Category Archives: Living Among Giants

Love Riverside UNA Valencia Hills Dr Median Make Over

 We’re planning to add a few cactus and some drought tolerant plants to this forgotten focal point.

A morning make-over. Looking for a few volunteers.

We can use a few with shovels, and a pick up would make quick work of transporting  plant starts.

Start the day at Sherman Indian School, have some coffee and rolls.

Photos and off to an morning make-over.

Contact Gurumantra 951-640-3868

Here’s the project page link for more details:


Neighborhood Project Brainstorming Update

We’re starting to collect lots of ideas of self help actions we can take to enhance the quality of life in the neighborhood. Feel free to share yours.

Brain Strom Sticky Notes

  1. To Do Clean up fee assessed to UCR students or perhaps property owners for move out cleanup. Trash, debris, furniture on curbs…
  2. To Do Neighborhood program for dealing with UCR students issues.  Realistically these are non-police issues (parties, noise, parking, etc) for which UCR may have leverage. We need to solve this ourselves rather than allowing the city to pace our solution.
  3. To Do Reduce street width on Blaine between Watkins and Valencia Hill.  Traffic calming, boulevard, etc…  Maybe even convert to angled or 90 deg parking on one side only…the wall of cars that line every street in UNA and elsewhere in Riverside is horrible.
  4. To Do School traffic at STEM and Highland is really inappropriate for the neighborhood. I imagine all the other schools in UNA have similar issues.
  5. To Do Reseed Mt. Vernon Park with native plants.  This will displace Russian Thistle.  There must be some grant money someplace to do this!
  6. To Do Watkins landscape along railroad between Spruce and Valencia Hill needs to be finished.
  7. To Do We need to find a use for the field at Spruce and Watkins before we get a warehouse there.
  8. To Do UCR backlot (corporate yard) fencing.  Green construction fence installed on a permanent basis. 
  9. To Do Gage canal bikeway needs upkeep and improvements.  Also should be extended through UCR and into the Canyon Crest area.
  10. To Do Need a vision for the neighborhood.  Something like the Springbrook Heritage Parklands citizen’s proposal. We need to get off defense.
  11. To Do Need re-zoning and development added to the vision for UNA.   To me this means allowances for small neighborhood markets like the Olive Ave  Market in Redlands.  It also means allowing for greater housing density that still fits with the neighborhood; things like granny flats where lot size permits or duplex conversions, inventive solutions.  We need density WITH CONTROL to raise the value of UNA housing.
  12. To Do Buy up vacant lots, get easements, or knock down “tear down” houses to convert to neighborhood vest pocket parks.  This reserves the property for future good uses.  Every block should have a small public space.  Not a playground; there aren’t many children in UNA anymore…
  13. To Do Our interface with Box Springs could use work.  Likewise the C.  Box Springs is a huge UNA resource; we are the gateway to that mountain.  Why hide it?
  14. To Do UNA should be able to capture new UCR faculty as neighbors much more effectively than any other area of town.  Do we need a name: “University Park”?  Like “the Wood Streets?” How do we make this happen?  Amenities, markets, etc..???

UCR Physical Master Plan Study Is Complete

UCR CampusAfter receiving feedback from approx. 450 individuals, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members, a final report has been compiles to provide guidance regarding UC Riverside’s space needs, transportation, sustainability, safety, and aesthetics.

Below you will find a link to UCR Today’s feature article on the Physical Master Plan Study, as well as a link to the study’s website on UCR’s Capital Asset Strategies page and a link to the study itself.

UCR Today: Look Online for UCR’s Future Design<>

Capital Asset Strategies – Physical Master Plan Study<>

Physical Master Plan Study – Full Report PDF<>

Also attached is a PDF of the Physical Master Plan Study presentation made at the Steering Committee meeting on May 18th.

Please note that we also have posted summaries of each chapter of the Physical Master Plan Study to the study website, at the URL below.

A PDF of these combined summaries also is attached for your ease of future reference.

A list of frequently asked questions and responses also is posted to the study website, at the URL below.

A PDF of these FAQs also is attached for your ease of future reference.

UCR Family Student Housing Complex to Be Closed in Summer 2017

Stem Academy Traffic Plan Update

Stem Academy MapThe Press Enterprise recently ran with the headline: Stem Academy Traffic Irks Neighbors. While quite true, University Neighborhood residents are well aware of the long history of impacts to the community from education.

While most of us relish the benefits from high quality educational resources, we are all too familiar with unintended consequences and negative impacts. Fortunately, having lots of practice working collaboratively, a small group of neighbors has been meeting with stakeholders to come up with a plan that brings some resolution and relief. Here’s a brief summary:

At Dr. Kirk Lewis’ request, a small group of local Mt. Vernon/Watkins residents met with the RUSD staff and Riverside Traffic engineers on Monday night, August 10th.  Our City Ward Representative Andy Melendrez was also at the meeting.  The STEM Academy PTSA president was present.

