Back in 2008 the USDA Forest Service conducted a survey and study to determine the extent of tree canopy coverage throughout Los Angeles. The study discovered Los Angeles’ existing tree canopy coverage is 21 percent, comparing favorably with 20 percent in Baltimore and 23 percent in New York City. Data also estimated the number of existing trees across Los Angeles numbers around 10.8 million – equaling about 3 trees for every Angeleno.
Some of the 114 Cedrus deodara trees along White Oak Avenue, planted in 1932 between San Fernando Mission Blvd. and San Jose St. in Granada Hills. View is to the south from Tribune St. The trees are Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 41. Creative Commons photo: Junkyardsparkle
The interactive Google Map above via KCET’s SoCal Connected displays this 2008 data in color-coded form, with percentages assigned to each city district. One immediately recognizes the disparity in tree canopy coverage between certain sections of Los Angeles. The intensity of color on display demarcates both an affluence in trees and economic wealth, making it clear there is a connection between the two symbols of green: the higher the average income, the more trees lining the streets and inhabiting yards.
Trees will increasingly play an important role as a natural mechanism for improving overall life of the citizenry over the span of decades, especially in relation to climate change and drought here in Southern California. Beyond the beauty of living within a tree-rich environment, benefits also include the buffering of noise pollution, improving air quality, providing habitat for urban wildlife, and the curbing of the effects of urban heat islands. Of course, as any gardener already knows, trying to get a young tree to establish during a time of drought requires patience and a lot of water. But in time, the welfare of established trees far outweigh the initial investment and effort, sometimes over the span of generations depending upon the variety.
Graphics: Los Angeles 1-Million Tree Canopy Cover Assessment/USDA
Recognizing these beneficial perks to humans and ecosystem, the City of Los Angeles and the DWP are offering residents free trees, some delivered and planted straight to your home. Residents can apply for shade trees, parkway trees (the space between your sidewalk and the street), or even trees in front of businesses. Those who want to meet and pick their tree of choice in person can attend one of the numerous tree adoption events throughout the year by checking this calendar.
“From the detached and synoptical view of the bird, the modern paradox is graphically expressed in the constructions and traces that mark the ground. From above, the various relationships among physical dimensions, human activities, natural forces, and the cultural values can be seen to be orderly, productive and sophisticated as they are brutal and errant.” – Taking Measures Across the American Landscape by James Corner and Alex S. Maclean
Photo: Chuan Ding
I find it both interesting and surprising that a person can learn so much about the geography – and even the history – of a city without ever stepping foot there in person thanks to Google Maps and Google Earth. I enjoy using Google’s aerial views to research about the configurations and layouts of a city: its major traffic thoroughfares, notable points of interest, and public parks strewn across the city that I might otherwise miss while traveling at ground level. Using this online tool permits me to get a general idea of the city’s location, its general relation to other cities, and to see the “big picture”.
When I was in school we did a lot of mapping, diagramming the city by using a Google Map as a base then adding additional layers of information on top: topography, landscape use, demographic data, infrastructures, and so on. The exercise would allow us students to communicate a strong visual impression of our ideas and thoughts of a specific geographic location.
However, rather than solely relying upon visual description for designers, it is also important to provide the casual reader of any map with alternative perspectives of a city and its surrounding landscape. For instance, when viewed from a bird’s eye view of a city – raised to an elevation of 7,000 feet above – one is surprised to see the relationship between a city and its surrounding environment. This unusual alternative aerial view using the landscape as a geographical canvas is what I call the “hidden art of Google Maps”.
I find this new way of looking at a city so amazing, almost artistic. For example the aerial view of a freeway cutting through the mountains, or railroad tracks winding along the river bank and through an industrial zone, or stretches of water flowing from a glacier – all of these views from overhead are registered in a completely different context than from the ground level.
The artistry of satellite imagery is substantial and significant, allowing us to sense the ongoing influence of humans upon nature, and influence of nature upon humans, the passing of time, and in the process continually sparks my own thoughts about the future of landscape architecture design in the future.