Will Sidewalk Repairs Mean Trouble for LA Trees?

The wrong tree planted in the wrong place can be detrimental. This is hardly new to Angelenos. We’ve all seen city walkways torn up by the roots of trees that were poorly planned.

Damaged sidewalks in Los Angeles have created severe limitations for mobility-impaired residents, and that led to a lawsuit. Now the Willits Settlement calls for the city to designate $1.4 billion over the next 30 years for sidewalk repair. TreePeople supports this.

However, we also believe this provides an opportunity to look at the City’s interrelated goals, including urban heat protection, local water supply, stormwater quality, street repair, and flood prevention and how they may intersect with the work done on sidewalk replacement. Given that many of the projects in the City’s plans impact streets and sidewalks – and include trees – it makes sense to leverage these funding sources and coordinate projects.

In the face of climate change and a historic drought, it’s important to remember the multi-benefit impacts trees have on our lives. They increase our water supply, and improve our water quality. They minimize the impacts of flooding. Trees mitigate air pollution, as well as capture and store carbon. They shade our city streets, and have been proven to improve a person’s quality of life.

Trees are the only city infrastructure that makes our city livable and provide an exponential increase in value over time—major benefits which we often take for granted.

We need trees now more than ever – so every effort should be made to protect canopy cover while replacing sidewalks.

While action is long overdue, hasty decisions could be harmful to our City’s tree canopy if trees are cut down and are not thoughtfully replaced. Smart planning is necessary to ensure that repairs keep the long-term health of our city’s trees in mind.

TreePeople has a longstanding commitment to creating a safe and livable city. We see this as an opportunity to make sidewalks safe and accessible AND protect our local tree canopy AND create a water-secure future.

We need YOU to take action. Make your voice heard, and let your councilmember know that you want TreePeople at the table and these concepts heard—to keep our city shaded AND our sidewalks safe.

Not sure where to start? Here is a sample letter template:


Dear Councilmember,

I want LA to be a safe and livable city for all residents.

While that includes repairing sidewalks for our mobility-impaired citizens, we must protect our tree canopy in the process. As you know, trees provide our city with innumerable benefits—from reducing the effects of climate change, to increasing local water supply, to minimizing air pollution—and beyond. It’s crucial that our trees are protected.

I’m asking you to include the principles in the sidewalk replacement program that TreePeople—an  organization that has been planting, caring and advocating for LA’s trees and citizens for more than 40 years—has laid out. I’d also ask that you include them in the decision making process moving forward.

TreePeople’s expertise can help provide clear criteria on replacing trees that are removed, and doing so in a way that enhances our city’s long-term health and safety in the face of increasingly extreme climate changes.  This is an opportunity for the City to step back and consider all of its interrelated goals that touch sidewalk infrastructure and our trees as part of that infrastructure.

We can make the sidewalk replacement a win for both trees AND people – so trees can keep us cool, clean our air, capture stormwater and prevent flooding. If we lose our trees, our city will suffer.  

Thank you in advance for your support.




[Your Name]

By Erika Abdelatif

Erika Abdelatif is TreePeople’s Social Media and Digital Content Manager. When she isn't creating a climate-resilient LA via the Facebook, she's probably writing in a coffee shop, infesting the internet with memes, or watching an open mic.