Altadena Now an Official “Tree City”  

It all began when a member directed our attention to a home on Altadena Drive. It had changed ownership and a chainsaw massacre of magnificent mature trees soon followed. These trees provided shade and beauty, but were not legally protected. Members of Altadena Heritage’s Tree Committee discussed different ways to raise community consciousness, and to promote the message of how valuable trees are in an ever-warming world. Perhaps information and soft diplomacy would cause residents to think before cutting down mature, healthy trees? One idea was to become an official “Tree City” through the Arbor Day foundation. Lisa Wintner took on the task, which turned out to be complicated.

As an unincorporated community, it wasn’t clear that Altadena qualified; most, if not all “Tree Cities” are civic entities. There are five criteria for being named a Tree City:

  1. assigned responsibility for trees to a department,
  2. having a law or policy governing tree management,
  3. an inventory of existing trees so that long-term planning
    can be established,
  4. an annual budget ($2,000 per resident per year)
    for tree management.
  5. an “annual celebration of trees” must be held

We were covered on the first four. As to the fifth, we learned that the “annual celebration” does not have to coincide with California’s official Arbor Day. Thus, Altadena Heritage’s annual Tree Giveaway in November became Altadena Tree Day, complete with declaration signed by Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

It sounds simple but wasn’t. Lisa researched County ordinances and budgets, and worked with Sussy Nemer in the 5th District office, as well as with Steven Gutierrez and other helpful staff at LA County Department of Public Works. It was established that Altadena met all required criteria. The last step was for Supervisor Barger, our mayor, to sign the Tree City application form.

Altadena Heritage has been promoting trees for a cooler, shadier community for years, beginning in the early aughts with our Golden Poppy Garden Awards that honor gardens that give shade and beauty to the street. We worked with Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy and Arroyo Seco Foundation to plant an oak grove on a derelict piece of land at the southwest corner of Woodbury and Marengo to create Old Marengo Park in 2006. We lobbied the County to plant median and parkway trees in the Woodbury Corridor, and plant more trees on the west side of town. We gave away trees donated by SCE in 2012 in combination with a Third Thursday program on the urban forest, and led in the design of Triangle Park in 2017.

Our annual Tree Giveaway is an ongoing effort to keep Altadena cool and shady. In 2020, spearheaded by Anne Chomyn, we initiated the giveaway during COVID, combining it with Zoom programs led by Dr. Jerrold Turney, tree expert and plant pathologist. (The videos are available on our website

We have received grants from SCE since 2017 to help us mitigate the Heat Island Effect and pay for tree giveaways. We provide trees to be planted in private spaces, (complementing the County program for trees on public rights-of-way) and plan to continue giving them away every fall on Altadena’s Tree Celebration Day.

Look for Tree City signs, which will soon be going up in a few locations around town.