Newsletter | Nov/Dec 2021

2019 Retreat at Westerbeke

Editor's Note:

by Mui Ho

As a group, OWA has tried different programs and activities, but nothing beats the annual retreat. It galvanizes the group and it allows members to spend time together to work on issues. The retreat appeals to members for different reasons. For the South Bay and Sacramento members, considering the horrific traffic to be endured for our bi-monthly meetings, the weekend retreat gives them a better opportunity to participate with OWA and catch up with old friends. An old member Koje Shoraka from LA always looked forward to coming.

Unlike older members who came together in the seventies, members now have less urgent issues to resolve, but they still enjoy meeting and spending time with colleagues. Many younger participants like the retreat so much they often end up joining our Steering Committee. By default, our retreat has always been a most crucial membership drive.

We are fortunate to have landed on Westerbeke Ranch. It is a family business run with care and foresight. They keep the ranch buildings in their rustic glory, with interior improvments to update the comfort level for guests. The improvements to the landscaping have been fabulous. There have been beautiful additions and renovations every year. Even thought we loved the vegetable garden installed eight years ago, I can see why they have planted more trees and ornamental plants more recently. It is lovely to walk around the lower garden below the swimming pool. To enjoy the openness there is the upper garden with the labyrinth. We have walked the labyrinth every year to remember our old friends.

We had a very successful Zoom retreat in 2020, and this year our mini-retreat party at member Leslie Golden's garden was quite enjoyable. Many members expressed a preference for meeting in a member's home as we did in our early meetings in the seventies. It is more personal and a fantastic opportunity to showcase the design of our own environment.

The highlight of this year's retreat was the Zoom talk on "Environmental Justice Pathways and Considerations" by attorney Jennifer Hernandez.

2021 Retreat Talk Synopsis

by Suzan Swabacker Miller

The keynote speaker for the 2021 Retreat was attorney Jennifer Hernandez. Here’s the synopsis of her talk in our programs: She will provide perspective on issues ranging from siting and expansion of undesirable land uses such as landfills and heavy industry near minority neighborhoods; infill development and public transit; gentrification and displacement; affordable and attainable housing; upward mobility and homeownership, transportation equity and solving the housing crisis. To use the vernacular: mind-blowing to start with, and the lecture had not begun.

In preparation for the talk, each of us attendees were sent a copy of her article for Breakthrough Magazine, Green Jim Crow (How California’s Climate Policies Undermine Civil Rights and Racial Equity). Ms. Hernandez opens her article writing that she “won the equivalent of the national lottery, with full scholarships to Harvard, and then to Stanford Law.” She continues with her own story about housing. Her father was employed by U.S. Steel in Pittsburg where she grew up “middle class” in a nice home there.

Fast forward to the present where home ownership for young people has become increasingly difficult. Ms. Hernandez writes that no affordable housing is in Pittsburg, nor most of the major cities in California. She interweaves Climate Policies, (created by White Climate policymakers) and notes that California wants all electric cars by 2030. However, poorer people have 2 constraints. First, they typically live outside the metropolitan areas in California and need a car to get to/from work. Second, they cannot afford an electric car, instead buying older more polluting gas fueled cars.

Kathleen Cruise summarized the laws as: “Her primary point was that there many things the State is doing right, but two key things we are doing wrong. One is that we are the only state that puts in place zoning and planning laws and then does not base building approvals on them. The resultant burdensome entitlement process adds $100,000 per unit making affordable housing unaffordable for many underserved populations. This is so wasteful. “

A tangent to this outcome is reflected by California’s stringent emissions laws which have improved or decreased the total smog levels since 1980. But flip this around, and the same laws have resulted in limited housing starts compared to the population growth.
From there she continues. Holland & Knight carefully collected data from the State to support the various arguments regarding zoning. Using Long Beach as an example, the data shows how city zoning places higher density housing alongside public transportation lines (busses primarily) which restricts poorer people (Latinos and Blacks) from moving out into the wealthier enclaves (Asian and white) where the lower density zones prevail. Further, Ms. Hernandez argues that public busses are not reliable; therefore no one with a job wants to use them. Instead, the population is back to buying a car and then finding a space to park it, to ensure access to jobs. Recently, her firm (Holland & Knight) has successfully sued both Berkeley and San Mateo requiring these cities to put denser housing in areas where the citizens fought back claiming the new zoning did not support the increased neighborhood density.

