Vishaal Khanna is a project Manager, landscape designer, plant installation layout supervision, plant sourcing, and repository of botanical information at Elysian Landscapes. Melissa Weinberger is co-founder and partner at Touchton & Weinberger LLP. She is a supporter of criminal justice reform and a member of the federal indigent defense panel. Sybil Grant works for PolicyLink, a national research and action institute, advancing racial equity and community-driven public policies.
Arlington Garden: What is your background, and how do you think it will inform your work as a new board member? What are you most excited about working on?
Melissa Weinberger: I am a criminal defense attorney and for the past 15+ years have handled a wide variety of cases in both state and federal court. As one of the few lawyers on the board, I expect to use my legal skills from time to time, and I think my background and experience working in criminal justice will bring a unique and useful perspective. I am excited to work on Arlington Garden events where we bring diverse stakeholders together in a beautiful setting.
Vishaal Khanna: My passion for plants goes back to my early childhood. My Grandmother Sybil was an avid gardener and instilled in me the love and patience of gardening. I studied Botany & Soil Science in school but realized I loved working with people and plants more than labs and wanted to do something that merged the two. My background in Landscape Design informs my perspective on how people interact with outdoor spaces. Thinking how present and future generations will use the gardens is incredibly inspiring! I’m looking forward to bringing more plant education and signage into the gardens and also working on a Master Plan for Arlington Gardens.
Sybil Grant: For the past five years, I have planned, planted, and maintained a native plant garden at my home. My professional background is in political advocacy, working to advance racial equity and pass community-led public policies. I’m excited about our initiatives to bring more outdoor learning opportunities to Pasadena students.
AG: What makes Arlington Garden important to you?
Melissa Weinberger: Arlington Garden is a place of beauty and respite from the busy city, and I feel a sense of connection and peace when I am there. I love how the garden is welcoming and free for all to enjoy and experience.
Vishaal Khanna: Arlington Garden is situated in a unique suburban area above the Arroyo Seco. Creating a through line with ecology and watershed education gives the gardens an opportunity to connect the urban environment with the natural world around us.
Sybil Grant: Arlington Garden is a place where individuals, families, and friends meet and connect; and it is also a place where the broader ecosystem re-connects and relationships are restored. I am honored to play a part in all of these pieces coming together.
AG: How do you envision Arlington Garden’s role as a community space in the future?
Melissa Weinberger: I think Arlington Garden is a wonderful model for so many things: repurposing space, regenerative gardening, openness, diversity, and community inclusion. I think that what has been created in Arlington Garden will continue to grow and thrive and that it may also be an example for other communities.
Vishaal Khanna: It seems everywhere we look our world is getting pulled in a thousand different directions. A garden distills the human connection to the simplest and most important connections and centers us. I believe the future of the garden is in its accessibility and inclusivity. Making sure the space has adequate signage will make the gardens more engaging and may inspire future generations into stewardship of the gardens. Ecological and environmental education, even in small ways, broadens our worldview by focusing on small connections. We naturally draw parallels from our backyard to our community gardens to our local geographical environment and to our global ecosystem.
Sybil Grant: I see Arlington Garden as a leader in transforming how people think about their relationship to the environment they live in: acknowledging and engaging with the indigenous stewards of this land, the Tongva; educating visitors about regenerative gardening; restoring biodiversity and belonging in our ecosystem; and acting as a catalyst to deepen relationships between people, plants, and place.
AG: When you aren’t doing work for the board, what are you doing?
Melissa Weinberger: When I’m not doing work for the board, I am running my small law firm, attending my kids’ various school and extracurricular events, hiking, reading the newspaper or a good book, or hosting dinner parties with friends and family.
Vishaal Khanna: I am a year round gardener here in Los Angeles, I enjoy camping, hiking, bodysurfing, cooking, and spending time with family.
Sybil Grant: Probably working in my garden or talking to friends about the plants they are growing!
AG: What is your favorite part of Arlington Garden?
Melissa Weinberger: I love the olive allée. My first visit to the garden began there, and I remember thinking that it was a magical place.
Vishaal Khanna: The wonder and intimacy of the gardens keeps us coming back!
Sybil Grant: My favorite part of the garden is how it brings people and the broader ecosystem we are a part of together.