Street trees are beautiful. But they are much more than just a pretty accessory. If we look at the value that street trees bring, one begins to wonder why they aren’t mandated – like parking. In this post, Kaid Benfield talks about the many benefits street trees bring to a neighborhood.
When we think of streets as “rooms”, we can see that trees help create a sense of enclosure. They help define the “room” walls. They create a sense of place. Street tress can also add to property values, help reduce crime, and are good for the environment.
However, not all trees are created equal. Here are photos taken in South Park that show three different streets. All of these streets are in close proximity and are of similar size.
Full, deciduous trees define the street “room”, provide delightful filtered light, and cool the street and sidewalk.
Palm trees are popular in Southern California, but their benefit as street trees is questionable. This street is the same width as the street in the photo above, but because Palm trees do not help define the street “room”, the street looks wider and less friendly. The sense of place is lost. Palm trees do not provide cooling shade or filtered light. To the pedestrian walking next to them, their tall trucks look similar to telephone poles.
The street in the photo below is also the same width. The difference between this street and the streets pictured above is the trees. Street with no trees look unfriendly to people and do not add to quality of life. Imagine this street with the trees from the first photo.
Curb cuts are the culprit in the above photo’s lack of trees, as well as a lack of street life via active architecture.