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Urban Forest Task Force Gets Public Input on Tree Plan  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

May 6, 2010 -- Santa Monica’s Urban Forest Task Force last week held the first of three planned workshops to receive input from the public on what they would like with regards to trees in the city. The task force, along with City staff and landscape architect consultant Artecho, are tasked with coming up with a Long Range Urban Forest Master Plan that will eventually go before the City Council.

“The purpose of it (Urban Forest Master Plan) is to design the urban forest for the future,” said Walt Warriner, the City’s community forester. “We have an urban forest that is aging and we have to plan for sustaining our urban forest with the new, diverse canopy and palette of trees.”

Pamela Palmer of Artecho said the project will “transform the community into a community forest that will improve the quality of life for Santa Monicans and visitors. By selecting the right trees for use in our neighborhoods, we will increase the canopy cover and allow the uses of the neighborhood to thrive.”

Trees have more importance for the community than just creating scenic beauty, Palmer said. She said people “live in a symbiotic relationship with the trees of the urban forest.”

“We care for the trees,” she said. “The trees clean the air. Their roots absorb storm water runoff. Their canopies provide shade and cool our buildings and streets.”

The City has already begun collecting information about what kind of an urban forest people want through an online survey that can be found here:

“People really want to see large canopy trees and they want to see trees that display fall color,” said Warriner, who added that flowering trees and those that drop leaves are favored. Palm trees are not popular.

There are 33,800 trees lining Santa Monica’s streets and its parks. Certified arborists recently conducted a survey of those trees. They determined 15 species make up about


51 percent of the population. Of the existing trees more than 97 percent were found to have more than five years left of life.

Warriner said it is a concern that so few species of trees dominate the population because diseases that affect certain species could wipe out a large number of trees in the city. One of the goals of the master plan is to increase the diversity.

When determining what kind of trees should be placed and where they should go, aesthetics and environmental benefits are considered, Warriner said. Other considerations include what the size of the tree will be when it matures, density of the canopy, soil structure, lifespan, speed of growth, maintenance requirements and how many of the type are available at nurseries. Also how it will affect view corridors is important.

About 20 people attended the workshop at Ken Edwards Center. They divided into small groups and discussed what kind of trees they would like to see. Their comments were taken down and will be used for the drafting of the master plan.

A draft document of the master plan is expected to be ready by the end of August. It will then be reviewed by a series of City commissions. The City Council is supposed to vote on it before the end of the year so that a final document can be ready for implementation in January.

Community members are encouraged to come to the additional workshops, which will be conducted in the same format, including the small group discussions. They are scheduled for May 15 at 10 a.m. and June 6 at 1 p.m. Both meetings are currently planned for the Santa Monica Library, but the location could change. Be sure to check this web site for updated information.


"The purpose of it (Urban Forest Master Plan) is to design the urban forest for the future,"
      Walt Warriner

the project will “transform the community into a community forest that will improve the quality of life for Santa Monicans and visitors.
    Pamela Palmer



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