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Urban forestry project increases engagement in disadvantaged communities

The City of La Mesa

La Mesa, CA

The City of La Mesa used GIS mapping to identify areas in disadvantaged communities where trees could be planted as part of an urban forestry program.

Topics Covered

Stormwater Management
Ecosystem Degradation
Air Quality, Health, Noise
Process Improvement


Initial: 4 Thousand USD


State and local grants

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2022

Gov Champion

City Manager

Problem Addressed

The City of La Mesa needed a system to organize resident applications and determine which properties would be ideal candidates for its urban forestry project to increase sustainability.

The City of La Mesa applied for and was awarded two grants from CalFire to plant 350 trees in the public right of way through the city. The project will aid the City in reaching its Climate Action Plan goals by expanding the City’s urban forest and shade tree program, reducing greenhouse gases and beautifying neighborhoods, and creating an urban forestry management plan. Additionally, the project will provide environmental benefits such as improving air quality, enhancing property values, and reducing stormwater runoff.

The City was offering the trees to preselected properties in disadvantaged communities. The City needed a way to map out target areas with vacant spots for new trees. Additionally, because the City was receiving letters from applicants, they required a system that could effectively organize all of the information needed to determine which properties/residents would be good candidates for the program. Examples of this information included whether their property was under utility wires and if the property was owner or renter occupied.

Solutions Used

Using an editable map, the city effectively organized and tracked applications against other information to determine the best candidates for the program.

Compass Rose GIS’s mapping technology was used to perform analysis on existing tree locations to determine qualified areas with vacant spots for new trees. It was taken into consideration whether the locations had overhead utility wires which then determines what type of tree can be planted. Property details were used to determine whether a potential site was owner-occupied vs. renter-occupied to better understand who would enter into a watering agreement with the City.

It was determined that owners would be notified first, with phase 2 letters being sent to renters to increase participation. Compass Rose GIS set up an editable map for City staff to track letters received from applicants, property owner information, type of tree selected, and finally when the tree was planted. This allowed the staff to quickly calculate & track the number of trees planted relative to their goal of 350. In addition, a layer with disadvantaged community Census tracts and blocks was added to the map to easily identify vacant tree planting spots in specific locations and meet grant requirements.



As of summer 2021, the City has planted over 150 trees.


Over 122 residents applied to the first phase of the project and received trees.


21 residents attended a virtual tree steward training to learn how to properly plant and maintain healthy trees.


200 additional trees will be planted in Fall 2021, meeting the city's goal of 350.

Who Should Consider

Small or Medium Cities performing projects that impact residential neighborhoods, as the very precise data gathered can enable more focused citizen outreach regarding how a project will affect their property.

Last Updated

May 25th, 2022

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