Editorial: South L.A. needs trees
Nowhere in the Los Angeles area are trees more sparse than in South Los Angeles. City and county officials have been working for years in that part of town to create pastoral swaths of parks, greenbelts and even wetlands — fighting against drought, desert climate, urban blight and concrete streets — but it is a long, slow process. The City Council districts across South L.A. still have about half the canopy cover of the rest of the city. So it was troubling, back in 2012, that about 400 trees south of the 10 Freeway had to be cut down to allow the space shuttle Endeavour to lumber through the streets on its way to the California Science Center. Some were along Crenshaw Boulevard.
As promised, the Science Center has planted trees to replace them. Museum officials say they have planted 960 trees throughout the area, including four trees for every one cut down in South L.A.
But few of those trees were planted in the Crenshaw corridor because of the coming construction of the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line. Now, about 100 more trees will be cut down on a two-mile stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard between Exposition and 48th Street so that it can be excavated for three underground stations. Still more will have to be removed from the median on Crenshaw farther south for the rail line.
It’s tragic that any trees have to be cut down in tree-starved South L.A. But it’s an area that is also economically starved, and the rail line is key to development.
The city and county, to their credit, have ambitious post-construction plans. They hope to revamp Crenshaw by planting twice as many trees as they remove, and adding seating, lighting and walkways.
The plan requires City Council approval, and even then, completion will still be several years off. Crenshaw, in the meantime, will be a construction zone. The Science Center kept its word and planted more trees. Now city and county officials need to keep theirs and bring not just more trees to Crenshaw but a better streetscape.
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