History of South Pasadena’s Urban Forest

Tree Canopy Key Component of City


South Pasadena residents have a long history of civic engagement, and nowhere is that more evident than in the City’s urban forest.

A rich cast of active community members have supported the planting and protection of trees, helping jumpstart the creation of South Pasadena’s tree canopy. The abundant tree canopy brings many benefits including increased home values, cleaner air, storm water mitigation, and a cooler environment.

In 1898, a group of South Pasadena residents, called the Woman’s Improvement Association (WIA), executed their first project that would serve as the beginning of the great tree canopy that we all know and enjoy today. The Woman’s Improvement Association is more commonly known for their project that has lasted over a century, the Watering Trough and Wayside Station located at the corner of Mission and Meridian, which currently serves a focal point and place to rest during the South Pasadena Farmer’s Market.  With the goal of creating the first tree lined park, the WIA advertised “Free lunch in exchange for work” to rally locals to assist in planting trees.

A similar grassroots community group called South Pasadena Beautiful was propelled into action in 1965, when neighbors organized in reaction to trees being removed along Milan Avenue.  The organization has been active in many beautification projects around South Pasadena, with a focus on preserving the urban forest. Most recently, South Pasadena Beautiful kicked off a tree drive to replace the trees that have been lost due to the drought and an aging forestry. Their goal is to plant 50 trees by Arbor Day, March 2017.

Planting trees is only the first step in having a robust urban forest. Policy driven by the City Council and its advisory committee, The Natural Resources and Environmental Commission (NREC), helps protect and maintain the health of the trees around South Pasadena. The NREC along with City staff updated the City’s Native Tree List and included drought tolerant trees to assist in providing the right tree for the right place in order to invest in an urban forest that will remain vigorous.

After over a century of civic engagement driving the investment in the development, maintenance, and protection of the South Pasadena forestry, the City earned the title Tree City USA in 1999, an annual award from the Arbor Day Foundation that the City has received for 17 straight years.  All of these efforts, along with many actions of individuals standing together as a community, have grown our trees into a forest.

This urban forest is aging. Many trees are in the later stages of their life cycle and require increased pruning, removal, and replacement. While the maintenance costs have risen, the level of funding has not changed since 1997.

To ensure adequate funding for continued maintenance of our trees, the City is now considering an assessment update of the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District (LLMD), which funds the operation and maintenance of the City forest, median landscaping, street lighting and traffic signals. This assessment update provides residents and property owners the opportunity to decide whether they wish to continue South Pasadena’s heritage of protection and preservation of urban trees.

In order to pass this measure to invest in the urban forest, City Council must receive a majority vote in favor of the proposed LLMD assessment. Ballots are due to the City Clerk by January 18, 2017.

More information on the assessment is available at www.southpasadenaca.gov/LLMD update or by contacting the Public Works Department at (626) 403-7240.

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