Return to Case Study Briefs

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Reduces potential annual landscape water use by about 4.2 million gallons (enough to supply 33 single-family households) through the use of water-efficient native plants and limited areas of irrigated landscape. This saves about $14,000/year in water costs.
  • Reduced waste, saved $4,000-$10,000, and prevented the release of over 16 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by recycling approximately 70 cubic yards of concrete (about 7 large concrete mixer trucks).

Social

  • Provides 57 acres of parkland in a park-deficient urban area with barely one acre of parkland per 1,000 residents. Over a million people live within a 5-mile radius.
  • Receives several hundred people daily during morning and evening hours for hiking and other passive recreation, as well as fitness workouts.
  • Serves additional visitors at the Visitor Center: daily average is 400 visitors in spring, 500 in summer, 250 in fall, and 200 in winter.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC Safdie Rabines Architects

  • Project Type

    Park/Open space

  • Former Land Use

    Greyfield

  • Location

    6300 Hetzler Road
    Culver City, California 90232

    Map it

  • Climate Zone

    Warm-summer Mediterranean

  • Size

    57 acres

  • Budget

    $7,000,000 (includes building)

  • Completion Date

    2009

The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook sits between downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean, with views over the L.A. basin. This California State Parks project preserves rare open space and has revitalized a degraded landscape. It features trails, overlooks, a native plant garden, and recycled materials. Since opening to the public, it has experienced high usage by providing a place to view the region, learn about the area’s history, exercise outdoors, and experience nature in the city.

  • The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook preserves valuable open space in a dense urban environment and makes it publicly accessible. California State Parks’ acquisition of the property ended a decade-long battle by preventing conversion of the land to housing.
  • The design takes advantage of unique views from the San Gabriel Mountains to Catalina Island, the Santa Monica Mountains and the Los Angeles urban area.
  • The new 24,000 sf parking lot is paved with permeable decomposed granite.
  • Of the nearly 600,000 sf of restored and interpretive landscape, only 15% is permanently irrigated, saving water resources.
  • The plant palette consists of native species associated with the pre-contact period of significance (before 1750), including 47 unique coastal sage scrub and other regional native species of trees, shrubs, grasses, and forbs.
  • Much of the pedestrian hardscape is comprised of recycled concrete.
  • The recycled-concrete climbing trail offers visitors an intense fitness workout, burning 80-160 calories on the hike up.
  • Outdoor educational exhibits featuring the history of the land including Native Americans, Spanish settlement, and oil development.

Challenge

The property’s ecological value was diminished by prior oil extraction, scattered trash dumping, and grading for previously approved housing. Although degraded, the site offered spectacular views, and local residents and agencies recognized its potential to enhance open space access and passive recreation opportunities for numerous underserved Los Angeles-area residents.

Solution

The property was purchased for the California State Parks urban park portfolio to serve a large population. To complement the site’s new Visitor Center, the landscape features an overlook viewing structure, interpretive garden, amphitheater, picnic areas, and multiple trails, including a climbing trail that has become popular with fitness enthusiasts. The project uses native plants and recycled concrete.

  • Land acquisition cost the state over $41 million. The cost estimate for all sitework was about $4.4 million.
  • Using recycled concrete instead of large concrete pavers saved $4,000-$10,000 in material costs.
  • The project’s water-wise landscape saves about $14,000/year in water costs.
  • Plant establishment requires hand weeding on slopes. Overwatering promotes weed growth and also contributes to mortality of desired native plants.
  • To avoid erosion, it is important not to exceed recommended slopes for decomposed granite paving.
  • High visitation numbers affirm the popularity of and need for the project, although this is increasing wear on the climbing trail. Well-worn paths have formed adjacent to the trail where some users choose to ascend and descend on the hillside rather than the steps.

Project Team

Owner: California State Parks
Prime Consultant/Architect: Safdie Rabines Architects
Civil Engineers: Fuscoe
Landscape Architect: Wallace Roberts & Todd
Structural Engineers: Nabih Youssef & Associates
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineers: Integrated Engineering
Contractor: Metro Builders & Engineers Group, Ltd.

Role of the Landscape Architect

Worked with design team to renew landscape for public access.

Topics

Water conservation, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Reused/recycled materials, Recreational & social value, Educational value, Operations & maintenance savings, Native Plants, Permeable paving, Reused/recycled materials, Restoration, Social equity

The LPS Case Study Briefs are produced by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), working in conjunction with designers and/or academic research teams to assess performance and document each project. LAF has no involvement in the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of the projects. See the Project Team tab for details. If you have questions or comments on the case study itself, contact us at (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

Help build the LPS: Find out how to submit a case study and other ways to contribute.