An article in today’s New York Times discusses the Los Angeles City Council’s decision to plant close to a million trees indigenous to Southern California (sycamores, crape myrtles, etc.) instead of replacing or even maintaining many of the city’s palm trees as they die off over the next several years. As the article details, palm trees, though very pretty, are extremely bad for the urban environment. Last year, L.A. had to remove close to 8,000 cubic yards of dead palm fronds from public right-of-ways, spending close to $400,000 in the process. Even more importantly, palm trees are far less efficient at producing oxygen than other types of trees, and in large part because of palms, only eighteen percent of L.A. is shaded versus a national average of twenty-eight percent. These are both particularly important things to observe, and address, in a low-density city built for the automobile like Los Angeles.
My good friend who lives in Hollywood tells me that any discussion in L.A. about abandoning the palm tree is extremely controversial (the article also hints at this) but I think in the long run it’s a good thing for the quality of life in Los Angeles. I also think it’s an indication that government decision-makers are taking what may be unpopular sustainability-related issues seriously. Even if this is done largely for financial reasons, it’s still very positive to see.