There’s a whole lot of work going on at the corner of Fremont Avenue and El Centro Street in South Pasadena these days.
John Nixon, a resident of Alhambra, holding a handful of letters, quickly jumped out of his car, headed for the steps to the South Pasadena Post Office when he stopped, sought out a construction crewmember and asked, “Hey, what’s going on around here?”
The short answer given by the worker was, “We’re making improvements to the outside,” he said as Nixon ran up the stairs to the historic building making his mail drop-off inside, reserving the longer response for those responsible for the major renovation underway.
The massive landscaping project is being undertaken by South Pasadena Beautiful, spearheaded by two of the organization’s board members Gina Atkinson and Isabella Harrington, serving as co-managers.
“To create more climate resilient landscapes, South Pasadena Beautiful has launched an initiative to create a new sustainable low-water garden at the South Pasadena Post Office,” they note on a website explaining the collaborative effort. “The project will unfold in two phases, dying trees and grass in front of the building will be replaced with disease-resistant shade trees and colorful, California-friendly planting. The second phase will renovate the large lawn area to the side of the building with a new seating area and low-water plants and trees selected for their ability to attract birds and butterflies.”
Over the past two years, South Pasadena Beautiful officials say they have raised $20,000 toward the project. “A turf removal rebate will help us get closer to the total funds needed,” noted Harrington. “We need $5,000 more to be able to buy and apply enough mulch to the planted areas.”
Some might be wondering why doesn’t the post office, a federal institution, take care of its own landscaping needs and not push the burden off on groups like South Pasadena Beautiful to do the job?
“Simply put, the post office mows and blows and takes care of anything deemed dangerous but doesn’t have much funding to beautify the space,” said Atkinson. “Fortunately, South Pasadena Beautiful, as a non-profit, can take on the project to transform the grounds.”
Work on the project began October 7 as demolition and rehab of the sprinkler system has been completed. “This coming week we will start the decomposed granite patio areas and the swale,” Atkinson added.
No longer will the corner be an eyesore, notes those overseeing it. The project managers expect the major landscaping of the area to be fully completed before Thanksgiving.
“Tens of thousands of cars pass by our post office every month,” said Harrington, talking about why South Pasadena Beautiful got involved. “We were sick and tired, and embarrassed by how shabby the grounds had become. Two years ago we got permission from the postmaster to work on this project. We got them to repair the railings at the post office that were covered in chipped paint. We got them to remove two dead trees from the front.”
South Pasadena resident June Scott, a landscape architect and South Pasadena Beautiful member, donated the landscape design for the project. “She worked through several revisions of the plan as we added components that were required to meet the specifications to apply for the turf removal rebate. We are extremely thankful to her,” Harrington said.
South Pasadena Beautiful, an all-volunteer 501c3 non-profit organization, was founded in 1965 to pursue projects to improve the look of the city.
Drought is normal for Southern California, “but many of our public and commercial spaces are landscaped with water-thirsty plants,” Atkinson said.
That’s why in the past the organization has actively been making landscape improvements around town, including the planting of the public library grounds on El Centro Street two years ago. Prior to that, South Pasadena Beautiful planted the medians on Orange Grove Boulevard from Columbia Street to the 110 Freeway. In addition, 175 trees have been planted throughout the city over the last three years through a successful tree drive program.
South Pasadena Beautiful has also sponsored many projects at the local high school, one of which was a butterfly garden, and a clean up effort by Eagle Scouts to clean up the South Pasadena rock sign welcoming northbound motorists on the 110 Freeway as they enter the city.
Individuals wishing to make a donation to the post office project are encouraged to visit the organization’s website: www.southpasbeautiful.org/post-office. Checks can be sent to: South Pasadena Beautiful, PO Box 1133, South Pasadena, CA 91031.
“We are proud to partner with our community to pursue sustainability and beautification projects in the City of South Pasadena,” said Harrington.
As for Nixon, making a quick retreat back to his car after making a pit stop inside the post office, he gushed, looking over the new landscaping improvements as he caught the eye of a worker. “It’s looking good,” he said, giving it a thumbs up.