August 13, 2015

Urban Trees

Our cities are heating up and the abundance of asphalt and concrete only makes it worse. Trees help cool things down, clean the air, and make our neighborhoods more beautiful.

Our vision is for 35% of our urban areas to be covered in trees (of the native and drought-tolerant variety).

Benefits of increasing tree coverage:

  • Clean Air: Trees filtering the air and sequester carbon. Hardwood trees remove about 1.56 tons of CO2 per acre from the air in the process of photosynthesis.
  • Clean Water: Trees protect against erosion during storm events and filter storm water.
  • Cooling: Trees cool their surrounding areas and reduce the “Heat Island Effect”. This reduces the need for expensive, energy-intensive air conditioning and provides urban communities with respite from the heat.
  • Noise reduction: “Noise pollution” in urban areas can have serious health impacts. Trees help reduce those noise impacts. There is a 7db noise reduction (about 50%) per 100 feet of forest due to trees by reflecting and absorbing sound energy. By comparison, solid walls decrease sound by 15 db.

The USDA Forest Service also recognizes the many, quantifiable benefits of trees and created a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite called i-Tree, which helps communities strengthen their urban forest management and advocacy efforts by quantifying the structure of community trees and the environmental services that trees provide.

What’s Happening in the Region: 

The City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan commits to increasing the urban tree canopy to 35% coverage by 2035– that’s up from somewhere between 4% and 7% now.  San Diego’s Community Forest Advisory Board estimates there about 1 million trees in the City today.
To get started in achieving that 35% coverage goal, San Diego hired an urban forest manager in 2015 and is developing an urban forest management plan and region-wide tree canopy assessment. San Diego also has an Urban Forest Advisory Council.
In January 2017, the City of San Diego adopted a 5-Year Urban Forestry Management Plan, which will help the City meet its Climate Action Plan goals by increasing tree canopy and improving social equity, prioritize tree planting in undeserved communities.

San Diego is also using funds from a $750,000 grant received from the CalFire Urban and Community Forestry Grant program to fund an inventory of local trees, tree canopy, and the planting of an additional 500 trees in Southeastern San Diego, in accordance with the City’s Draft Climate Action Plan (CAP).

What’s Next:

There is still much more work and investment needed to cover our entire region in with the tree canopy levels needed to meaningfully bolster our climate resiliency. You can count on Climate Action Campaign to ensure that happens, working with local forestry and conservation organizations to ensure continued funding in the budgets of local cities and the county.




  • City of San Diego Final Climate Action Plan Appendices (December 2015), A-43-44 (pdf p45-46)
  • Community Forest Advisory Board letter on March 20, 2015 to City of San Diego Re Climate Action Plan re Notice of Preparation of Climate Action Plan Environmental Impact Report, Published in Final EIR Appendices
  • City of San Diego Final Climate Action Plan Appendices (December 2015), A-43 (pdf p45)