Progress for LA’s Sidewalks… and Our Trees!

Angelenos need street trees.

They shade us as we travel scorching city sidewalks. They clean our water and protect use from floods in heavy rains. And they bring beauty and pride to our communities.

Trees give us all so much.  

Think about it. Protection from hot sun and water management are part of infrastructure, and cities are responsible for delivering these services. Trees are nature-based solutions for our urban environment that are important investments for our cities to make.

The good news is that if we invest in policies that support our urban forest as a critical piece of LA’s  infrastructure, we’ll help ALL communities in LA become more resilient in the face of climate change.

Los Angeles City Council Acts for the Urban Forest

LA’s sidewalks are broken, and to fix them requires some tree removal. We’ve been following the City of LA’s sidewalk repair program closely to make sure that this $1.4 billion investment over the next 30 years will not only make sidewalks more accessible, but ensure the health of our urban forest as well. We believe this is an opportunity to protect and grow trees that are an integral part of a livable city.

Recently, we’ve been encouraged to see that the City is on the right track.

On November 30th the City Council adopted several policies that will not only help protect trees as sidewalk repairs roll out, but also look to the future by growing the urban forest LA needs. Partners from The Nature Conservancy, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Surfrider, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps and the Council for Watershed Health – all a part of our growing coalition of stakeholders for healthier sidewalks in LA  – joined TreePeople Founder and President Andy Lipkis at City Council for public comment.

Some of the items adopted include:

  • A motion introduced by the leadership team behind LA’s ambitious sidewalk repair effort, Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Joe Buscaino, which calls for the development of an urban forestry management plan. This is the vision and leadership the City needs on urban forestry – a robust plan to expand canopy support healthy ecosystems and prioritize planting in communities with fewer trees. It also calls for stakeholders like TreePeople to be involved in the development of this plan. Trees can’t survive without people and communities watching out and caring for them. We look forward to supporting this effort every step of the way.
  • A rebate program for homeowners who want to fix sidewalks in front of their houses. While we have concerns about the City’s timing to replace  trees removed due to repairs, we also understand the urgency of improving sidewalk access for Angelenos that have waited far too long. We applaud Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s leadership for amending this policy to make sure all trees impacted by this program are accounted for, and that the City has a deadline for securing funding for replacement trees. We also thank Councilmember Jose Huizar for his amendment calling for the City to identify ways this program can be more accessible for residents with lower incomes who want to fix their sidewalks sooner rather than later.

Community Partners Unite for Better Streetscompleting-streets-working-group-mtg

We also joined forces with partners late last month to help organize a meeting of the Completing Streets Working Group. This is an ongoing effort, led by Investing in Place and co-organized by TreePeople, Los Angeles Walks, and AARP to look  at the many health, accessibility, and sustainability issues tied to LA sidewalks.
Over 40 community members, non-profit partners and City of LA staff attended to hear a presentation from Mayor Garcetti’s Director of Infrastructure, Ted Bardacke, to learn more about the City’s Safe Sidewalks Repair Program. Attendees discussed a range of issues, concerns, and strategized how sidewalks can support better health and sustainability. One approach we looked at is how to protect trees and capture and clean stormwater using sidewalk designs.

For more than 40 years, TreePeople has been devoted to bringing communities together to support a vision for a region with enough tree canopy and safe spaces for everyone to enjoy. In the spirit of our roots, we thank our partners and the City of LA for looking out for Angelenos and our trees!

Inspired to take action and learn more? Visit Investing In Place for information on the Completing Streets Working group and how to get involved.

Stay tuned for future updates on our urban forestry policy work!

By Jenny Binstock

Jenny works on the policy team at TreePeople and has worked for over a decade on environmental, social justice, and global health issues. Her work involves making sure that local, county, and state policies advance the organization's goals for a thriving and sustainable Los Angeles. When she's not running between TreePeople's Yurt Village and City Hall, Jenny enjoys the good life: travel, books, food, art, music, film, the outdoors, and exploring and building community in LA.