A new blueprint by USC researchers identifies four places best suited to plant shade trees across Los Angeles’ Eastside to bring cooling relief to thousands of people at risk for heat waves and air pollution in a warming global climate, the university announced Tuesday.
In some scenarios, the tree canopy could be doubled across much of El Sereno, Ramona Gardens and parts of Lincoln Heights near USC’s Health Sciences Campus, the researchers report. The area is one of the most tree-poor urban landscapes in the city.
Better still, the scientific tools that the USC researchers used have wider application to guide tree-planting efforts in other communities across L.A., according to the university.
The USC urban trees initiative provides a science-based approach to help advance L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Green New Deal, which calls for increasing forest canopy specifically in low-income heat zones by 50% by 2028.
“Planting a thriving urban forest requires diligent planning and input from multiple perspectives,” said professor John P. Wilson, principal investigator for the project and founding director of the Spatial Sciences Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “We have taken a deliberative approach based on robust data and community input to ensure that residents enjoy the many benefits of a rich canopy of trees.”
USC President Carol Folt helped launch the urban trees project as one of various sustainability solutions spearheaded by the university. The USC Dornsife Public Exchange leads the urban trees initiative in collaboration with experts and students from the SSI, the Center for the Study of Urban Critical Zones and the Landscape Architecture + Urbanism program, as well as the city’s Department of Public Works, community leaders and nonprofit organizations.
For eight months, the USC researchers focused on a 5-square-mile study zone on the Eastside. They used computer models, air sensors and other tools to help determine the locations where trees would have the biggest impact on air pollution, shade and heat islands. The research team developed maps and collected census data and aerial images. Layering those datasets and images, they identified suitable land for trees based on public access, existing landscaping and rights-of-way.
Promising areas to host new trees include the Hazard Recreation Center, Ramona Gardens, a public housing community, select small and large residential streets, and Murchison and Hillside elementary schools, among others, according to the researchers.
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