“Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities” Initiative

Background

Soil is the foundation of life. It has great potential to mitigate current and future climate impacts by sequestering carbon, improving water supply and water quality, supporting plant growth, enhancing food production, and maintaining healthy communities, especially in urban and peri-urban areas where more than 80% of Americans live, work, and play.

About the Initiative

The objectives of the “Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities Initiative” include:

  1. Elevating healthy soils as the “brown” in green infrastructure policy, planning, management, and investments in both the built and natural environments;
  2. Increasing public and policy-maker awareness of the importance and potential of healthy soils in building climate resilience, sustaining urban ecosystem functions, and enhancing public health;
  3. Conducting cutting-edge science and research that gets used to fill the information gaps;
  4. Facilitating policy changes to promote and support healthy urban soil projects; and
  5. Empowering communities with science-based information, best management practices, and practical tools.

About Phase One: Needs Assessment

As the first phase of the initiative, we conducted a needs assessment aiming to: 1) determine the current status of Los Angeles’s urban soil health; 2) identify the most pressing urban soil issues and community needs through community consultation and outreach; and 3) provide a framework for future work regarding urban soil research, policy, public education and community engagement in the region.

3nd Los Angeles Urban Soil Symposium - 2022

Building Climate Resilience through Urban Soils

Our health and well-being in urban southern California are beset by an array of environmental threats and challenges being amplified by the unfolding climate crisis. We increasingly turn to nature-based solutions to address these threats and challenges while creating healthy and resilient communities for all. The soil beneath our feet is a critical resource in realizing the potential for natured-based solutions to address our needs and wants for our neighborhoods, our region, and the planet. To realize the potential of soil in cities, soil requires intentional management to both redress legacies that impair soil health and function and to steward soils to serve the ambitious goals we have for our urban ecosystems. Here we present the case as to how soil is, in fact, the very foundation of nature-based solutions. To build this foundation, we share soil best management practices that will help generate healthy, just, and resilient communities.

Program

  • 9:00 Kickoff:
    • Dustin Herrmann (Principal Scientist, TreePeople)
    • Building Climate Resilience through Urban Soils
  • 9:15 Opening Keynotes:
    • —Cindy Montanez (CEO, TreePeople)—
    • —Councilmember Nithya Raman (LA City Council, 4th District)—
    • —TBD Senator Ben Allen (CA Senate, 26th District) &
    • CDFA Healthy Soils Rep—
  • 9:30 Rich Pouyat (Scientist Emeritus, US Forest Service)
    • Which and How: Putting Together Urban Soil BMP Ensembles for
    • Multi-benefit Nature-based Solutions
  • 10:00 Susan Day (Professor, The University of British Columbia)
    • Operationalizing Climate Resilience through BMP Policy
  • 10:15 Yujuan Chen (Associate Professor, Tennessee State University)
    • BMP for Climate Resilience Case Study: Soil Profile Rebuilding
  • —————-10:30 BREAK———————
  • 10:40 Lynn Fang (Soil + Compost Specialist, LA Compost)
    • BMP demonstration: Urban Carbon Farm
  • 10:50 Alejandro Fabian (Community Organizer, Independent)
    • BMP demonstration: Healthier parkway trees through soil management
  • 11:00 Daniel Hirmas (Associate Professor, UC Riverside)
    • Optimizing soil structure for multi-benefit nature-based solutions
  • 11:15 Kirsten Schwarz (Associate Professor, UCLA)
    • Community-led urban soil transformations
  • 11:30 Open forum
  • 11:50 Closing remarks, Andy Lipkis (Project Executive, Accelerate Resilience LA)
  • 12:00 END

As part of the phase two project, TreePeople hosted the 2nd Los Angeles Urban Soil Symposium virtually on October 26, 2021 which was attended by about 150 people. It is part of the “Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities Initiative Phase Two: Los Angeles Urban Soil Collaborative – Soil Connects Us All” project, funded by Accelerate Resilience L.A. (ARLA), a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. This year’s theme was urban soil best management practices in the context of climate resilience (see full program here).

