We had a lot of good news on resources for urban forestry projects last month, which could not have come at a better time in light of the fiscal strains caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisi. We are really excited about the selection of our first Urban Forest Equity Visiting Scholar, Vivek Shandas, who will help us examine in depth how to address the inequitable distribution of LA’s urban forest. Mr. Shandas is a renowned expert on the intersection of public health, equity and green infrastructure and will support the work of the City Forest Office by examining opportunities for tree canopy expansion in low-income, heat-impacted areas. He will make GIS-informed recommendations and assess policy shifts needed to achieve the Mayor's Green New Deal goal of a 50% increase in tree canopy in disadvantaged communities by 2028. Specifically, Mayor Garcetti’s Green New Deal goal is to “increase tree canopy in areas of greatest need by at least 50% by 2028 to grow a more equitable urban forest that provides cooling, public health, habitat, energy savings, and other benefits.” Professor Shandas will contribute toward this urban forestry goal by analyzing currently available plantable space and the potential for urban canopy expansion and prioritization through a public health and equity lens. As LA’s premier Urban Forest Equity Visiting Scholar, Professor Shandas’ objectives are twofold:
- Objective 1: Determine existing tree canopy in target Disadvantaged Communities (DACs), as selected together with City Plants, the City Forest Officer, LA Urban Center, and TreePeople, and quantify the number of trees required to reach desired canopy levels.
- Objective 2: Determine optimal planting locations for each target area to achieve desired canopy, with consideration to addressing predominant infrastructure conflicts.
He will be working closely not only with City Plants and myself but also with our friends in the Urban Forestry Division of StreetsLA and the Department of Recreation and Parks, who are currently overseeing the City’s first fully integrated public tree inventory (we recently passed the 100,000 street trees inventoried milestone!), as well as partners at LA County. He will be using the Los Angeles County Tree Canopy Cover Assessment LiDAR-based data, which was discussed in my last blog post. The Visiting Scholar program is being administered by City Plants in partnership with the Los Angeles Center for Urban Natural Resources Sustainability (LA Urban Center) and TreePeople, with funding provided by Accelerating Climate Resilience and the Rockefeller Foundation, so his work will be a truly inter-departmental and interagency effort.
I hope you share my excitement in welcoming Professor Shandas to Los Angeles, as we look forward to the results of his important work on equity and the urban forest. You can see more of the work of his firm here, including a report on urban heat in Los Angeles that he completed this past spring. We hope to debut his findings in the spring of 2021.