Pegas to set out the planting flags for the next group of students from Castlemont High School who will plant the next 100' of hedgerow.

Throughout the day, students made a range of important observations. One student noted the connections between the work at the Ag-Park, and her experiences on her grandfather's farm in Mexico. Other students made plans for the school garden in San Lorenzo. Each gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for their food and where it comes from.

SAGE receives funding for the Youth Bridging Nature and Agriculture program from the San Franncisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), the American Honda Foundation, Alameda Coutny Clean Water Grant, and The Clorox Foundation.

San Lorenzo High Artists Promote Recycling

Three students in April Ellis's art class at San Lorenzo High School were prize winners in this year's Oro Loma Sanitary District poster contest. Hao Trong and Jorge Galvan won 1st and 2nd place in grades 9-10 while Jose Galvan won 1st place in grades 11-12. In addition to the three big winners, eleven other students from Ellis's classes were also recognized with certificates of merit in the contest.

Since 1994, the Oro Loma Sanitary District and Waste Management have sponsored the art contest at local schools in order to raise awareness about waste reduction and other environmental issues. This year's theme, "'Ride the Recycle Cycle'-highlighted the interconnection between recycling, the products we purchase and the environment we live in."

Click the images below to expand

1st Place, Grades 11-121st Place, Grades 11-121st Place, Grades 9-101st Place, Grades 9-102nd Place, Grades 9-102nd Place, Grades 9-10

Winners of the contest are featured in the Oro Loma Sanitary District 15-month calendar and earn cash prizes.

At the awards ceremony student Eduardo Galvan noted, "It's a great feeling to know that you won something by your own effort," while Jorge Galvan praised Oro Loma's support of student artists, "The Oro Loma contest gives you an opportunity to show your capacity in drawing and to express your feelings in today's society."

Ms. Ellis thinks the contest is a great way to engage students in art and environmental issues, "I love doing this assignment with my students. Every year, I try to teach them about recycling and to show them how to recycle and to care for the earth. It is wonderful to have the Oro Loma Poster Contest as a teaching tool and also as a way to continue and refine that conversation with students. I love to see them gain knowledge and win prizes for honoring the earth."

This year, over 2,000 entries were received from 37 schools in the sanitary district (San Lorenzo, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, portions of Castro Valley, and the Cities of Hayward and San Leandro).·

Congratulations to all the winners!

Next year's contest theme is, "It's Your Bay, Keep it Clean" Click here for details.

WM EarthCareTM Donates Locally Produced Compost to San Lorenzo High

Hayward, CA – On Tuesday, March 1, a mountain of compost was piled high at San Lorenzo High School in San Lorenzo, a donation from Waste Management of Alameda County, Inc.  The locally produced compost from Alameda County yard trimmings and food scraps will help kick-off spring planting at 21 Project EAT school gardens in Hayward and San Lorenzo unified school districts.

"We are thrilled to share the nourishing benefits of Homegrown Compost and to help Project EAT educate their students about the natural food cycle," said Karen Stern, Waste Management's WM EarthCareTM spokesperson.  "By demonstrating the power of compost to nourish the soil that gives life to the plants the students eat, they are better able to understand the closed-loop connection to food scraps recycling in their homes."

"We all know that you don't grow gardens, you grow dirt.  We are grateful for Waste Management for supporting a unique and engaging learning environment for our students and providing the necessary ingredients to produce healthy food for our students in Alameda County," said Chris Boynton, Director, Project EAT.

"We appreciate Waste Management's donation to help create and maintain school gardens in Alameda County," said Sheila Jordan, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools. "For years, funding from the Public Health Department's Network for a Healthy CA has supported Project EAT's nutrition education in school gardens.  Unfortunately, a recent change in legislation threatens the use of that funding.  We hope that this critical support continues and is expanded to include supplies to run the gardens."

ACOE's Project EAT – Educate, Act, Thrive -  ( provides nutrition education and physical activity promotion through garden-based education and cooking connection classes.  Both in-school and after-school programming are available to preschool- 12th grade students. Project EAT's standards-based curriculum promotes academic success along with the development of healthy nutrition through the use of active school gardens.  Project EAT also provides free Adult Healthy Living classes for parents, community members and low-income families in multiple school districts throughout Alameda County.  The project aims to help students and families to establish a life-long dedication to their communities and environment.

WM EarthCareTM is a product of Waste Management of Alameda County, Inc.  Through WMAC's network of hauling and processing facilities, it closes the loop on organic waste in Alameda County turning yard trimmings and food scraps into compost and clean construction lumber into mulch.  The 100% recycled, locally sourced and produced compost and mulch return nourishment and structure to local soil.  To learn more, visit

Other Project Eat School Gardens Receiving WM EarthCareTM Homegrown Compost:

  • Bidwell Elementary
  • Bowman Elementary
  • Burbank Elementary
  • Chavez Middle School
  • Cherryland Elementary
  • Colonial Acres Elementary
  • Eldridge Elementary
  • Hesparian Elementary
  • Longwood Elementary
  • Lorenzo Manor Elementary
  • Ochoa Middle School
  • Palma Ceia Elementary
  • Park Elementary
  • Ruus Elementary
  • San Lorenzo High
  • Shafer Park Elementary
  • Shepard School
  • Tennyson High School
  • Treeview Elementary
  • Tyrell Elementary
  • Winton Middle School

San Lorenzo Waste Audit Report 2010-11

San Lorenzo Waste AuditSan Lorenzo Waste Audit25 students in San Lorenzo's Green Academy studied a sample of their cafeteria waste. They found a lot of paper packaging of cafeteria food (including bags, cups, and food wrap), as well as chips wrappers, plastic baggies, and styrofoam lunch trays. Students identified plastic recycling as an area for improvement, and couldn't help but notice the significant portion of compostable material in the waste stream. Given Mr. Fishman's track record with organizing student activism, using the waste audit data to lobby for a food scrap recycling program at school may be a good direction for the students to move. Students have divided themselves into several project groups to save energy or reduce waste on campus. Projects include expanding recycling outside the classroom, refashioning recycling bins to promote correct use, and reducing classroom electricity use.

See the full report here.