Long Beach, News

Long Beach City Council approves health strategic plan, moves forward with tree replacement program

The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved the Health and Human Services Department strategic 2021-26 plan, a five-year effort to improve citywide health and its equity issues, during Tuesday’s meeting.

Initiated in December 2016, the health strategic plan needed to be renewed at the end of 2020 in order to outline goals, objectives and strategies in the healthcare field, according to the legislation report.

Throughout the report, city staff discussed the amount of health department staff members and city community members that would be involved with the strategic plan, which included trauma and equity, all while maintaining a population health perspective. More than 120 staff members participated in planning committees to focus on the plan’s 11 priorities documented from the previous era such as equity, collaboration, physical and mental health and services.

In addition, outreach events were conducted throughout the city and engaged over 1,000 individuals, while 79 community-based organizations provided their input to other city plans such as My Brother’s Keeper, Safe Long Beach Plan and Early Childhood Education Strategic Plan.

According to the report, the health department is “committed to making Long Beach a healthy, safe and thriving community for all” by continuing to work with community-based organizations and expanding their reach to help “populations that are disproportionately impacted by inequities and advance health equity in Long Beach.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the council also decided to move forward with a Tree Replacement Program, which would establish standards and streamlined processes to safely promote and preserve the city’s trees as they become planted.

“Residents brought to my attention that replacing trees one for one does not necessarily mean that you’re replacing the tree canopy, which is so vital to our tree network,” said Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, who introduced the program.

Mungo maintained that trees are an important part of Long Beach and contribute to air quality. In 2018, the urban tree canopy statistics in Long Beach ranged from about 12% to 30% while there were also about 77 to 737 canopy acres present, with these results varying by zip code, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

During public comment, city residents raised concerns over the amount of time it took to get tree permits approved by the public works department.

Long Beach Sustainability states on its website that it supports the growth of the city’s urban forest through the tree planting programs that can allow residents to have a tree planted, whether it’s in their parkway or a fruit tree planted in their front yard at no cost.

In addition, the Tree Planting Program launched the free fruit tree program in January 2019 through the grant funding of CalFire, but due to numerous applications, only addresses in the prioritized neighborhood map would be accepted.

Mungo added that the city needs to “have a plan in place that requires utilities to replace the tree canopy” and other trees in an appropriate manner.

“Some of our utility partners believe that when a tree is in the way of their business they just need to be decapitated,” Mungo said. “Tree canopies are a big component of health and air cleanliness, which is really important to our city.”

The Long Beach City Council will reconvene via teleconference next month.

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