The economic value of trees in an urban environment

Recent efforts to clear a path through South Los Angeles for transport of the Space Shuttle Endeavour have brought our attention to the removal of nearly 400 mature trees. This is a tragedy. Urban trees have tremendous economic value, both in actual money savings and in increasing the aesthetic beauty of a neighborhood that often translates into vibrant local economies.

Actual cost savings have been attributed to trees in the city of Los Angeles. Studies estimate that the value of our urban forest, here in L.A., to be roughly $12.4 billion. This number is further broken down into categories, including, but not limited to trees’ ability to filter air pollution, the reduction of energy costs (both in air conditioning and water savings), and ground water filtration.

The indirect, or hidden, value of trees resides within a stronger sense of community. Trees provide shade, enticing neighborhood residents to step out into the community even on warmer days. Combining a healthy urban forest with efforts to increase walkability in an area creates a larger customer base for local entrepreneurs, raising tax revenue for the city and adding value to the properties within the golden range of a five to eight minute walk of a neighborhood business district.

In other words, when you make an area inviting to pedestrians through wider sidewalks, with trees strategically placed between the pedestrians and cars to create a psychological sense of safety, and zoning for mixed-use commercial/residential zones within a neighborhood, you foster strong local economies.

The final, and I believe most important contribution that urban trees provide, is lower crime. Theories abound as to why this is true, but studies from the University of Vermont have found that an increase in the urban canopy by roughly 10 percent results in a decrease in neighborhood crime by roughly 12 percent.

The value of these trees far outweighs the value of a space shuttle. This is a spectacle unfolding before us, one replete with the long-term loss of communities that cannot afford to take major steps backwards in exchange for an exhibition that will most likely add very little value to their lives.

In essence, we are thrusting one of humanity’s most heralded accomplishments – space travel – into the fire of humanity’s least beneficial tendencies: the constant reach for short-sighted and temporary gains.

Odysseus Bostick, Westchester

Giving bicyclists some space

As a bicycle rider with a sense of entitlement, I support Senate Bill (SB) 1464 giving bicyclists space from motorists. I am entitled to my safety while riding my bicycle on public streets. I ride for recreation, exercise, errands and work. Bicyclists did not design the streets we ride on, and instead must maneuver as best we can around some hostile motorists.

While riding, I have had things thrown at me from passing vehicles, been shouted at and cursed upon just for riding my bike. I have had drivers come as close to me as possible for what seems like sport.

I have had to slam on my brakes to avoid vehicles which turn directly in front of me, careless drivers who, without looking, open the vehicle’s door directly into my path, and pedestrians who cross streets without looking.

A bicycle is not like a car or truck, but has only two wheels, and requires balance to stay upright. When this balancing act is thrown off, the rider falls. This happens to riders of all stripes, from beginners to professionals. The balancing is disrupted when the bicycle rider is on broken-up roads with holes, unevenness and debris. Potholes that are barely noticeable to a motorist can be dangerous to bicyclists, causing damage to the bike and falls. When this happens in traffic it can be disastrous.

With the streets of Southern California in such bad repair, bicyclists must make quick maneuvers to maintain balance to avoid hazards and dangers from the street surface as well as for safety. Since we already ride close to the street’s edge, this leaves us with only one choice, to ride into the lane.

No one likes to do this, but it’s a matter of survival. With the advent of mobile and smart phones, the bicycle rider must also deal with motorists who are not paying attention to driving. They are talking on the phone and texting despite laws against it. This is another category of motorists who can be dangerous to other drivers and particularly to bicyclists.

If there were more bicycle riders our demand for oil would drop. There would be less air pollution and greenhouse gases. The city would be quieter. Yes, I’m entitled to safe space around me when I ride a bicycle, and if the state must mandate this, the better to encourage common courtesy from motorists for bicyclists.

Matthew Hetz, Los Angeles

Taking down trees for a space shuttle?

This is in response to a letter in the Sept. 6 Argonaut edition about the route the Space Shuttle Endeavour will take along Westchester Parkway.

I’m a 36-year resident of Westchester and have walked and driven along that route ever since it opened. There are signs on the trees for blocks stating that they are to be removed and then replaced.

When we hear about the state of finances in Los Angeles, it seems like a waste of money. The trees stand between light poles so it’s mind-boggling that the trees have to be cut down to accommodate the shuttle but the poles apparently aren’t in the way.

Lastly, it’s suspicious that Los Angeles International Airport is discussing moving the north runway at a time when the trees along Westchester Parkway are conveniently being removed.

Marsha Parkhill, Westchester

Appeal homeless property sweeps ruling

Subject: U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on homeless possessions.

I would encourage the city of Los Angeles to authorize the city attorney to appeal this intolerable decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. This decision ties the hands of municipal government, making it very difficult for the city (i.e., Los Angeles Police Department) to preserve the public right-of-way over any sidewalk or parkway in the city.

Since it does not appear to set any standard for which citizens can occupy the public easement with their personal property or establish any limit on the amount of that property or the time period it must be allowed to stand on the public easement, the court has given anyone carte blanche to store whatever they want, for as long as they want, on the public easement.

Something far more limited, such as a small amount of personal property; a small backpack, for example, including the items of concern in the original case, (i.e., identification, personal and financial papers, personal photographs, medications, etc.) allowed to stand for a short time, e.g., four hours, before removal, might make sense.

But as written, this decision will encourage larger encampments, as we have seen in Venice, with mattresses, out-houses, barbeques, tents, lean-toes, and even a bathtub, as well as permanent occupation of greater swaths of public right-of-ways to the detriment of all citizens. This is an imbecilic decision and should be appealed.

Mark Ryavec, President, Venice Stakeholders Association Venice

Nice reporting on LAX plans

Re: “LAX plan excluding move of north runway favored by airport neighbors” (Argonaut, Sept. 6).

I am most grateful for the detailed report on Los Angeles International Airport plans and meetings. Good reporting, and after months of trying to reach city officials regarding changed routes, at last I have contact information.

Thank you, Argonaut and Helga Gendell. Maybe now we can lobby, like Westchester and Playa del Rey, to keep the planes off the peninsula and their noise out of our 7,000 homes.

Lynne Shapiro, Marina del Rey

Cyclist takes offense

A letter writer in the Sept. 6 Argonaut wrote a very hostile letter to the editor generalizing about cyclist personality types.

It seems to me that cyclists have a lot more to fear from drivers one wishes (we cyclists) were off the road completely.

It is true that some cyclists are reckless scofflaws, but most are too terrified of reckless, angry drivers, and drivers that text while driving, to take the kind of risks he ascribes to “most bicyclists.”

Jon Mann

Santa Monica

Correction: In a Sept. 6 Argonaut letter to the editor, the group, Santa Monica for Responsible Growth, was identified with the acronym SMOG. The group should have been identified as SMRG.