A Strategic Approach to Greening Urban Neighborhoods in Los Angeles
Knology recently consulted with City Plants on the organization's proposed plan to plant trees in urban neighborhoods and communities in Los Angeles.
The need for parks, green spaces, and trees has grown as we continue to adapt to life under the COVID-19 pandemic. Trees provide a multitude of benefits for residents, including improved air quality and shade, and physical and mental health benefits, including stress reduction and attention restoration. Unfortunately, these benefits are not experienced equitably across populations, especially in urban areas where Black and Brown residents live in neighborhoods with disproportionately fewer trees and green spaces making them especially vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.
At Knology, we care about equitable access to green spaces for communities. Previously, we partnered with Children & Nature Network to explore an initiative to democratize access to green spaces by transforming local schoolyards. We recently partnered with City Plants, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization, that works with community groups to provide free trees to residents and businesses along with information on maintenance and care to maximize their benefits. The partnership was supported by funding from the US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. Our role, specifically, was to support City Plants’ Growing an Equitable Urban Forest Pilot Program to increase tree canopy cover in communities by working closely with residents and local partner organizations.
We reviewed City Plants’ materials, met with leadership, and referenced peer-reviewed resources to recommend effective ways to implement the program. Our recommendations focused on the overall approach to strategically engage with community partners, with an eye to mapping a specific sequence of activities for accomplishing their goals. We aimed to bring attention to the importance of investing in relationship building to understand the different interests and motivations of all stakeholders involved, including other non-profit partners and community members. After all, people can construe very different meanings from trees – which are related to things like the time and effort needed for their care, a sense of safety, or feelings about critters living in them. This holistic approach would also help identify the most appropriate messaging for outreach to engage community members.
Finally, we provided some guidelines to help the City Plants team reflect on the various components of their program, and identify the best ways to understand and track its progress. This evaluative thinking approach, in concert with other strategies, can equip the City Plants' program and similar programs to ensure all Angelenos can benefit from trees.
Photo by Carlos Aranda on Unsplash