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Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewers

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The complex and often alarming history of the Los Angeles city sewer system is captured for the first time in Anna Sklar's Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewers. With more then fifty photographs, diagrams and maps, Brown Acres is the first historical narrative to detail any world-class city's sewer system complete with relationship between headstrong p The complex and often alarming history of the Los Angeles city sewer system is captured for the first time in Anna Sklar's Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewers. With more then fifty photographs, diagrams and maps, Brown Acres is the first historical narrative to detail any world-class city's sewer system complete with relationship between headstrong politicians and the reformers who sought to heal the bay after a century of pollution and contamination. Brown Acres provides a unique look at the underground history of Los Angeles.


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The complex and often alarming history of the Los Angeles city sewer system is captured for the first time in Anna Sklar's Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewers. With more then fifty photographs, diagrams and maps, Brown Acres is the first historical narrative to detail any world-class city's sewer system complete with relationship between headstrong p The complex and often alarming history of the Los Angeles city sewer system is captured for the first time in Anna Sklar's Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewers. With more then fifty photographs, diagrams and maps, Brown Acres is the first historical narrative to detail any world-class city's sewer system complete with relationship between headstrong politicians and the reformers who sought to heal the bay after a century of pollution and contamination. Brown Acres provides a unique look at the underground history of Los Angeles.

34 review for Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    An interesting read about the Los Angeles sewer system. While not exactly captivating in its narrative, it's short enough to still be enjoyable. The historical photos are great, but I would to have loved to see more maps. Also, the book might have benefited from an introductory chapter on exactly how sewers work as I was rather ignorant on the topic, and many concepts were never really explained. The book seems to presume a level of technical knowledge which I suspect most readers don't have, al An interesting read about the Los Angeles sewer system. While not exactly captivating in its narrative, it's short enough to still be enjoyable. The historical photos are great, but I would to have loved to see more maps. Also, the book might have benefited from an introductory chapter on exactly how sewers work as I was rather ignorant on the topic, and many concepts were never really explained. The book seems to presume a level of technical knowledge which I suspect most readers don't have, although I don't suppose most readers care about Los Angeles sewers anyway. To each his own I guess. A choice quote: "When I Love Lucy was on and there would be a commercial break, there would be a sudden need to use the bathroom and you see a big blip in the flow. The immediate remedy for the sewer maintenance crews was to take a truck and plant it on top of the manhole that was popping. This only resulted in sewage backup into people's bathrooms. So, the solution was to release the sewage to the Los Angeles River" If you're interested in infrastructure and the history of the city of LA, then read this book, although consider reading Cadillac Desert The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition first. It is a far better written book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    This book was a slog to get through. The history of sewage in LA is presented mostly as the history of personalities behind negotiating the different projects that happened. This may be true to life, but it makes for a difficult time keeping track of who's doing what and why, and most importantly where. Especially exasperating when I'm more interested in the what technology and where it was implemented. That said, I do appreciate the story being told, and am inspired to look up historical maps t This book was a slog to get through. The history of sewage in LA is presented mostly as the history of personalities behind negotiating the different projects that happened. This may be true to life, but it makes for a difficult time keeping track of who's doing what and why, and most importantly where. Especially exasperating when I'm more interested in the what technology and where it was implemented. That said, I do appreciate the story being told, and am inspired to look up historical maps to make up for the confusing history as presented about those who architected it. The last chapter is actually presented with the most clarity, and made for a rewarding finish. Would I recommend it? If you're interested in city level sanitation yes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    In a city known for its glamour, talk of sewage may seem inapt, but it is also essential to understanding Los Angeles, because each day "6,700 miles of sewers convey 450 million gallons of wastewater...from more than four million people to four treatment plants." "Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewer System" by Anna Sklar takes an unprecedented look at what lies beneath the sprawling 465.9-square-mile city, which for decades dumped its untreated sewage into the ocean. With de In a city known for its glamour, talk of sewage may seem inapt, but it is also essential to understanding Los Angeles, because each day "6,700 miles of sewers convey 450 million gallons of wastewater...from more than four million people to four treatment plants." "Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewer System" by Anna Sklar takes an unprecedented look at what lies beneath the sprawling 465.9-square-mile city, which for decades dumped its untreated sewage into the ocean. With details (and photographs) gleaned from meticulous research in the city's archives, Sklar relates the extreme difficulties the city faced in building a sewer infrastructure to handle its rapidly expanding population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As any engaging cultural history should, "Brown Acres" illuminates the city's politics, landscape and ecology, especially through the labors of its municipal engineers. Sklar takes us through the painstakingly slow developments that led to the current award-winning sewer system. To call the process of building the underground network of pipes and ultimately a sewage treatment plant Herculean would be an understatement. Sklar, the former public information director for the city's Department of Public Works, lingers on the topic that makes this book so timely: the environmental impact of a century of ineffective sewage treatment and the efforts of activists to clean up Santa Monica Bay, the dumping ground for much of the city's waste since 1894. She also discusses L.A.'s historic lack of foresight in municipal planning and notes that its current struggle with drought could be helped by recycling the hundreds of millions of gallons of treated wastewater it produces each day. - Originally appeared in the LA Times on 5/25/08

