The peace of an otherwise quiet summer weekend is often muddled by the sound of lawn mowers and leaf blowers. A couple of days ago in one major metropolitan city, an old-fashioned method of ground control provided an alternative soundtrack.

Lisa Napoli has the story.

LISA NAPOLI: Morning rush hour in downtown Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of vehicles)

NAPOLI: The heart of the business district is called Bunker Hill. A rare misty rain grays the skies and dampens commuters. Precipitation isn't the only thing about this day in July that's unusual.

(Soundbite of goats)

NAPOLI: In a steep hillside city park, right next to the world's shortest railway, 120 goats are about to be deployed.

Mr. NATE GIDDINGS: Oh, my gosh, they're so cute.

NAPOLI: Nate Giddings was making his way to work in a nearby skyscraper when he spotted the livestock: baby goats, mama goats, hungry goats. This natural landscaping crew had just been driven up from a farm in San Diego. Their assignment: mowing down the unruly growth of brush on these two and a half acres.

Mr. GIDDINGS: I've never seen them used for this - ever. I think it's hysterical.

NAPOLI: Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles thinks it's smart, not to mention ecological. This is the third year in a row they've hired a herd to tend this unwieldy land.

Johnny Gonzalez owns the goats. He says they get an undeserved bad rap.

Mr. JOHNNY GONZALEZ (Goat Herder): Goats are great survivalists. They learn to survive on meager means, so people tend to think of them as doing something destructive. But goats allow the natural plants to take hold and pretty much do away with all the invasive weeds and grasses.

NAPOLI: And entertain thousands of passersby in the process. For these few days, Bunker Hill becomes a mix of fiercely urban and charmingly bucolic. Just ask Finney. He's one of several homeless men who sleep here. Today, he's right beside where the goats are working. He likes how they make the big, busy city more human.

FINNEY: They make everybody smile. Normally people just, you know, come and go right here to the Metro. And it's so nice to see people stopping and smiling and laughing. And it creates this kind of warmth, this unity. It's kind of, you know, people talk about it, you know.

NAPOLI: And it saves the city 3,000 bucks over the environmentally unfriendly alternative of weed whackers and weed killers.

But no matter how good a job they do, these goats won't have this particular gig forever. This site is slated to get developed into an office tower.

(Soundbite of goats)

NAPOLI: For NPR News, I'm Lisa Napoli in Los Angeles.

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