PPCC Discusses Urban Forest Management Plan

In the past 11 years, Los Angeles has lost about 30 percent of its urban canopy, Kelly Comras, Pacific Palisades Community Council Area One 2nd Alternate and American Society of Landscape Architects member, explained at a recent PPCC board meeting.

“During the last five years, there have been a number of groups in the city pushing to get an Urban Forest Management Plan developed,” Comras explained at the March 28 meeting, adding that the plan would be for both the greater city of Los Angeles and Pacific Palisades.

“I know you’ve all heard great benefits of having trees in our community, the pollution mitigation and the psychological benefits and heat mitigation.”

The aspirational proposal would seek to catalogue the trees of LA County into a single database that could be accessed by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles Street Services, and the Department of Recreation and Parks.

The city has been responsive to the idea, one year ago funding a report entitled “First Step: Developing an Urban Forest Management Plan for the City of Los Angeles.”

“First Step” seeks to “provide a clear understanding of the current urban forest and its management” and “provide perspective by comparing Los Angeles with industry sustainability standards” by performing a multi-pronged evaluation guided by urban forestry consultants.

“First Step” also proposes the employment of a city forest officer to take a citywide tree inventory and catalogue them in a single database.

“We’re hoping that the items in the report are going to be funded,” Comras explained. “Right now there’s enough money available to hire the city forest officer, but it’s not much money. There’s pressure to … increase the amount of money available … so a highly trained person can be recruited.

“None of these agencies use the same database; if LADWP cuts a tree down, there’s no way to know if it can be replaced … there’s no coordination.”

The ultimate goal of the management plan would be to restore and maintain the city’s tree canopy, which has degraded due to climate change, drought and urban sprawl.

“Our overriding goal is to recover,” Comras said. “We lost about 30 percent of our urban canopy … since about 2008. We have development, climate change … and the city also has a deferred budget; they’re not sending arborists out to check out these trees and money to take care of them. [Some trees] were on a pruning cycle of several decades.”

Comras also proposed a tree inventory specific to Pacific Palisades.

“I’ve been in conversation with people about conducting our own tree inventory here in the Palisades,” she said. “That would be complicated, and we’d probably ask all of you to contribute some money … basically we want to bring all the players in the city together right now.”

To support development of an Urban Forest Management Plan for LA, visit treepeople.org/urbanforest.