LA’s sidewalks are in really bad shape, and this poses safety risks for anyone who uses them.
LA’s urban forest is shrinking rapidly, and this poses health risks for anyone who relies on air and water to survive.
We need to address both of these problems, but it’s going to be a real challenge.
The City’s sidewalks have been in such bad shape for so long that in 2010 a class action lawsuit was filed, Willits vs. City of Los Angeles. In 2016 the City finalized a settlement which will require it to spend about $1.37 billion over the next 30 years to remove barriers to access for pedestrians. One of the items high on the list is repairing sidewalks that have been ruptured by tree roots.
At the same time, LA’s urban forest has been declining for years, and unless things change, it will continue to decline for years to come. There are a number of reasons for this, including new residential development, a drier climate, and insect infestations.
The City could also potentially remove thousands of trees in its efforts to repair sidewalks, and this will only hasten the decline of our urban forest. This is a serious threat, because the tree canopy is crucial to the City’s ecosystems. Trees clean our air, help capture stormwater, and keep neighborhoods cool. If you think the heat is intense now, remember that climate scientists project that LA is only going to get hotter over the next few decades. Our tree canopy will play a major role in keeping the city cool.
As part of the Sidewalk Repair Program (SRP), the City is preparing to cut down 18 mature trees on the 1200 block of North Cherokee. It could happen any day. And the problem with this is that the City hasn’t completed the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the SRP. The EIR will outline alternatives to removal, impose standards for tree replacement if removal is necessary, and define the requirements for maintenance and watering to insure new trees survive.
The City acknowledges that they have to do an EIR, and they’ve already started to work on it. But now, without even having released a draft version, they’re going ahead and cutting down trees. In other words, they’re rushing forward with the removal of trees, even though they know full well the damage it will do to our environment.
Why is Eric Garcetti allowing this? How many times has the Mayor claimed that he’s championing sustainability? How many times has he talked about the importance of expanding our urban forest? Now the City is ready to start cutting down trees under the SRP, without even completing the EIR, and the Mayor’s Office is dead silent on the issue.
We can repair our sidewalks and we can grow our urban forest, but we need to plan to make sure we do the job right. We need to finish the EIR. We need to protect our tree canopy. The stakes are high. We can’t afford to blow it.
Does the Mayor really care about creating a sustainable LA? Or are his promises just more empty words? Maybe we should ask his Chief Sustainability Officer, Lauren Faber O’ Connor? Why not give Ms. Faber O’ Connor a call and ask why the City is cutting down trees for sidewalk repair without even completing the EIR.
Lauren Faber O’ Connor, Chief Sustainability Officer
And you can show your support for LA’s urban forest by attending a vigil/protest on Wednesday night. Here are the details….
1200 Block of North Cherokee, Hollywood
Three blocks east of Highland, between Fountain and Lexington
Wednesday, August 1 at 8:00 pm