By Sue Favor
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is on its way to becoming a shady oasis, thanks to a tree-planting initiative started there last week.
City Councilman Curren Price and employees of the city’s Public Works Department planted a tree in front of Wadsworth Elementary School — the first of 50 that will be installed along the street by the end of the year. The trees will line the thoroughfare from Central Avenue to Figueroa Street, and will cool sidewalks for pedestrians and transit riders.
“The addition of these trees will revitalize one of Los Angeles’ largest and most iconic streets, while improving air quality, creating a cooling effect and providing a healthier environment for all people using Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard,and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Price, who represents Council District 9.
The effort is part of LA’s Green New Deal plan, which aims to curb global warming in various ways. One goal of the project, begun last year, is to plant 90,000 trees by the end of 2021. The trees will provide a cooling effect for an area that has seen increasingly hot temperatures over the last decade.
“Climate change is making it hotter in Los Angeles, and more challenging for residents, especially for pedestrians and transit riders,” Public Affairs Office spokesman Paul Gomez said. “As part of LA’s Green New Deal, the city is working to reduce the temperature through various urban cooling elements. This includes the planting of more trees — particularly in areas where tree canopy is most needed.”
“In addition, the city has installed cool pavement on more than 50 miles [of streets], and is working to add more shade structures at transit stops.”
L.A.’s tree population has taken a hit in recent years, as warm weather insects have attacked and killed many trees. Re-planting trees will help restore natural shade to the area.
“Tree canopy is an important element in helping cool densely-populated areas of our city,” Board of Public Works Commissioner Teresa Villegas said. “Planting trees along the busy corridor of Martin Luther King Boulevard will be a great visual health benefit for those living and working in this area.”
The tree plantings are part of a larger street improvement project on King that will include pedestrian-level lighting, sidewalk and curb ramp upgrades and repairs, new landscaped medians, and custom bike racks.
The next tree planting project will be on Western Avenue, between Martin Luther King and Exposition Boulevard next spring.
Other objectives of the Green New Deal include using electric-only city buses by 2030, recycling all waste water and sourcing at least 70% of all water locally by 2035, using 100% renewable energy by 2045, and creating 400,000 green jobs by 2050.
Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.