LOS ANGELES — Creating more green space in underserved city streets is more important than ever as climate change is making temperatures hotter and causing a severe drought. Watts Rising, a collaboration of residents and local organizations, received some green to plant more green in the community.
One of those organizations is TreePeople, which brings trees and green space to communities in need. Lizbeth Gonzàlez Ruiz is an associate manager who once a week, for at least four hours, takes to the streets of Watts with other volunteers to water 52 trees they planted in the spring.
"Our goal is to have these trees survive the next 40 to 50 years," Gonzàlez Ruiz said.
These were the first trees planted in Watts as part of the larger initiative. Watts Rising received $33 million, and now various local organizations are improving the environment, reducing greenhouse gasses and creating community engagement.
"It's a high-need community in terms of trees. The tree canopy is very low. We are here to give some equity and give people some green space and some shade," Gonzàlez Ruiz said.
TreePeople is not the only group working on this mission. North East Trees is also improving urban forestry, not just by planting, but by giving away fruit and shade trees to residents for free. Ladale Hayes, the crew supervisor, has a direct connection to the cause.
Hayes lived in a Watts affordable housing development for a few years as a child and has now planted trees in the exact same place.
"This is the apartment directly behind it," he said while sharing a photo of him and his brother outside their old apartment, where the original tree still stands. "I took that about a month ago."
He was formerly incarcerated. To change his life, he started working for the forest service. Now, Hayes works with North East Trees to be closer to home. He thought urban forestry would be just as impactful to the community by adding shade and reducing carbon emissions.
"Climate change is getting a little hotter and hotter every year. There's a lack of shade canopy. I don't know if you can see, but we planted these trees up and down this block," Hayes said.
So now, with North East Trees, they connect right to homeowners such as Jerry Ramos to give them a piece of beautiful nature in the middle of the city, which otherwise would be too expensive to accomplish themselves.
"I actually asked in Home Depot, and every little tree is $80. Then with this situation, and not having jobs, and COVID. You think twice. You do want to do it. But you buy a tree, but then you won't have enough for expenses and stuff," Ramos said.
So, that's why volunteers and workers continue to do their part in creating a greener future for Watts.