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City Plants

Commonwealth Nursery: From Little Seeds Grow Mighty Trees

A fiscally sponsored group

Commonwealth Nursery is a public private partnership to grow climate and community resilience in Los Angeles. Located on a historic 11 acre site in Griffith Park, the nursery serves as an urban ecological laboratory and training grounds to support LA’s tree canopy equity goals, creating a more livable and resilient city for all Angelenos. Commonwealth is a catalyst to grow trees from locally-sourced seed, train the next generation of urban forest stewards, and grow the green jobs of the future.

Describe the mission of your organization.

City Plants envisions a Los Angeles in which people in every neighborhood have equal access to trees and their benefits: clean air, energy efficiency, better health, cooling shade, and friendlier, more vibrant communities. Our mission is to grow a greener future for Los Angeles by engaging Angelenos to plant and care for trees throughout the City.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

With the rising threat of climate change, urban tree canopy equity in Los Angeles is more vital than ever. Due to inequitable distribution of green development in historically redlined districts of the city, wealthier LA neighborhoods enjoy vastly larger urban forests and their benefits, from shade cover and urban heat island reduction to improved air quality and mental health outcomes—an average differential of 37% canopy cover in affluent areas to 15% in formerly redlined neighborhoods. Procurement of quality native and climate-ready tree stock with which to remedy this inequity has been an ongoing issue. Additionally, the need for horticultural education and workforce development training around tree propagation, tree maintenance, and tree care is vital to the health of LA’s existing canopy and the efficacy of new city tree planting initiatives. These challenges point to a need for deeper integration of ecological restoration and climate resilience into city urban forestry programs.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Through our collaborative work at the Commonwealth Nursery, City Plants seeks to grow community resilience, biodiversity, and tree canopy equity across LA. Funds will expand nursery infrastructure to grow more climate-ready trees to distribute to Angelenos via City Plants’ and LADWP’s Free Trees Program, with priority to low canopy neighborhoods. Through regional seed collection and propagation of target species, our team will supply locally-grown plant material to public green infrastructure and ecological restoration projects. Trees grown from locally-sourced seed have been shown to be more adaptive to local conditions, just as our urban forest is most resilient when stewarded by local communities themselves. That’s why we’re partnering with the LA Conservation Corps to create a Green Workforce Development Program for at-risk young adults, alongside Recreation and Parks staff, to learn about tree and plant propagation for a climate-ready future; tree, plant, and green infrastructure installation, maintenance and monitoring; and nursery and arboriculture best management practices. Our goal is to train the next generation of urban forest stewards and grow the green jobs of the future. Given the central location and rich history of the Griffith Park nursery site and the diverse skills and expertise of our collaborative partners, our project is uniquely positioned to realize these goals. Together, we will cross-pollinate to transform LA into a more vibrant and equitable city.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The Commonwealth Nursery will serve as an example for how public private partnerships can transform LA into a more livable city. In 2022, the Nursery will have expanded to 17,220 sq ft onsite, building upon current infrastructure with additional tables, a site-wide irrigation system, seed storage fridge and propagation station. We aim to create a tree seed collection bank of 10-15 species and propagate 4,500 saplings, doubling our existing stock. City Plants will hire a consultant to create a Green Workforce Development Program to train an initial team of six LA Conservation Corps members in nursery, arboriculture, propagation, and seed stewardship, and young adults will emerge with equipped with expertise. Working directly with native tree seed will allow young adults to learn the process of propagation while creating a more equitable and resilient urban forest for all. Training young adults alongside Dept of Recreation and Parks staff will facilitate a nonprofit to city job pipeline.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Our outcome monitoring process for this project will be twofold. First, we will maintain detailed records and data on the number of trees grown, names of species, locations and dates of seeds collected, number of saplings propagated and success rates of different propagation methods used (i.e., from purchased vs. locally-collected seed, from cuttings, etc.), number of free trees distributed to Angelenos, as well as the survival rate and overall health of our nursery specimens. Second, we will conduct an in-depth evaluation of our Green Workforce Development Program, using both qualitative feedback and quantitative indicators from our youth participants directly as well as from community partners engaged with the yearlong training program. City Plants will continue our outcome tracking and public feedback process for our Free Trees program, as well as documenting the number of volunteers participating in nursery-related events.

Which of the live metrics will you impact?​

  • Air quality
  • Resilient communities
  • Tree canopy cover

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT