Southern California

Expanding the Tree Canopy: Why People Are Planting 3,500 Trees in South LA

Two-thousand trees planted — 1,500 to go. The City of Los Angeles is committed to expanding the canopy that will cover various communities in Baldwin Hills.

If you've ever been walking down the street, and had the opportunity to move under the cool cover of trees, basking in the shade, chances are it was in a wealthier neighborhood. This is why there's a project to plant more trees in South Los Angeles. 

"There's a lot of beauty in LA that we all enjoy ... and take for granted," said Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, as a crowd that had gathered struggled to hear him over the noise of loud traffic on the east side of La Brea.

Los Angeles County is full of natural landscapes divided by roads, and South LA is no different. The west side of La Brea in Baldwin Hills is full of trees and tree canopy cover, while the residential east side has none.

In addition to muffling the sound of traffic, trees have enormous benefits to the environment and to human health.

"I actually took an aerial tour," State Assemblywomen Sydney Kamlager-Dove said. "I noticed that on the southern part of the district, there was concrete and rooftops. I saw no green."

She said the southern part of the district tends to be low-income and has apartment buildings, rather than single family homes.

"On the northern and western parts of the district, all I saw were green trees, the tops of them, I couldn't see the homes," she said.

For Kamlager-Dove, this indicates an environmental justice issue. And the city seems to agree.

Several partners — Northeast Trees, Baldwin Hills Conservancy, Partners of the Parkland, Baldwin Hills Homeowners Association, City of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Public Works — have come together to create the Urban Green in South LA Project. 

The initiative is funded by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Southern California Gas Company, are planting 3,500 trees in South LA. They have planted over 2000 trees to date.

"Trees give oxygen, trees lower depression, and when you are taking trees away from young people and old people, you're also taking away opportunity for them to be in control of their health," Kamlager-Dove said.

And the program aims to help the lives of locals in more ways than one.

"Part of our mission is to employ at-risk youth and underserved youth from the communities that we work in," Joe Lasking, project manager at NorthEastTrees, said. "We try to provide them with a productive path out of gangs, and drugs and violence."

William Gurrero, a youth worker, said his work NorthEast trees has brought him peace of mind.

"I can die happy," he said. 

You can find more information on the Urban Greening in South LA Project here.

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