By Elyse Glickman | Photos by Aaron Han, Aaron Han Photography and courtesy of family
Since 2015, Studio City South families have shared their stories about why they chose to set down roots here. Others have expressed pride in family ties to the area that dating back several generations. All will insist there are many virtues about the “Studio City lifestyle” that set it apart from other L.A. communities, including its association with the film and television industry and a shared passion among its residents for such causes as protecting the environment and animal rights. Ed Begley, Jr., born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and Studio City resident since 1971, however, truly embodies everything people love about this one-of-a-kind L.A. enclave.
“The Valley was a lot like the way Ojai is today,” Ed re-calls. “The neighborhood I grew up in was very agricultural. A lima bean patch was just across the street, and my dad kept a couple of horses on the property. There was a giant walnut tree on our lot next door, as well as a bunch of peach trees. At that time, a lot of people lived in ranch-style houses on nice sized lots. It was an idyllic time where we could leave our doors unlocked on summer nights.”
While Ed is nostalgic for the San Fernando Valley of his 1950s childhood, he provides some handy facts reflecting the changes that took place over the past 50 years make 21st Century life in Studio City and nearby communities even better. Although there are four times as many cars on the road and millions more people than were in 1971, there is a fraction of the smog because of new technologies that brought about catalytic converters on cars. Many environmentalist movements empowered people from all walks of life to push for things like cleaner-running public transportation and greater social responsibility among large corporations and individuals. However, the lifelong environmentalist affirms we all need to go further to curb the effects of climate change.
Ed’s multi-decade acting career in television (“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Parent-hood,” “Bless this Mess” and “Young Sheldon”) and film (“She-Devil,” “Pineapple Express,” “Book Club” and several Christopher Guest-directed films, starting with “This is Spinal Tap”) provides him national recognition that empowers him, wife Rachelle Carson-Begley (an actress and producer in her own right) and daughter Hayden Carson-Begley to educate the public about conservation in a variety of mediums. These include promoting Begley’s Best Household Cleaner (which Ed had a hand in developing, and is sold on Amazon.com,) authoring “Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life” and “Ed Begley Jr.’s Guide to Sustainable Living: Learning to Conserve Resources and Manage an Eco-Conscious Life,” and producing several documentary and television projects with Rachelle, including “Living with Ed” on HGTV.
The web series “On Begley Street,” produced by Rachelle, chronicles the family’s journey building “North America’s greenest, most sustainable home.” The ambitious project, which the Begleys hope will set an example for other American families to follow, runs on 9kW of solar, a 10,000 gallon rainwater tank, 12” thick walls, Lutron lighting controls and high-efficiency HVAC units from Daikin.
While the state of California encourages homeowners to replace traditional lawns with native plants because of the ongoing water shortage, the Begley’s lawn presents a fine example of how anyone can achieve a gorgeous and sustainable front yard.
“It’s incredible how little many people know about how habits and actions affect the environment,” says Rachelle, reflecting on their various public hands’ on efforts as well as their affiliations with groups ranging from local institutions like Tree People and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to the well-established international network Friends of the Earth.
“Admittedly, change—even when it’s necessary—is hard when it comes to old habits,” she continues. “As Al Gore says, it’s an inconvenient truth. However, when people are given more information they can grasp, like see-ing how a wood burning fireplace contributes to global warming, they can look into better, cleaner alternatives for heating. We need to do our part to generate more awareness about the problems and solutions out there, and hope the public will pay attention.”
While Ed cites shopping, abundance of parking, hills and the hiking trails as some of the reasons why Studio City is truly his home, he insists it got a lot better in 1993 when he started seeing Rachelle. “And this is when my house got a whole a lot prettier in every way,” he muses. “Just her sitting in inside of it made it a lot prettier.”
Atlanta-bred Rachelle, however, needed some persuading and time before Studio City felt like home. When she moved to L.A. during the 1980s, her views of the Valley were based on its well-established image problem at the time, which included elevated smog levels. “After I started spending more time in the Valley because of a theater company I belonged to, and even more after I met Ed, I realized how adorable it was--like a little May-berry. After we had our daughter, I was very grateful to be in the Valley and not on the other side of the hill, which was becoming more crowded.”
Rachelle and Ed believe everybody, no matter their walk of life or income level, can make a difference as all small steps each person makes can add up to big change.
“Families like ours have proven that in one of America’s largest suburbs—the San Fernando Valley—you can live sustainably,” Ed points out. “While it’s human nature for some people to list all of things they can’t do, such as afford a big solar array on the roof or drive a Tesla, I encourage them to make a list and say ‘yes’ to the things you can do today. Even if you cannot afford solar panels or an electric car at the moment, you can ride a bike when weather permits, use energy-efficient light bulbs, get an energy-saving thermostat, recycle, compost and even grow your own garden if you have a patch of dirt in your yard...or join a community garden. Better still, doing several of these things can help you save money.”
Over the past year, the pandemic gave many Studio City residents an opportunity to make improvements in their homes, and the Begleys are no exception. Ed elaborates on some of the ‘honey-do’ projects he did around the house to amp up its existing sustainability: Adding height to fencing around the vegetable garden to safely keep out critters; switching out the natural gas dryer and water heater for an electric ones more compatible with his solar setup; and taking advantage of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s green power program. He adds that although things are returning to normal, his mind will quickly move to the next environment-improving or energy-saving project.
“Most homes have a circulating pump, which heats up water for the sink, shower or bath quickly,” Ed says, explaining that a “loop” from heating-up and cooling-off processes of water expends more energy than you would expect... and that there’s now a remedy called “Act on Demand” available through most plumbers. “It’s a little sensor in each room that activates this pump only when you come into the room. When you’re asleep or nobody’s in the kitchen or bathroom, that loop of water is not being pumped around. I also discovered Hot Sun Industries in Upland. They installed solar black tubing that goes on the back of rooftop solar panels that the pool AND make the PV work more efficiently.
Like most families, the Begleys have had their share of trial-and-error situations, showing we all have to approach every purchase with care, be it an appliance or piece of furniture. “I have always strived to make my home healthy, both functionally and aesthetically,” says Rachelle. “Usually, I select furnishings made with organic cotton and other sustainable materials. However, I got a little lazy and cheap and we paid the price. Right out of the box, the chairs were foul-smelling and toxic, and need to put outside while they were ‘off gassing.’ This should serve as a reminder that everything we do has a consequence.”
For the latest on the Begleys’ conservation projects, and many inspirational tips covering home, health, pet care and sustainability, visit begleyliving.com.