Tree equity


The Los Angeles community Sherman Oaks sounds like a place that should be verdant and laden with leafy trees. Not surprisingly, the students of Arbol University found that to be exactly true.

Yet the students, who were using trigonometry and other tools to collect data about Los Angeles’s urban tree canopy, were shocked at the disparity they found between the different neighborhoods they surveyed.

In Koreatown, a lower income community, the tree canopy was not only thinner, but the trees were much younger and more likely to be sick or affected by pests. Damaged sidewalks and other infrastructure problems also threatened the health of the trees there. And the obvious visual discrepancy between Sherman Oaks and the sparse vegetation of Koreatown raised questions in the students’ minds.

Los Angeles' Koreatown has fewer trees than wealthier neighborhoods. Photo courtesy Marc Dadigan.

“They were walking around in Sherman Oaks and seeing all these trees that were 60 to 100 years old, and they wondered, ‘How come this neighborhood has so many trees and others don’t?”” said Miguel Luna, a community organizer who created Arbol University through a National Science Foundation grant.

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