Since the inception of the automobile, Los Angeles has been dramatically altered by the increasing amount of asphalt and concrete covering ground surfaces, which absorb incoming solar radiation and reradiate it as heat energy that raises the local air temperature. The higher temperatures increase the formation of smog, heat-related illnesses and the demand for energy as well as decrease the health level of people, plants and wildlife. Exacerbating this trend is the impact of the overall heating of the planet caused by global warming – something has got to give.
With a population of over 12 million people, the Los Angeles region is a major contributor of ozone and other pollutants that adversely affect climate and temperature as well as air and water quality. As the population continues to grow, the demand for land and services near Los Angeles’ urban center continues to increase, thereby increasing the amount of traffic, concrete and asphalt. The city is expected to reach a population of almost 40 million by 2050 – so the time to approach this problem- increasing heat island effect- is now. This problem is a significant opportunity to create a robust and effective program that addresses the issue in a truly innovative way. The City has already embraced tree planting programs with admirable results however, we propose to address this problem holistically in a two-fold manner – by providing more trees while also mitigating the effects of the asphalt surfaces already in abundance throughout the urban core.
Urban Forest is a pilot program for a nursery on private property, such as a private-sector business, that will provide trees to be planted in public spaces. Built on the idea of partnership, collaboration and exchange, the business (in this case American Apparel) will house the trees on their parking lot, allowing them to grow and be cared for in boxes. The Los Angeles Conservation Corps, a non-profit organization, will lend a hand in maintaining the trees – offering up their expertise to American Apparel to ensure that the trees are properly cared for. When the trees are large enough to be transplanted, they will be picked up by partnering non-profits and government agencies to be planted in public spaces throughout the City.
In return for space allotment, utilities, operations and maintenance, American Apparel will create a greener, healthier, and more beautifulparking lot that reverses the heat island effect and the City will gain more trees. In addition, Urban Forest also has the potential to be replicated in parking lots across the City – positively impacting even more acreage through the production of more trees at more locations around the City. As an increasing number of businesses join the program, the amount of trees available to be planted in the City will grow exponentially.
Through this program, as a true multi-benefit solution, several indicators will be addressed, primarily impacting health and environmental quality but also positively affecting the education, income and employment indicators. Initializing a program that not only improves upon existing in-use parking lots, but simultaneously provides trees for the greening of the City, will improve the environmental quality of the City and provide a healthier environment for both the employees of American Apparel and the locations where the trees are eventually planted.
The program will not only improve the environment, but also provide jobs for local urban youth (through the participation of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps) as well as educate staff and create new jobs at American Apparel. Through the visibility of the parking lot at American Apparel, the trees that are planted throughout the City, and a campaign initiated both online and through signage, awareness will increase about the program and the importance of green space in the City enhancing human development and making Los Angeles a better place to live.