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Santa Ana's Investment in Shade

Environment: The city's tree-planting program aims to make its image softer, future greener.


Santa Ana will plant 1,000 more trees in the coming months to cap an effort that has brought more trees to the city than most area communities its size and age.

The city boasts 2,037 trees per square mile, more than five neighboring cities. By the beginning of next year, the city will end its planting program, which began in the late 1980s, and focus on maintenance.

The planting represents the city's commitment to soften the asphalt and concrete effect in this city of 335,000 better known for its large influx of immigrants.

City Manager David N. Ream said the goal is to plant on every street that doesn't have a tree.

"We really think a streetscape is important," he said. "It can add a lot of value to a home, besides a lot of shade to a neighborhood."

Public Works maintenance manager Manuel Gomez said that for the last six years, the city has invested $1.5 million a year in planting and maintaining trees. Ream said the campaign was intensified in the late 1990s.

Trees are planted mostly on parkways, the strips of city property between a street and sidewalk.

Gomez said 30 species were planted. Adjacent streets usually receive the same kind of tree. The list includes jacaranda, queen palm, oak, magnolia, ash and willow.

Beginning next year, the city generally will plant trees only when others die or are knocked over--about 300 a year, Gomez said.

It's a way to ensure some greenery in an urban environment.

"We are lacking in open space," Gomez said.

"It was a way to compensate.... We are probably more aggressive than most cities."

Newer cities don't need to plant many trees because developers generally do it.

Steve Bourke, Irvine's public works superintendent, said older cities have the advantage of homes with their own parkways. Newer homes are usually built without them to save on land costs, and often come with a common area with trees planted by the developer.

Although Irvine counts 53,000 city trees outside its parks, there are probably that many trees planted by developers in private complexes, he said.

Santa Ana City Councilwoman Lisa Bist said trees help keep temperatures down.

"It's beautification and it's cooling," she said. "It's a good idea in an inland city in Southern California."

Retired electrician Henry Mayerhoffer said he and his neighbors on West Flora Street watched as city employees planted dozens of Australian willows about six months ago.

Some older trees were removed because their leaves block storm drains.

"The old trees were messy. Now we have new ones and more of them. I really enjoy them," said Mayerhoffer, 75, who has planted lemon, nectarine, eucalyptus, banana and palms on his property and welcomed the city's willows. "They suck in carbon monoxide and that is what we need. It cleans our air."

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