The Los Angeles City Council approved a series of actions Wednesday aimed at strengthening the city’s tree population.
The council voted unanimously to instruct the Bureau of Street Services to restore its tree maintenance staff to pre-2008-recession levels, create a comprehensive street tree inventory and implement sidewalk designs to save street trees from removal.
“If we want our trees to be here tomorrow, we need to prioritize them today,” Councilman David Ryu said. “Our trees have been undercut for years by budget shortfalls, drought and disease. It’s time to start restoring Los Angeles’ urban forest, starting with better tree policy, proactive tree maintenance and a long-term strategy.”
Ryu proposed the actions with Councilman Bob Blumenfield.
“Trees in this city have been neglected for far too long,” Blumenfield said. “For a large part of the last decade, the Urban Forestry Department’s budget hasn’t bounced back to pre-recession levels. This is one of the very last departments in the city of Los Angeles to be so behind the times, and it shows in the state of our urban tree canopies.”
The council called for the addition of more tree surgeons and prioritizing the retention of the city’s urban canopy.
The city will also explore a twofold tree-replacement program, giving consideration to a tree’s “holistic value,” including health, maturity and canopy size. The Bureau of Street Services will provide a report on the best practices other cities have adopted regarding tree maintenance and urban forest management.
According to the councilmen, the city’s estimated tree population is more than 10 million, with about 700,000 of them managed by Street Services. A 2015 report from the bureau identified three main issues that have negatively impacted the city’s tree population: poor age diversification, tree health and maintenance.
Ryu said that since 2018, the city has added $25 million for proactive tree care in its annual budget and hired its first chief forest officer, Rachel Malarich, who was appointed in August.