Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Protecting our native trees

Quick, what's the nation's largest urban forest? Add our 700,000 street trees and our 800,000 trees in parks to the 20 million trees on private property in our city, and the answer pretty quickly adds up to be L.A. That forest canopy forms a vital part of our city’s infrastructure, reducing “heat island” effects, preserving ecological balance, cleaning the air and providing oxygen, helping control floods and conserving water and energy, not to mention raising property values and generally making the difference between L.A. as a beautiful city and L.A. as a paved-paradise caricature of itself.

Of course, you don't need me to tell you that A Tree Grows In Los Angeles—you want to know what the City Council is going to do to protect them.

Our newly revised and revitalized Protected Tree Ordinance regulates the removal of oak, walnut, bay and sycamore tree species. (The original 1980 ordinance only regulated oak trees.) Property owners can still remove trees, but they must seek a permit for trees over a four-inch trunk width. And there are penalties for developers who ignore or flout the process.

The new ordinance was put together with over a year of input from stakeholders and arborists. Special shoutouts go to Clare Marter Kenyon, the chair of the Community Forest Advisory Committee, and to Molly Rysman from my staff. Thank you both, and thanks to everyone in the departments who worked on this policy including L.A.'s own Chief Forester George Gonzalez, for working on policy that will help protect our urban environment.