A recap of Monday’s agenda:

New Student Drop Off Pick Up Area Signs STEM Academy

  1. Activities to date: Parking lot done, lights going in, portables 1 is in place and waiting for a second one to arrive 3 weeks after school starts.
  1. Future of RSA, they are still talking about moving the 9-12 kids to another location. UCR is still being discussed. Interestingly though, when we asked again about the 5-8 grades increasing in size to fill in the loss of the HS students and accomplish a 700 student cap that Mr. Hansen had told us to expect, the Board member present knew nothing about a 700 student cap! This may be good news for us as we continue to pressure them to keep the student population down closer to the 350 the school was originally intended to house.
  1. Presentation of a DRAFT traffic mitigation plan: Traffic engineers presented three plans. (feel free to come see them or wait for the next meeting for a finalized map)  The City’s proposal was to have traffic from the West come to the school up Mt. Vernon from Big Springs Rd, Barret Rd., and Broadbend Dr.  The proposal also includes posting no Parking Signs and Directional signs.  There would be No Left Turn sign upon exit of the school from 7:30 am to 8:00 am and 2:30 to 3:00 pmMonday thru Friday, directing the traffic during school opening and dismissal back down Mt. Vernon to these same 3 access points.  There would be no left turns on to Mt. Vernon East bound on Watkins for traffic from 7:30 am to 8:30 am and 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm Monday thru Friday.

City Representative Melendrez suggested we watch the suggestions in action for a month, and then reconvene to discuss the results.

  1. Bussing: Two options were proposed. Cluster bussing from several riverside areas and shuttle bussing from either Goodwin’s or the Newman Center parking lots.

The earliest date of busing would be January, 2016.

  1. Potential staggered beginning and dismissal times

They took our input and suggestions back and will finalize a traffic plan soon. I believe Mr. Lewis wants to meet on a larger scale at the next neighborhood community meeting. That date is September 10th at the church.

William Woodring, Kevin Tippets, Suzette & Herb Chavers, Gurumantra Khalsa, and myself have actual printed documents and maps from this meeting.  William, Kevin, and myself would be happy to share with anyone who wishes to see them. Just let us know.

Notes Sent on Behalf of Mary Simons

Neighborhood Real Estate Update, Open House

Neighbor Open House Invitation

Dear Neighbors,
As a long-term University Hills resident, I strongly believe in sustaining
neighborhood property value.
In a collective effort among University Neighborhood Association and local activists,
we have witnessed a faster increase in home value, compared with the greater Riverside area.
Following my recent sales (425 Maravilla Dr. for $350k and 3224 Celeste for $350k),
I foresee the rising prices have reached a plateau, and should remain stable throughout the next 18 months.
I look forward to seeing you at the open house:
 3355 Santa Cruz Dr.
June 28 tSat. 11am-3pm
Offered at $369,500
This would be a great opportunity for you to invite someone who would make
the perfect new neighbor for you!
Laura Peng
Realtor, UCR Graduate
Bre: 01928774
7545 Irvine Center Drive, Suite 250
Irvine, CA 92618


Events Happenings and Heads Up

80 UCR Students Pledged For Neighborhood Clean Up

Pi Kappa Alpha Cleans Up Watkins DriveA major spring cleaning is slated for the neighborhood, Saturday, May 17 th. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Reply with an area in need of some attention.
  2. Contribute to the foodie fund – cash or dish
  3. Tell your neighbors.


So far we’ve had a graffiti rock on Coyote Hill, illegal dumping along the trail starting at the Hyatt parking lot, Islander Park, Watkins Driver along Coyote Hill from Piccacho to the freeway ramp. What else?

1st Graffitti On Coyote Hill in  37 years






Honoring Earth Day

Gathering data may not only be good for the planet, it could become a source of neighborhood bragging rights. Sign up and find out more.

The City of Riverside wants your help! Our community has a chance to become California’s Coolest City by participating in the CoolCalifornia City Challenge.  Now through August 31, sign up and commit to reducing your carbon footprint to help Riverside earn points and compete against other California cities.  The more points Riverside earns, the closer we get to becoming California’s Coolest City.

And, there’s even prize money – $100,000 will be distributed to participating cities!


Signing up is easy:

1.   Click here to sign up .

2.   Take the CoolCalifornia City Challenge survey (each survey is worth 500 points!)

3.   Spread the word – Tell other Riverside residents about the CoolCalifornia City Challenge and encourage them to sign up!

Learn more by visiting , or call 951-826-5817.

Want to help save water, too?  Then check out the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation and sign the pledge.


Grow our city’s impact by inviting your friends!  Email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

Plant a Seed Of Energy Savings

You’ve already pledged to honor the planet with everyday, energy-saving actions. Each of your simple deeds adds up to significant reductions in energy waste for our community.

However the biggest little actions you can take grow your community’s commitment to action. Please take one minute to forward this message to a friend and include a sentence about why the Challenge matters to you. If you have five minutes, reach out to five action-oriented friends this Earth Day. 

What is the Cool California City Challenge?

The CoolCalifornia City Challenge is a statewide competition engaging thousands of households in ten cities across California to save energy, reduce their carbon footprints and help build more vibrant and sustainable communities. Participants in ‘the Challenge’ earn points for reducing their household energy use and transportation emissions. Each new participant and point earned in the program results in prize money to fund local sustainability projects selected by the community.

