Geographically landlocked, the Inland Empire of Southern California consistently ranks at the top of national lists for poorest air quality. Here, at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, residents of Fontana are exposed to air quality that is worse than 95% of California census tracts. Its urban forest – a mere 0.36% coverage – is distinctly less than other communities in Los Angeles Basin. This statistic, when considered with the influence of major transportation corridors, industrial hubs, regional wildfires, and projected growth, is at further risk as outdated and unconsolidated regulations face increased development pressures.
Recognizing such statistics, the City and The Southern California Association of Governments commissioned a Urban Greening Master Plan to increase citywide tree canopy, improve multi-modal mobility, catalyze economic development, consolidate various regulations, and update policies to improve visual character, conserve water and reduce maintenance. Beyond these measures, the landscape architect elevated the project’s purpose to explore how such a plan can directly improve air quality. For centuries, we have taken it on faith that parks are the “Lungs of the City”, capable of improving air quality. But to what degree? Can we support such claims with proven evidence? Surprisingly, little empirical data and research has been applied to this principle.
Grounded by quantitative research, the Plan represents the first known attempt to gather such research, calculate benefits and communicate impacts informed by science. In doing so, it creates a multi-scalar, green infrastructure vision that influences development patterns, improves individual health, and creates a resilient future. Through bilingual community engagement, the team implemented a four-step planning process – Discover, Guide, Prioritize, and Implement. Transferable in its approach, the Plan achieved immediate policy change with its ambitious, long-term goal of increasing tree canopy coverage to 5% by 2050 – a transformational increase of over 1300%.
Credits: - Class One Arboriculture - Arborist - Nelson/Nygaard - Transportation Planning - Hines Inc. - Irrigation Design