Front yard regains its former glory, with masks, of course

| July 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

PLAYING IT SAFE on Wilton Drive.

Ah, the great outdoors. Nothing like a pandemic to make you crave some fresh air and time in nature. And friends.

All of these forces combined have elevated the oft-neglected front yard to its earlier prominence.

Laura Dine Million and her husband Mike Million and son watched from their front porch on Wilton Drive as her daughter Chloe and friends celebrated her 12th birthday last month.

Where to throw the party was never in question. The front lawn was “a more airy space and it would feel safer” than the back yard, said Laura.

The birthday girl and her friends sat on comfy and spacious Turkish towels. “We measured the spaces out six feet long and a couple of feet apart and everyone had on masks. I was so impressed, they wore them the whole time,” said Laura.

The tweens, all entering seventh grade this fall at Larchmont Charter, tie-dyed bandanas (later worn as masks) and snacked on individually wrapped cupcakes.

The hardest part was keeping the group small, as Chloe wanted to invite all her friends.

“We wanted everyone to be able to fit in one very small, but distanced circle,” said Laura. “We have been so conservative about sticking very strictly to quarantine rules and social distancing and we just didn’t want to wind up with anyone feeling crowded.

“This party was a big departure for us,” she added. “We’ve definitely been taking quarantine very seriously, and continue to, but were so happy to feel like we came up with a format that felt super safe.”

Pokémon trade dates

ANDI BALLARD-SHARP and Simone Sharp got to know their neighborhood better during the pandemic. The family bought rollerblades when the quarantine began, and goes on “walks / blades around the neighborhoood,” says Andi.

In Larchmont Village, a family on Gower Street with two kids, ages 5 and 7, play basketball, do art projects and picnic in the back yard.

Visits with friends? Those are on the front lawn, keeping a safe social distance, said the mom, who asked to remain anonymous.

They also have fun trading Pokémon Cards — from a safe distance.

“When a trade is made, we put the cards in a designated drop-off spot, and we take turns going there so we don’t meet at the same time!” explains the mom.

Other games include “dance-offs at a distance. Burning off energy and seeing friends at the same time is a good combination!”

Masks in place, the family walks to friends’ houses, greeting them from a distance on their front lawns. “Sometimes the kids will play hide and seek. It can be invigorating for the kids to see their friends’ faces in person, even if for a few minutes! Not to mention, I enjoy chatting with my friends (their parents)!”

A serious downside has been school closures.

“Having school close in mid-March was really hard,” said the mom, who’s been homeschooling ever since.

“My kids are very sociable, and pre-pandemic loved having play dates and seeing their friends. I feel good when I can give them that sense of normalcy (by seeing their friends in person on the front lawn). Seeing friends on Zoom is not the same!”

Rollerblading on Plymouth

Andi Ballard, mom to two girls (ages 9 and 6) and a 2 ½-year-old boy on Plymouth Boulevard, says the pandemic and quarantine have made them closer to each other and their friends. “Our kids and us are lucky to have close friends in the neighborhood, and quarantine has made us all even closer,” said Andi.

“When quarantine started, we tried the front yard picnics and play dates but quickly toggled to walks around the block, since we’re a pretty active family.”

About a month ago, they gave up, she admitted, and “bent most rules in terms of social distancing.

“That said, we’ve mainly been around five or so families this whole time, and I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve taken the kids to public places since March.”

Being a self-described “borderline hypochondriac” also helps.

A lot hasn’t worked for the young family: A bounce house popped after a month. They built obstacle courses in the backyard, crafted “more over the past few months than I’ve ever crafted in my life. (I’ll be happy to never touch a hot glue gun again).”

Baking? “… If there’s anything I dislike more than crafts it’s baking…

“The girls took up gardening in March, but killed all their plants by April.”

No one seems to mind, what with sprinklers to run through, making potions from flowers gathered on nature walks, chalk writing on sidewalks and slime making.

“What’s kept us the most sane by far are exercise, fresh air and sunshine…

“We bought the girls rollerblades when the quarantine began which has been great for us all to go on family walks / blades around the neighborhood.

“I’m sad to say we never took advantage of our beautiful neighborhood pre-pandemic the way we do now.”

Time to rethink the ‘Front Yard,’ maybe now more than ever

BOOKLET from Hancock Park gar- den Club is carried by Chevalier’s Books.

With the front yard gaining renewed prominence, we thought it would be a good time to peruse the Hancock Park Garden Club’s booklet, “Your Next Front Yard.”

Since its publication in 2017, the front yard “is definitely as important and maybe increasingly important,” said the booklet’s co-author, architect and urban designer John Kaliski.

“The thing about front yards is they really are the common area for communities,” he said.

Yet, single-family-home front yards are under threat from several fronts: mansionization, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — granny flats— and a Sacramento legislature looking to further ease developers’ zoning restrictions.

“There are a lot of pressures on communities in general to intensify R-1 [single-family- zoned neighborhoods],” said Kaliski.

As a result, “The quality of front yards will become even more valuable in cities and towns,” he predicts.

More recently, as an urban planner, Kaliski has revisited single-family zoning under review in four Southern Californian cities. A constant among all of them: a desire to maintain the front yard.

Water conservation, drought tolerant landscaping and revisiting the original concept of an open shared landscape — its roots largely tracing back to England — were the original impetus behind the Hancock Park Garden Club booklet.

Water conservation and the drought are still key, but maintaining a community realm of open green space has taken on even more importance, said the Windsor Village resident.

The 40-page booklet, which is co-written by landscape architect and architect Takako Tajima, is at Chevalier’s Books, 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. It retails for $7.99.

For more information and to review the booklet online, visit

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Category: People

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