In its pilot year (2012-2013), the program enrolled 2,670 participants in 8 participating cities. The city of Davis was crowned “Coolest California City” and the cities of Chula Vista and Tracy were each named “Cool California City” for their efforts to engage hundreds of households in local sustainability efforts.

Join us in our effort to make every day Earth Day!

Join the East Side and Develop a Healthy Eating Plan for your Neighborhood

Heal Zone Neighborhood  Healthy Eating Plan

15th Annual Primavera in the Gardens and the Gardens 50th Anniversary
Food & Wine Tasting Fundraiser, May 18th, 2014, 2:00 – 5:00 PM

Primavera In the Gardens

Grape Extract May Eliminate Mosquito Born Diseases

Discovery opens door to better insect repellents

Anandasankar Ray, associate professor of entomology at UC Riverside

UC Riverside researchers say they have found the long-sought receptors in mosquitoes that are affected by DEET, the most common active ingredient used in popular insect repellents.

Identifying the receptors, they say, could lead to more effective and less annoying chemicals for deterring mosquitoes, as well as other insect pests. One compound they’ve identified so far is a grape extract that, unlike DEET, doesn’t damage plastic and nylon.

Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor of entomology and the study’s director, said the discovery opens new doors for dealing with mosquito-borne illness as well as other insect-related problems, possibly even as treatments for agricultural crops. Finding better ways to keep the insects at bay is important worldwide, where mosquito-borne diseases kill hundreds of thousands of people every year.

In recent years, Ray’s lab has made other mosquito discoveries, such as finding ways to block a mosquito’s ability to detect carbon dioxide, the primary method it uses to find human or animal prey.

This most recent work, he said, “is certainly as important if not, potentially, more important than our earlier discovery.”

DEET was developed in the 1940s by the U.S. military. Armed services personnel were being sent to tropical regions wherer mosquitoes spread illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever. But the exact mechanism that made DEET effective remained a mystery.

It is not used much in developing countries where mosquitoes carry illnesses that infect millions annually; the chemical is too expensive and requires frequent application.

“Scientists had been unable to figure how mosquitoes can detect DEET vapors,” Ray said. “Without knowing the protein receptors that activate the insect repellent pathways, it was very difficult to design substitutes for DEET that are better.”

While it is an effective repellent — estimates are that one-third of Americans use a DEET containing product — it can be a skin irritant. It also can damage some plastics and nylon, Ray said.

He and his team found the DEET receptors by using a protein that causes nerve cells to fluoresce green when stimulated. The researchers placed fruit flies — which have the same antennae receptors as mosquitoes — in confined tubes where their only sensory stimulation was from DEET. They then dissected the insects, looking for nerve cells with the tell-tale fluorescent green.

Such receptors usually are found on the hairs extending from the antennae. These, however were imbedded inside the antennae, in a little-studied structure called the sacculus. “That is perhaps why others had missed it,” Ray said.

Once they found the receptors, the researchers began looking for other materials that would stimulate the nerve cells in the same way as DEET does. Using a computer model that was able to suggest similar compounds, they screened half a million chemicals.

“We were able to find 1,000 predicted new repellents,” Ray said. From those, they identified 150 that were natural compounds. “We realized we could find some that were pleasant-smelling and affordable,” he said. “We purchased 10 of these, and eight turned out to be strong repellents.”

They ran complete tests on half of those, three of which already are widely used in food manufacturing as flavorings and are derived from common fruits. The advantage of such chemicals, Ray said, is that they are already FDA approved and will not require extensive testing.

Ray already helped launch one Riverside company that is manufacturing wearable patches that block a mosquito’s ability to detect carbon dioxide; now he is exploring the potential for another company to work on commercializing a new repellent.

Because insects have so many similarities, he said, the repellents could be effective on other insects such as agricultural pests.

“For plant pests, if we can make it work, that would be quite a big breakthrough,” he said.

“That has not been made yet, but it opens the door.”

Mosquito Facts

Species worldwide: About 3,500

Diseases spread: Malaria, West Nile virus, encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue fever

Malaria toll: Millions of people infected annually; 660,000 deaths estimated in 2011

Prey location: Mosquitoes are attracted by odor, temperature, carbon dioxide; documented preference for beer drinkers.

Food: Only females consume blood; both sexes eat nectar and other plant sugars.

Breeding: Water required, since that’s where eggs are laid.

Lifespan: 2 weeks to 6 months

Bites: Red, itchy bump is an allergic reaction to female’s anticoagulant saliva.

Scary fact: One mosquito species, found on all continents except Antarctica, can carry a disease called “chikungunya” which means “that which bends over.” It causes joint pain so severe it leaves people unable to stand or even sit up for weeks or months. The disease has been spreading from Africa into Southeast Asia, and it has shown up in Italy. “A widespread population of Asian tiger mosquitoes combined with globe-trotting humans means that chikungunya can arrive in the United States at any time,” according to a June 2011 article on