First published in the Sept. 25 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
Glendale’s public works department expects to ramp up tree-planting to help achieve the goal of 25% green canopy coverage across the city.
At the direction of the City Council this week, the Department of Public Works will seek out potential funding opportunities to fill in the gaps necessary to achieve the planting goal. The department expects that an additional $760,622 is needed annually to cover all of the additional planting, watering and pruning for the trees. Measure S funds currently pay for much of the tree-planting and maintenance activity throughout the Jewel City.
According to Loren Klick, an urban forester with the public works department, the city averages around 20% canopy coverage throughout all of its census tracts. Neighborhoods in the northern parts of the city tend to boast higher saturation, in the 30-40% range, while the denser and more industrial south Glendale neighborhoods balance it out with sub-20% coverage tracts.
“We will use this data to help inform our planting locations to more effectively raise the citywide canopy,” Klick said Tuesday. “Census tracts obviously vary in size. Some, particularly in the San Fernando corridor, are heavily industrial and have few public planting or private planting locations, so a citywide goal helps to equalize these variations in geography.”
Although planting additional trees throughout the city would contribute to the average coverage, Klick explained there are outsize benefits to targeting those underserved areas.
“For example, one new large tree on a block with no existing trees would provide more benefits and more canopy than one additional tree on a block full of them,” he said.
The public works department plans to continue utilizing trees that exhibit better drought hardiness and whose trunk bases can fit within the confines of the rights-of-way between street curbs and sidewalks. There also will be special considerations given to bus stops and other areas that would benefit from a natural shading structure — the staff report indicates around 615 vacant sites within a quarter-mile of the 5, 2 and 134 freeways, which all fall within canopy-deficient tracts.
“Overall, having more trees is of tremendous benefit, not only in terms of mitigating the impacts of climate change — trees improve the quality of air, water quality, they provide shade to reduce that heat effect, they enhance and increase property values, they slow the amount of erosion,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said. “It’s true that when you look at certain photos of this area, it was fairly arid. There may not have been a lot of trees, but also that means there wasn’t a lot of water.
“I think 25% is a good goal,” he added. “I would like to see more.”
The council was universally supportive of beefing up the tree-planting program, which is in part an effort to replace the die-off or removal of thousands of trees since 2010. However, citing older photographs of Glendale and the Crescenta Valley, Councilman Ara Najarian said he felt the area was already at significant improvement from its past.
“This place was a prairie!” Najarian said. “It’s almost unrecognizable compared to what we have today, with lush trees. My point is, don’t sound so gloom and doom. As a city, we’ve come a hell of a long way in populating our city with trees. I think the point of your presentation is that we’ve lost some, looking back 10 or 12 years, and we should try to keep up with that, but let’s put it in historical perspective.”
The public works department plans to return with a report on potential funding for the planting expansion.