Saturday Retreat Recap

by Betty Woo & Leslie Golden

On Saturday, September 25th, in spite of Covid restrictions (more about that later) we managed to have an in-person retreat that felt every bit as warm and welcoming as our yearly Westerbeke gatherings. Enjoying perfect weather, we gathered on Leslie Golden’s terrace with stunning unobstructed views of the city far below and Mt. Diablo in the distance. Seated at large, generously spaced umbrella-shaded tables, we enjoyed gourmet boxed lunches of chicken, salmon or portabella mushroom salads and fruit. In that idyllic setting, the group fell happily and instantly into the easy camaraderie of past retreats.

As is usual custom, we each took turns introducing ourselves to the group. It always amazes me what a professionally diverse, rich group of women with a very wide age range. It’s wonderful to see the enthusiasm of our younger members and the diversity of fields they have selected.

Leslie’s instruction to shuffle the seating groups for the art project made the most of this gift of time together. Everyone then enthusiastically got to work turning out playful and artistic painted rocks. As usual for the OWA+DP retreat, the results were beautiful and strikingly varied. The variety ranged from the museum-worthy, intricately filigreed design by Kathleen Cruise to my simple sleeping kitty that took just a few seconds and every conceivable variation in between.

We also took advantage of Leslie’s pool which, although unheated, was considerably warmer than the Westerbeke pool. The glittering blue water called to us while some danced Salsa to music piped to garden speakers from the house stereo. Galen Cranz led the pool crowd, the rest of us soon followed. Not even the dancers could resist the call of the water. I was particularly impressed by the fossil and shell-encrusted boulders placed around the pool. Leslie explained that the hilltop her house occupied once sat under the ocean and all those magnificent boulders were dug out of the earth on-site.

The set-up for Covid couldn’t have been more ideal. Since most carpooled, parking worked well. Outside, Gilda Puente-Peters issued name tags, checked off vaccination cards and gave directions to the “loo” just inside the front door. Leslie had blocked off access to the rest of the house and the path through the door led directly to the dining room, where we stowed purses and bags, and straight out to the terrace, thereby limiting indoor contact.

My gratitude goes Leslie for hosting and to the steering committee for bringing us together. It meant a lot to finally see and speak to each other in person. These conversations allowed us to confide, ask advice and seek the connections that we most value about the OWA+DP. And as a bonus, we were able to recruit four new members for the steering committee, hooray!

Teaching Positions

by Prof Weimin Li
Cal Poly Pomona's Department of Landscape Architecture welcomes applications and nominations for a full-time tenure-track assistant professor starting in Fall 2022. The department supports a highly diverse student body, notably the most diverse among all landscape architecture departments in the nation. We seek candidates who can or have a solid potential to offer deep knowledge, creative strategies, and a strong commitment to advancing the field of landscape architecture through a critical lens towards environmental and social justice.

We welcome candidates who can bring one or more of the following expertise: environmental and social justice, community engagement, ecological or human health, climate change and resilience, advanced methods/technologies of site engineering and green infrastructure. We are particularly interested in candidates who have a demonstrated record of working with diverse and/or disadvantaged communities. In addition, applicants should have a terminal degree in landscape architecture or related fields, be capable of teaching at the university level, pursuing scholarship, creative activities and/or design practice, and contributing to the Universityâs academic environment of inclusive excellence.

Consideration of completed applications will begin December 1st, 2021, and continue until the position is filled. Underrepresented minorities and women candidates are especially encouraged to apply. AA/EOE.

For full details, please refer to the expanded position description on Interfolio. Applicants should apply via All questions should be directed to

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