23 Aug 2014
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New City-Wide Campaign Promotes Benefits of Trees for Businesses

Conversations around how to improve care of trees around business and homes are starting soon.

New City-Wide Campaign Promotes Benefits of Trees for Businesses
The California Urban Forests Council is branching out to El Cerrito with ambitions of making it the fifth city in the state to participate in the Invest from the Ground Up campaign.

“We’re opening up the dialogue around trees,” Sonali Shah of the California Urban Forests Council told Patch. “It’s about sharing the many valuable benefits of trees including improved health, property values and businesses’ sales.”

Last fall, the City Tree Committee identified the need to reach out to the business community. Environmental Program Manager and City Arborist Stephen Prée called it “a wonderful synchronization” when soon after he met Shah and they discussed a partnership to provide outreach to the business community about the care of public trees.

 “The Tree Committee and I weren’t sure how we could go about an outreach until we met up with Invest From the Ground Up and discovered that this was a perfect opportunity,” Prée said.

Prée and Shah said they’re hoping to create new dialogue in the community to address concerns around pruning and maintaining public trees. There have been occasions when a home or business owner has taken the initiative to prune City trees on their own with sometimes damaging results.

Prée said it’s the city’s responsibility to maintain trees in the Public Right of Way on sidewalks, medians and in parks.

“They’re a valuable part of the city’s infrastructure,” he said, adding that they provide positive impacts for the community, such as improving air quality, sequestering carbon, reducing stormwater run-off and attracting more customers to businesses.

According to Dan Burden, a Senior Urban Designer with Glatting Jackson, “Businesses on tree-scaped streets show 20 percent higher income streams, which is often the essential competitive edge needed for main street store success, versus competition from plaza discount store prices.”

Professor Kathleen Wolf from the University of Washington found that trees make for a better shopping experience with prices averaging about 9% more for products located in areas populated with trees.

Green spaces have also been documented to help slow down traffic by signifying “this is a street, not a freeway.”

These are just a few of the many benefits  the Invest from Ground Up Campaign promotes. They’ve already had success working with communities in East Hollywood, Albany, Santee and Bakersfield. El Cerrito will be the fifth city, with a large part of the efforts focused on San Pablo Ave., home to a large number of businesses in El Cerrito.

The City has already confirmed partnership with the campaign, and last week, the Chamber of Commerce agreed to help facilitate an outreach survey to businesses to gather their viewpoints around trees. This comes at an important time as the survey results could help inform future City tree policy.

Prée noted that the City Tree Committee is investing its time in planning and executing the campaign. Funding and outreach materials are coming from the California Urban Forests Council and the Invest From the Ground Up campaign.

In other communities this has included the development of educational such as billboards, pamphlets and webpage banners. The campaign is expected to last a couple of months with support from Invest from the Ground Up. Prée says it would be a wonderful start to continue the outreach and education around this topic for the future.

“It’s going to be an ongoing, informative conversation,” Prée said, adding that businesses can be on the look out for an online survey within the next several weeks, distributed by the City, and local business organizations.

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