  4. 5 out of 5

    jen

    I don't predict that this book will be widely read. Water is a much more popular topic, especially in California, and most people don't want to think about how waste gets handled. I was glad I read this book, though, especially for its stories about the struggles to adapt the sewer system in a region that grew very quickly to a large population. I also found that reading this book has helped provide some background for thinking about the current water recycling proposals (and was surprised to le I don't predict that this book will be widely read. Water is a much more popular topic, especially in California, and most people don't want to think about how waste gets handled. I was glad I read this book, though, especially for its stories about the struggles to adapt the sewer system in a region that grew very quickly to a large population. I also found that reading this book has helped provide some background for thinking about the current water recycling proposals (and was surprised to learn about the widespread use of sewage for fertilization in agriculture in the past). Unlike many recent history titles, this book is a fairly dry read. At times I felt like I was slogging through all of the facts and figures and dates and politician names, but I really appreciated the fact that the author did not embellish the history to make it seem more exciting. A very nice selection of historical photos supplements the text.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This is definitely NOT an engineering book, nor is it an easy primer on exactly how LA's sewer system is put together. Those concerns are secondary to the story Sklar wants to tell, which is the story of the political maneuvering behind the creation and maintenance of the city's sewer system, engineering department and Board of Public Works. Since I'm not much of a politician, I felt this book was a slog. Historians and local politicians will eat it up. There is good explanatory information in t This is definitely NOT an engineering book, nor is it an easy primer on exactly how LA's sewer system is put together. Those concerns are secondary to the story Sklar wants to tell, which is the story of the political maneuvering behind the creation and maintenance of the city's sewer system, engineering department and Board of Public Works. Since I'm not much of a politician, I felt this book was a slog. Historians and local politicians will eat it up. There is good explanatory information in this book; it's just hidden and not entirely clear. But if you read the whole book, a picture of the nature of today's sewer system appears. The biggest flaw in the book (and it's a huge one) is that there's only one map. Forty pages of photos of politicians and beaches with incomprehensible machinery on them, but only one map in a book that should average one map every ten pages. Very frustrating.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eric Chloride

    As a professional in this field &the one who loves hidden history, I loved this book. It's amazing anything ever got done between politics & personalities we're lucky not to have sewage in the streets. Very interesting. As a professional in this field &the one who loves hidden history, I loved this book. It's amazing anything ever got done between politics & personalities we're lucky not to have sewage in the streets. Very interesting.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shana

    I enjoyed the historical information and would recommend it for that aspect; however, this is not a page-turner and gets a bit bogged down in parts with the politics.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Frederic

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  11. 5 out of 5

    Charles Pearce

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kimb

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Daines

  14. 5 out of 5

    George Sherwood

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eric Brightwell

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Fedak

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lula

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  19. 4 out of 5

    Priya

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michele

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chinarut Ruangchotvit

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nezka

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kipend

  26. 4 out of 5

    jeffrey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

  28. 5 out of 5

    kate

  29. 5 out of 5

    Devri

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  31. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  32. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

  33. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

  34. 5 out of 5

    Sara Whizbanger

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