LA Is Still Trying To Get 90,000 Trees Planted By Next Year

Holy hillside trees, Batman! (Courtesy Friends of Griffith Park)

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A little over a year ago, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released his own Green New Deal. And in it — listed after the long-term goals of powering L.A. with renewables by 2045 and electrifying bus fleets by 2030 — is the near-term goal of planting 90,000 trees across the city by 2021.

The idea being that we could not only beautify neighborhoods and improve air quality, but also cool them down, as regionwide temperatures get hotter due to climate change, and the heat island effect continues to exact its toll.

So far, roughly 31,000 trees have been planted on public land and by property owners, some of whom got them for free through a municipal program, according to Rachel Malarich, L.A.'s City Forest Officer.

"Any tree that's planted in Los Angeles, we're counting towards the goal if we're aware of it," she said.


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It's a process that's been slowed a bit by the pandemic, as contractors responsible for planting the trees have had to adjust to new safety measures. And volunteer tree planting programs have been put on hold.

Another of the 2021 goals mentioned in Garcetti's plan is the completion of a citywide tree inventory, which Malarich said they're actively working on, and is crucial for gaming out L.A.'s tree-filled future.

With the inventory they'll be able to determine which sites are available for planting, and which trees are thriving (or suffering) in different areas. That, in turn, can help them make informed decisions about what to plant.

The city is also consulting with Vivek Shandas, an urban studies and planning professor from Portland State University, to figure out how to increase canopy cover by at least 50% in low-income areas.

That will likely go beyond just sticking plants in the ground, and need to include both policy and infrastructure changes, particularly in areas that've been developed to the point where green spaces are few and far between, a telltale sign of racial inequality across the city.

"We talk about right tree, right place, and even now more and more, we're talking about the right reason," said Malarich.

"Ninety thousand is the goal by the end of 2021, but we know that we're not going to stop planting by January 1, 2022. We have more trees to plant. This is just a goal to push us to up our game over the next several years."