What is this indicator?

This indicator measures the total number of publicly owned trees planted in Santa Monica to ensure urban forest renewal is taking place.

Why is it important?

Opposite typical urban infrastructure, trees are green infrastructure assets which actually raise in economic value as they mature. Eventually a tree’s useful life expectancy will come to an end which is why it is important to manage a robust tree planting program.

Trees deliver environmental and public health benefits. Ecosystem services is an area of study and a metric used by scientists for calculating the positive benefits that ecosystems provide to people, and they assign an economic value to these services. Trees provide shade, increase the aesthetic value of a city, contribute to higher property values, reduce urban water runoff by capturing storm water, filter air pollutants and contribute to improved air quality. The tree canopy reduces solar heat gain, minimizes evaporative loss and excessive exposure to direct sun, and helps decrease local air temperatures which may be higher due to reflective surfaces and the urban heat island effect. Research shows that tree canopy cover can increase property value from six percent to nine percent. The national average tree canopy is 27%. When Santa Monica was last measured in 2001, tree canopy was 15%. The City is currently conducting a tree canopy study with results to be released in Fall/Winter 2016.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the annual air pollutant uptake by Santa Monica's tree canopy is over 29.8 metric tonnes of CO2 or 2.3 lbs per tree. The City’s municipal street trees provide ecosystem service benefits to Santa Monica at an estimated value of $5.1 million annually,averaging $57 per capita and $180 per tree.

Children Planting Trees

How are we doing?

In six years between FY07-08 to FY13-14, 3,087 trees have been planted in Santa Monica. The total tree population increased 5%. By 2020,the City aims to plant an additional 2,000 trees.

In 2011, City Council approved the Urban Forest Master Plan, which will guide the management of Santa Monica’s urban forest over the next 50 years. The plan is a living document that will be evaluated and updated over time as new technologies and advancements in urban forestry become available. The plan was updated in 2017. This Plan seeks to increase age and species diversity in the public tree population, augment biomass and canopy coverage citywide, enhance the character and aesthetics of our neighborhoods and achieve exemplary stewardship of the forest from all who live and work here.

Santa Monica has approximately one tree for every three residents, with approximately 33,000 trees and over 200 tree species. According to the U.S. Forest Service, Santa Monica has nearly twice the number of street trees per mile compared to the average city for this climate zone. 3

Investing in Santa Monica’s urban forest renewal is paramount since a large portion of the trees in the city, about 42%, are mature trees nearing the end of their useful life expectancy. It is good practice to plant just as many if not more trees each year as are being removed in order to capture the ecosystem service benefits associated with trees. Likewise, proper tree species selection and maintaining tree diversity is important. The City recognizes the need to escalate its tree planting program and continues pursuing operational efficiencies to free existing resources and seeks additional funding opportunities with grants and project teams to incorporate more trees in new development projects. All of these strategies will help Santa Monica increase annual tree plantings and further net tree gain.

California’s severe drought conditions have directly impacted urban trees, as water is required for healthy growth and functioning. A lack of water can cause high levels of stress in trees which increases their susceptibility to pests and biological pathogen attack.

How can we help?

  • Learn more about Santa Monica’s trees, the guiding principles including policy and standards used by the City, recommended tree care guidelines and the community’s Urban Forest Task Force in the Urban Forest Master Plan .
  • Learn more about trees and the drought in the City’s  How to Help Urban Trees Survive a Drought ” guide.
  • Do not directly water the tree trunk and base. Water under the drip line, the area below a tree canopy extending to the outer edge.
  • Collect excess water from indoor use to water trees – put a bucket in the shower while it warms or install a series of rain barrels or a cistern to collect rainwater.
  • Get hands-on experience with trees in your climate zone, volunteer at TreePeople.org .