Greening Watts

Project Profile

Project Location

Watts, Los Angeles, CA

Project Lead






With the support of American Forests and Mattel, TreePeople planted 30 crepe myrtle trees in April 2022 in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Trees were planted strategically along parkways and streets to promote active transportation, maximize shade, and promote community health and well-being. Funding from Mattel supported the planning, planting, and care of the trees.

The goal of this project was to increase tree equity in LA’s Watts neighborhood. Mostly an African American community, Watts has a tree canopy of around 10% – just half the city-wide average. About a quarter of residents live below the poverty line. It’s also among the most polluted regions in California per state indicators, with residents having some of the lowest life expectancies in LA.

TreePeople engaged community members throughout the tree planting process, with community organizing to select planting sites and volunteer events to plant trees. To foster a sense of ownership, TreePeople also supported residents and volunteers to care for street trees planted in front of their homes.

This work is part of a broader effort known as the Watts Rising Collaborative, an initiative led by more than forty community-based organizations, nonprofits, and public agencies seeking to collectively address historical and institutional injustices and improve the quality of life in Watts.

Check out a snapshot of the project: Impact Report Summary

Every tree planting project demonstrates impacts that create a more just and sustainable future.

Human Health

Air Quality - 8
Urban Heat - 11
Active Living - 8
Wellness & Mental Health - 2
Social Health - 1

Social Equity

Inequity Context - 12
Site Selection - 5
Community Engagement in Design - 7
Community Participation in Implementation - 8
Economic Equity - 5


Site Prep & Implementation - 17
Climate Action - 13
Water Quality & Quantity - 8
Habitat, Food & Wood Production - 0
Bioremediation - 0

The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs are a global call for action. These goals have the power to build a better future for everyone. Investment in this impact project drives action towards the following goals.

Good Health and Well Being

According to CalEnviroScreen 4.0, the Watts neighborhood of LA has some of the highest pollution and environmental burden indicators in California. Trees planted for this project will screen residents and pedestrians from particulate sources of pollution created from major thoroughfares, including the nearby I- 105, Wilmington and Compton Ave, and a cargo route. In addition, trees were planted along walking routes to schools and community gathering places, improving walkability and connections to existing facilities.

Clean Water and Sanitation

Urban tree cover can maximize groundwater recharge and slow stormwater runoff. Trees planted will promote the infiltration of water in Watts’ historically compacted soils. Tree selection also prioritized trees that are resilient to the current and projected regional climate and that require minimal water use.

Decent Work and Economic Growth

Local hiring and responsible sourcing of materials from local and reputable businesses can promote economic resiliency. TreePeople hired locally for its community organizing team to ensure team members were from and of the Watts neighborhood to better understand the community’s priorities and challenges.  TreePeople also sourced trees from local nurseries and acquired other supplies from local businesses.

Reduce Inequalities

Watts continues to feel the impact of discriminatory policies, environmental racism, and underinvestment. Trees were planted across two residential streets that were previously unshaded to reduce social, economic, and health disparities by alleviating the high proportion of impervious surface and mitigating urban heat extremes, poorer air and water quality, and noise pollution. In addition, as part of the Watts Rising Collaborative, TreePeople was involved in the development of an anti-displacement plan to protect residents and local businesses from gentrification.

Sustainable Cities and Communities

In partnership with the Watts Rising Collaborative, TreePeople developed a respectful and culturally appropriate community engagement plan to understand residents’ priorities for site selection and tree planting. Community meetings around project design, as well as volunteer tree planting events, were designed with accessibility in mind. Trees planted along the residential corridor of 109th and 110th streets will promote recreation and an active lifestyle by enhancing the pedestrian experience with shade and beautified views for residents.

Responsible Production and Consumption

Trees lower cooling costs by reducing regional air temperatures and providing shade. Trees were strategically planted along residential streets to provide optimum shade and wind protection for reduced energy use by households. Trees, planting tools and supplies, and planting day materials were locally sourced, reducing the footprint of purchasing decisions. Tree containers were either reused or returned to the supplier.

Climate Action

Trees and forests in and around cities contribute to climate-change mitigation directly by sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These 30 project trees will store a projected 9.63 tons of CO2 if maintained for 25 years. Trees planted will also improve air quality, promote stormwater capture, and reduce heating and cooling costs.

Life on Land

TreePeople took extensive steps to prepare the planting sites for success and promote tree survival. The tree species were also selected for hardiness to the current and projected local climate, as well as low water demand. Each tree will be maintained through TreePeople’s long-term maintenance plan, which includes at least three years of watering, mulching, pruning, and re-staking. Volunteer residents will be engaged in tree care events through local outreach and canvassing.

Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

TreePeople prioritized meaningful, inclusive community participation throughout the project design and implementation process. Working with the member Watts Rising community-based organizations, TreePeople researched local social mores to shape their community engagement plan. Public participation was built around a “listen-first” model to center residents’ views and opinions on site selection and project design.

Partnerships for Goals

Partnerships were a key part of this project. TreePeople worked closely on project design and implementation with the Watts Rising Collaborative, a group of more than forty community-based organizations, nonprofits, and public agencies seeking to collectively address historical and institutional injustices and improve the quality of life in Watts. TreePeople also worked with the City of LA for approval on tree selection and planting sites. The project was made possible with support of American Forests and Mattel.

Explore More Impact Projects