City asks La Jollans to participate in tree planting program


In addition to local efforts by groups such as the Village Garden Club of La Jolla — which recently had its jacaranda tree dedication ceremony — the City of San Diego is ramping up its tree planting program and seeking residents help.

According to the City’s Climate Action Plan, which was adopted in 2015, the goal is to have 15 percent urban tree canopy coverage citywide by 2020, and 35 percent coverage by 2035. And while La Jolla is already ahead of the curve, City efforts will not be enough to meet this goal and the community is being asked to step up.

San Diego Senior Planner Lesley Heneger spoke to the La Jolla Community Planning Association on May 3 to ask residents to do their part to compensate for the tree challenges the City is facing.

“La Jolla comes in at around 24 percent canopy coverage, which is quite nice, but we don’t want this area to rest on its proverbial laurels because the goal is 35 percent (by 2035),” she said. “Even if you are at 24 percent and feel like you’re ahead, there are some areas that are at 2 percent and others that are at 10 percent. Currently, San Diego is 13 percent covered in trees and has two years to get 2 percent more.”

Breaking it down, Heneger explained: “That two percent seems small, but San Diego is 372 square miles and two percent is almost 4,800 acres. That is equal to four, solidly planted Balboa Parks. Looking further, let’s say you planted a tree and it reached maturity at 20-by-20 feet, you are at 520,000 trees. But that’s not reality, the tree you are going to plant is at best 5 square feet. That means 41 million trees.”

She noted a “tree” is considered to be at least eight feet tall.

The City has been focusing on street trees, but Heneger said it is an expensive process “because of the staff needed to plant the trees and water them for three years until they are established.” In 2016, the City spent $6.2 million on tree planting and maintenance services.

Heneger added: “San Diego is a semi-arid climate and there really are no indigenous trees outside of the Torrey Pine, so we have an ‘engineered landscape’ and to get to our goals will take a concerted effort.”

The City currently partners with Cal Fire, which supplies grants and funding.

“We planted 500 trees in 2015 thanks to a Cal Fire Grant for a quarter-million dollars,” Heneger pointed out, “and Cal Fire granted us $2 million (among other things) to plant 2,000 more trees. But as much as we can do … everything we do won’t even be a drop in the bucket for what we need to do to reach our goals.”

Because most of the privately owned land in San Diego is residential, the City is calling upon citizens to maintain the trees they have and consider planting new trees in their front, back and side yards.

“A 15-gallon tree can be purchased for less than $100, and the cost of the water can start at $6-$16 annually — if you water within the City’s minimal watering standards of 10 gallons, once a week for the first year, twice a month the second year and once a month the third year,” Heneger explained.

According to the City’s website, these are some of the benefits trees provide:

  • A single large tree can release up to 400 gallons of water into the atmosphere each day;
  • Large trees remove 60-70 times more pollution than small trees;
  • Mature trees improve a town’s aesthetic environment, absorb noise, are traffic calming, reduce stress and crime, and create a peaceful place to relax or socialize;
  • The addition of trees and shrubs can increase property values by 10-20 percent;
  • 1 acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people every day;
  • 1 acre of trees absorbs enough carbon dioxide per year to match that emitted by driving a car 26,000 miles.

— For details about City assistance/regulations and a list of appropriate trees, visit or