For Song Tan, the free city tree that he scored Saturday meant far more than just shade for his Sun Valley home. It meant feng shui prosperity for him and his wife, Lawan. “The orchid is good,” said Song Tan, 70, excited to get one of 3,000 trees given away at the launch of Million Trees L.A., an ambitious plan to cloak the city in green. “I’ll put it on the south side for fame and fortune.” Million Trees L.A., spearheaded by the Department of Public Works, encourages 1 million trees to be planted at homes, schools, businesses and parks. A million trees, according to officials, will help scrub the air, cleanse urban runoff, cool homes and businesses and raise civic pride and property values across Los Angeles. The leafy canopy also is expected to save $38 million a year in energy and pollution costs. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said public participation is vital to make Los Angeles — America’s dirtiest big city covered less than 20 percent by trees — the cleanest and greenest city in the land. The initial cost, he said, would be $70 million. Funding could come from regional bonds and a possible tree assessment district. “This campaign isn’t about forestry, it’s not about greening Los Angeles, or making it the cleanest big city in America,” Villaraigosa told more than 500 guests at a tree planting ceremony in Boyle Heights attended by such green celebrities as Ed Begley Jr., Daryl Hannah, Anjelica Houston and Ricardo Chavira. “It’s about taking responsibility … to leave this a better place.” “We are reinventing this town,” added City Council President Eric Garcetti. “We realize this city isn’t just asphalt and concrete — it’s a living green organism.” It was during the 1984 Olympics that Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley planted a million trees. But many of them died from poor placement and lack of maintenance. This time, Villaraigosa promised the million trees would survive through proper care. Some, however, cast doubt unless millions of dollars could be secured for tree maintenance. “What we’re worried about is the funding for the program,” said Jose Aguilar, secretary for the Sierra Club Central Group. “How are these trees going to be cared for and watered after they’re planted? “Where’s the beef, man, where’s the funding?” But such program supporters as North East Trees say responsibility will be shared by public partners throughout Los Angeles. In the San Fernando Valley, most of the trees will be planted in the Northeast Valley, where a satellite study found canopy cover around 13 percent. “The canopy all needs to be 25 percent or more,” said Larry Smith, executive director of North East Trees, a native of Granada Hills who will help plant up to 70,000 trees in Councilman Greig Smith’s district. “The Valley needs a lot of trees.” At Sun Valley Park and Recreation Center, city officials gave away 200 trees to anyone who’d pledge to plant them. “We would like to have everybody on the block plant trees,” said Ida Kunitsugu, 75, of North Hollywood, picking up an 8-foot purple orchid. “It’s a great program.” “It’ll be a giant tree,” said Luis Gallegos, 36, of Sun Valley, hauling off a 6-foot sycamore. “I might even put a hammock on it, if it gets big enough.” — Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
Million Trees gets off ground