Morning Session

  • Opening Remarks
    • Cindy Montañez | Chief Executive Officer, TreePeople (video)
    • Ben Allen | California State Senator, 26th District (video)
    • Adel Hagekhalil, P.E., BCEE | Chief Executive and General Manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (video)
    • Arima Kozina | Special Assistant to the Office of the Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture (video)
    • Paul Koretz | Los Angeles City Councilmember, 5th District (video)
    • Mas Dojiri, Ph.D., BCES | Assistant General Manager, LA Sanitation and Environment (video)
  • Project Overview
    • “Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities Initiative” Phase Two: Los Angeles Urban Soil Collaborative – Soil Connects Us All (video | presentation)
      Yujuan Chen, Ph.D. | Principal Scientist, TreePeople
      Richard Pouyat, Ph.D. | Scientist Emeritus, U.S. Forest Service
  • Presentation Session & Panel Discussion: Part One
    • An Overview of Urban Soil Best Management Practices (video | presentation)
      Lia Soorenian | Policy and Research Associate, TreePeople
      Devon Campos | Intern, TreePeople
    • Soil Contamination in the City: Approaches to Remediation and Reducing Exposure (video | presentation)
      Kirsten Schwartz, Ph.D. | Associate Professor, UCLA
    • Working Your Waste: Benefits of Residuals Based Soil Amendments for Urban Systems (video | presentation)
      Sally Brown, Ph.D. | Research Professor, University of Washington
    • Urban Soil BMPs: Tilling, Biochar, & Edible Forests (video | presentation)
      Naim Edwards | Director of MSU – Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning, and Innovation, Michigan State University Extension
    • Panel Discussion: Part One
      Facilitator #1: Lynn Fang | Soil & Compost Specialist, LA Compost
      Facilitator #2: Jamie Quarfeld | Soil Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Coffee Break
  • Presentation Session & Panel Discussion: Part Two
    • Restoring Environmental Services in Disturbed Compacted Urban Soils (video)
      Stu Schwartz, Ph.D. | Senior Research Scientist, University of Maryland Baltimore County
    • The Role of Structural Soil in Urban Green Infrastructure (video | presentation)
      Tom Whitlow, Ph.D. | Emeritus Professor, Cornell University
    • Water Conservation and Landscape Irrigation Management in Southern California (video)
      Amir Haghverdi, Ph.D. | Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside
    • Test Plot: An Experiment in Community-Based Ecological Restoration of Our Public Lands (video | presentation)
      Jen Toy | Lecturer, USC Department of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism
      Jenny Jones | Partner, Terremoto
    • Panel Discussion: Part Two
      Facilitator #1: Francisco Escobedo, Ph.D. | Research Social Scientist, U.S. Forest Service
      Facilitator #2: Callie Ham | Regenerate L.A. and International Policy Coordinator, Kiss the Ground
  • Summary of the Day (video | presentation)
    Michelle Barton | Environmental Specialist, LA Sanitation and Environment
  • Closing Remarks (video)
    Andy Lipkis | Project Executive, Accelerate Resilience L.A. (ARLA); Founder, TreePeople
  • Final Remarks
    Yujuan Chen, Ph.D. | Principal Scientist, TreePeople
    Richard Pouyat, Ph.D. | Scientist Emeritus, U.S. Forest Service

TreePeople hosted an online Los Angeles Urban Soil Symposium on June 26, 2020 which was attended by over 150 people. It is part of the “Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities Initiative Phase One: Needs Assessment” project, funded by Accelerate Resilience L.A. (ARLA), a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The symposium discussed general concepts, issues, and potential solutions related to urban soils, Los Angeles’s soils, a case study from New York City as well as TreePeople’s new “Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities” Initiative. Participants also had opportunities to share their insights about L.A.’s soil needs, challenges, and potential solutions and to interact with others from the region and beyond during the breakout group discussions.

Morning Session

  • Opening Remarks (video)
    Cindy Montañez | Chief Executive Officer, TreePeople
  • Keynote Address
    Ben Allen | California State Senator, 26th District (video)
    Dr. Rita Kampalath | Sustainability Program Director, Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office (video)
    Dominique Hargreaves | Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer, Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (video)
  • Project Overview: “Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities Initiative” Phase One: Needs Assessment (video | presentation)
    Dr. Yujuan Chen | Senior Manager of Urban Forestry Policy, TreePeople
    Dr. Richard Pouyat | Emeritus Scientist, U.S. Forest Service
  • Urban Soils: The Brown Infrastructure of Cities and Towns (video | presentation)
    Dr. Richard Pouyat | Emeritus Scientist, U.S. Forest Service
  • Emerging Technology for Urban Soil Characterization (video | presentation)
    Dr. Daniel Hirmas | Associate Professor, University of California Riverside
  • Urban Soil Survey in Greater Los Angeles (video | presentation)
    Randy Riddle | MLRA Soil Survey Office Leader and Soil Scientist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • NYC’S MODEL: Soils for All and All for Soils (video | presentation)
    Tatiana Morin | Director, NYC Urban Soils Institute

