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Unapproved beautification project turns into city-wide initiative

Riversiders will soon be able to take responsibility for the beautification of roadway medians in their neighborhoods, the city council unanimously decided on Tuesday.

The Riverside Public Works Department (Public Works) is going to build an Adopt-a-Median program that would connect Riverside residents with potential resources and grant opportunities to improve the medians in their area. The idea was inspired by a non-approved median project on Mission Grove Parkway that earned gratitude from most residents and concern from others.

After an unnamed Mission Grove resident took initiative to landscape the median earlier this year, the city was notified that his work was not up to city code. Obligated to investigate any residents’ concerns, the Public Works staff notified the neighborhood that because the resident did not obtain a city permit to augment the medians, the new plants and rocks would be removed.

The nearly two-mile-long median, stretching between Canyon Crest Drive and Alessandro Boulevard, was given decorative rocks, drought-tolerant plants and small trees. Residents argued to the city that the medians were improved and they appreciated the value it brings to their surrounding properties.

Concerned residents noted that the rocks were a potential hazard to drivers and the Public Works staff decided to bring the issue before the city council.

Dirk Jensen, a resident who lives on Mission Grove Parkway, said several people in the area came together nearly two years ago as a neighborhood committee, concerned about how poorly the median was maintained.

“The city and contractors actually promised us that it would look better, but the city never did anything,” Jensen said. “So this kid … has gone out and placed these really nice, decorative rocks and succulents and cacti which are totally in keeping with our environment here, and he’s done a beautiful job on over a mile and half of the median.”

Jensen said he was happy with the council’s final decision.

Another Mission Grove resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the Adopt-a-Median project will be a great opportunity for the Riverside community to connect and collaborate on a creative project.

“This project totally aligns with Riverside’s identity as, ‘The City of Arts and Innovation,’” he said. “Riverside and our community’s use of technology to collaborate on a creative project, like median landscaping, is like a case study in how much we can really do with innovative technologies to come together to create a sense of inclusive community.”

Nathan Mustafa, Riverside City Traffic Engineer and Mobility Planning Manager, said over the next six months or so, the Public Works staff will need community opinion in order to create a program uniquely suited for Riverside.

“We’ll host a community meeting to discuss the options, and the good thing is we’re taking time to create a city-wide program,” Mustafa said. “For this kind of volunteerism and engagement, we want to include other areas and residents in the city and hear from them about what the program should include, what the key components should be and then bring that to city council.”

For now, the neighbors of Mission Grove Parkway can continue to enjoy their newly improved median as-is. Jensen said he hopes there will not be a reason the city has to alter the new landscaping once the Adopt-a-Median program is established in six months.

“It’s a really classy upgrade to our neighborhood,” he said. “I’d be really disappointed if the city decided to take it out.”