Legislative Background

The American Society of Landscape Architects

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is a national professional organization representing 17,000 landscape architects. ASLA has 48 state and regional chapters; the Northern California Chapter (NCC) is one of four chapters that represent California. Founded in 1899, the mission of ASLA is to advocate, to lead, to educate, and to participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of cultural, natural and/or the built environments for human enjoyment. ASLA works to increase the public’s awareness of and appreciation for the profession of landscape architecture. ASLA is an active advocate for the profession at the local, state, and national levels on public policy issues, including licensure, livable communities, sustainable design, surface transportation, the environment, conservation issues, historic preservation, small business issues, and providing outdoor access that exceeds the requirements of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The early visionaries in the profession of landscape architecture noted that the designs of outdoor spaces are created for recreation, inspiration, and essential respite from the emerging urban environment. City parks and green spaces within the urban environment, along with private residential gardens, helps to improve physical and psychological health, strengthen our communities and make neighborhoods more attractive places to live and work. The profession enhances the outdoor environment for both private and public enjoyment. ASLA and its members are at the forefront of efforts to increase respect for the land and our natural environment, particularly on issues of prudent land use and planning, urban design, sustainable development, waste and water management including stormwater, resource preservation, recreation, and land reclamation.

ASLA National through its Advocacy Network helps to inform California’s representatives and senators regarding issues of important to the landscape architecture profession. Members of Congress from California need to hear directly from their constituents for ASLA’s federal advocacy program to work. ASLA Advocacy Network is at the forefront of making sure that happens by informing you to contact your local representative and senators.

Background to the California Licensure Law

The State licensure law for landscape architects was enacted in 1953. A landscape architect is an individual who holds a professional license to practice landscape architecture, as defined under Business and Professions Code Section (BPC) 5615. Landscape architects use their technical and artistic talents to plan and design the built environment. They formulate graphic and written criteria (including drawings, construction documents, and specifications) that govern the allocation, arrangement, and construction of land elements and water resources. Engagement in the practice of landscape architecture or use of the title “landscape architect,” or any other confusingly similar title, by an unlicensed individual is a violation of the State’s Landscape Architects Practice Act.

Landscape architects who are initially licensed in California are required to have six years of combined training and educational credits, pass both the national licensing examination and the California Supplemental Examination. Once licensed, landscape architects are required to comply with the laws and regulations governing the practice of landscape architecture.

Section 5615 of the State Business and Professions Code defines “Landscape Architect” and the Practice of Landscape Architecture as: “Landscape architect” means a person who holds a license to practice landscape architecture in this state under the authority of this chapter.”

A person who practices landscape architecture within the meaning and intent of Section 5616 of the State Business and Professions is a person who offers or performs professional services, for the purpose of landscape preservation, development and enhancement, such as consultation, investigation, reconnaissance, research, planning, design, preparation of drawings, construction documents and specifications, and responsible construction observation. Landscape preservation, site development and enhancement are the dominant purpose of services provided by landscape architects. Implementation of that purpose includes: (1) the preservation and aesthetic and functional enhancement of land uses and natural land features; (2) the location and construction of aesthetically pleasing and functional approaches and settings for structures and roadways; and, (3) design for trails and pedestrian walkway systems, plantings, landscape irrigation, landscape lighting, landscape grading and landscape drainage.

Landscape architects perform professional work in planning and design of land for human use and enjoyment. Based on analyses of environmental physical and social characteristics, and economic considerations, they produce overall plans and landscape project designs for integrated land use and site improvements.

The practice of a landscape architect may, for the purpose of landscape preservation, development and enhancement, include: investigation, selection, and allocation of land and water resources for appropriate uses; feasibility studies; formulation of graphic and written criteria to govern the planning and design of land construction programs; preparation review, and analysis of master plans for land use and development; production of overall site plans, landscape grading and landscape drainage plans, irrigation plans, planting plans, and construction details; specifications; cost estimates and reports for land development; collaboration in the design of roads, bridges, and structures with respect to the functional and aesthetic requirements of the areas on which they are to be placed; negotiation and arrangement for execution of land area projects; field observation and inspection of land area construction, restoration, and maintenance.

The practice of landscape architecture shall include the location, arrangement, and design of those site tangible objects and features as are incidental and necessary to the purposes outlined herein. Nothing herein shall preclude a duly licensed landscape architect from planning the development of land areas and elements used thereon or from performing any of the services described in this section in connection with the settings, approaches, or environment for buildings, structures, or facilities, in accordance with the accepted public standards of health, safety, and welfare.

David J. Mitchell, ASLA