Keynote Address over Lunch

  • Hallowed Ground: Healing the Essential Bond Between Trees, People, and Soil (video | presentation)
    Andy Lipkis | Project Executive, Accelerate Resilience L.A.
  • The “F” Factor (video | presentation)
    Irma R. Muñoz | Founder/President, Mujeres de la Tierra

Afternoon Session

  • Community Lead: Community Engagement and Legacy Soil Pollution (video | presentation)
    Dr. Kirsten Schwarz | Associate Professor, UCLA
  • Getting Back Healthy Soils In the City – An Asset Management Problem? (video | presentation)
    Dr. Susan Day | Professor and Program Director, University of British Columbia
  • Talk About A Match Made in Heaven: Compost and Urban Agriculture? (video | presentation)
    Dr. Sally Brown | Research Associate Professor, University of Washington

About Phase Two: Los Angeles Urban Soil Collaborative - Soil Connects Us All

As the second phase of the initiative, we are establishing a Los Angeles Urban Soil Collaborative to serve as a framework for the following main activities: best management practices, demonstration projects, public education, community engagement, capacity building, and strategic planning and scaling up. Three demonstration projects include: 1) Parkway Potential for Climate-Resilience: Utilizing Soil Management to Strengthen Green-Blue-Brown Infrastructure in the City; 2) Community-Based Soil Sampling: Grassroots Responses for Site-Specific Soil Management; and 3) Urban Carbon Farms – Urban Soil Carbon Sequestration Assessment in LA.

Our Team

  • Project Team
    • Deborah Stephens Browder | TreePeople
    • Stephen Salazar Ceasar | TreePeople
    • Dr. Yujuan Chen | TreePeople
    • Mario Dagonel | TreePeople
    • Dr. Susan D. Day | University of British Columbia
    • Jaime Del Rio | TreePeople
    • Edith B. de Guzman | TreePeople and 
University of California, Los Angeles
    • Kenny Derieg | TreePeople
    • Alejandro Fabian | TreePeople
    • Lynn Fang | LA Compost
    • Kevin Gaston | TreePeople Land Trust
    • Manny Gonez | TreePeople
    • Callie Ham | Kiss the Ground
    • Dr. Daniel Hirmas | University of California, Riverside
    • Christyne Imhoff | TreePeople
    • Selena Mao | TreePeople and University of California, Los Angeles
    • Bryan Medina | TreePeople
    • Cindy Montañez | TreePeople
    • Dr. Richard V. Pouyat | Chesapeake Bay Career Consulting
    • Mark Pranger | LA Compost
    • Dr. Gordon L. Rees | California Polytechnic State University
    • Dr. Kirsten Schwarz | University of California, Los Angeles
    • Lia Soorenian | TreePeople
    • Miguel Vargas | TreePeople
    • Ariel Lew Ai Le Whitson | TreePeople
    • Dr. Erica L. Wohldmann | California State University, Northridge
  • Steering Committee
    • Dr. Yujuan Chen | TreePeople
    • Dr. Susan D. Day | University of British Columbia
    • Lynn Fang | LA Compost
    • Dr. Daniel Hirmas | University of California, Riverside
    • Ansu John | Community Healing Garden
    • Nicole Landers | Nicole Landers Consulting
    • Finian Makepeace | Kiss the Ground
    • Rachel Malarich | City of Los Angeles
    • Dr. Stephanie Pincetl | University of California, 
Los Angeles
    • Dr. Richard V. Pouyat | Chesapeake Bay Career Consulting
    • Randy Riddle | USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
    • Dr. Michele Romolini | Loyola Marymount University
    • Dr. Kirsten Schwarz | University of California, 
Los Angeles
    • Dr. Eric G. Strauss | Loyola Marymount University

Funding Agency

Accelerate Resilience L.A. (ARLA), a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors