Thu, Jul

Los Angeles Urban Forestry Ordinance “Redo Tree Guarantee LA” is NO Guarantee


GREEN - I am linking to a website below which just launched, detailing problems with the fairly new, but somewhat obscure Ordinance No. 185573 (July 5, 2018) and its accompanying “Tree Guarantee Fee Planting Plan”. This website is supported by environmental activists who live and work Downtown. This Ordinance was “sold” to us, before it was adopted, by several in the city, who touted how it would be beneficial, especially for Downtown

Several years later, we have discovered that this Ordinance is not working as intended – we were not seeing any “replacement trees” in our community and decided to dig deeper into why. In researching this Ordinance, many people were consulted, including, City Planners, staff of Urban Forestry, Community Forest Advisory Committee (CFAC) members, Council Office 14, the City Forest Officer, and staff at the Department of Public Works. We also obtained information via public record requests. 

This Ordinance was supposed to fix many things about an older in-lieu tree Ordinance, but it turns out it has not. For all the development that has come Downtown (including tree removals), there have yet to be any replacement trees planted here. None. The whole purpose of this Ordinance was that replacement trees would be planted by Urban Forestry with in-lieu fees collected from developers. If Downtown, with all its development, has received no new trees, then I am assuming the rest of the city has not fared well by this Ordinance either.


Q: What is “Redo Tree Guarantee LA”?

A: A website dedicated to the city’s Tree Guarantee Ordinance, which went into effect July 5, 2018. The “Plan” for the Ordinance is posted on The Ordinance page. Our notes are contained in green boxes and reference language highlighted in yellow. We point out many of its flaws and suggest amendments (with citations!).

Q: Why?

A: Because our research has uncovered that this Ordinance is deeply flawed. It is literally impossible for the public to verify if it is being followed or not (we tried!). For example, in-lieu fees collected from developers are supposed to be used to plant and maintain replacement trees near their projects, but there is no way to verify if this is happening (we looked!). Additionally, there is no available listing of fees already collected, broken down by location.

We are advocating for new and better ways the process of compliance checking can be systematized and streamlined to advance civic action towards the intended policy outcome, which is ultimately, a healthier urban forest.

Q: What can the public do to help fix this Ordinance?

A: Learn more about the Ordinance and its flaws by checking out The Ordinance page. If you feel inspired to take action, jump to our “What Can I Do?” page.

Q: Who is behind this website?

A: We are members of Industrial District Green and Arts District Community Council Los Angeles, two Downtown LA-based, grassroots, community organizations. We have studied this Ordinance and determined that it is not working the way it was intended to. Simply put, we do not think this all-encompassing Ordinance does enough to protect existing trees or encourage new trees to be planted and maintained.

Our interest is in preserving more existing trees, creating transparency around developer paid in-lieu fees and closing loopholes that the City Planning Department is using to waive tree-planting requirements. We have found many instances of non-compliance. Additionally, there appears to be no enforcement mechanism. Many city departments and public officials deal with trees, but there is little to no coordination between them. We seek to have amendments made to this Ordinance so that the spirit of it will be followed in practice.

(We are eternally grateful to the Glendale Community College Team Internship Program, whose STEM students organized into teams to provide us with specialized proposals for how we might advance civic action in relation to this Ordinance. Much of the content on this website is taken from their work. To watch the student’s final presentation, click here.) 

(Katherine McNenny works in Los Angeles' garment industry as a Patternmaker and lives Downtown. She is co-founder of Industrial District Green, an organization that has planted over 400 trees in the area. Her focus is on issues that affect the Skid Row neighborhood and how to improve City urban forestry policy.)