Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's Green New Deal has promised to increase the shade and cool off some of LA's most sun-beaten low-income neighborhoods.
In 2019, the city set an ambitious goal to plant 90,000 trees by year's end, but pandemic-related delays may make meeting that deadline impossible.
Scientists and other environmental researchers say more trees are vital to the health and environment of some of LA's most vulnerable communities.
Vivek Shandas, who founded the Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab, has studied the distribution of trees in Los Angeles.
"What we are seeing in LA here is a very kind of lopsided tree equity distribution," Shandas said.
Shandas explains disinvested communities -- those minority neighborhoods that historically received less funding and have had fewer opportunities for growth - typically have fewer trees than wealthier neighborhoods.
"Trees need to be seen not as a luxury, but as essential on every corridor," he said during a recent presentation hosted by Streets LA.
Research shows communities that lack tree canopy can suffer significant consequences.
A recent University of San Diego study looked at surface temperatures in urban neighborhoods across the nation. Researchers found that on hot days, communities with higher Black, Hispanic and Asian populations were several degrees hotter than wealthier, mostly white ones.
"We don't want an older Angelino who's sitting waiting for the bus to get heatstroke. We want to have them be cooler," Rachel Malarich, the city's first Forest Officer, told the NBC4 I-Team.
One study found a link between "a more robust urban tree canopy and better public health outcomes," including "increased immune system function, and lower inflammation levels."
One way to broaden the benefits to more Angelenos: free trees. If you live in the city of LA, you can get up to seven trees for your own property, if you promise to follow instructions on how to care for them.
Tree adoptions are being held across the city, part of the work from the non- profit group, City Plants.
They partner with the city of LA and several other non-profit organizations to get trees planted across town, especially in neighborhoods where trees are scarce.
"Trees just give back. We should give back to them," Robin Dixon, an entrepreneur who lives in the Crenshaw District, said at a recent tree adoption in South Los Angeles.
"We are trying to enhance our outdoor area," said Myra Cordova, a preschool teacher in Gardena.
City Plants will also consider residents' requests to plant trees in public spaces of their local neighborhoods.
"You can go ahead and request trees on their website to get some trees delivered to your home or have the process start for the nonprofit partner to come inspect your location, put in an order for the tree, come dig the hole and plant it for you, said LA City Forest Officer Malarich.
"You just have to commit to watering the tree for the first three to five years and making sure that it gets that needed water, as it gets established in the ground in front of your home," she added.
Malarich explains these planting projects are part of the overall work to increase the city's tree canopy.
"We know that nature and green space does so much for our mental and physical health and well-being," Malarich said. "It's a critical issue for us to address," she added.
For the first time in decades, the city is taking a tree inventory, checking out the species and health of trees in Los Angeles and identifying bare spots, some sitting empty for years.
"We already have 100,000 vacancies that they've recorded," Malarich said. "So if a resident called and said, hey I live over here in this part of South LA in this neighborhood council. And I want to, you know get new trees, I'd be able to say, you know what? There's I believe like 4,000 vacancies in your neighborhood."
The city has a website open to the public where the inventory is being tracked. It also shows how much money can be saved by planting more trees.
Malarich says a calculator embedded in the software developed by the U.S. Forest Service quantifies tree benefits beyond shade, moisture, and better air quality, dollars saved with lower CO2, and less energy and water use.