The BID Council runs an urban forestry program by the name of “Trees Mean Business”. An urban forest is a collective mass of trees found within a community’s boundaries, including street trees, privately owned trees, and trees growing on public land such as parks, schools, and institutional grounds. The presence of trees is recognized as an essential part of our living environment as society becomes increasingly urbanized. Street trees in traditional business districts enhance the retail environment for shoppers and visitors and strengthen business in the city.
Businesses work hard to offer products and services that meet their customers’ needs. The presentation or image of shops and business districts is very important. Trees help create a positive environment that attracts and welcomes consumers. The most frequently and consistently cited benefits of urban forests are in the areas of community pride and the economic contribution to business and property values. In a survey of one community, 74 percent of the public preferred to patronize commercial establishments whose structures and parking lots were beautified with trees and other landscaping. In a survey of real estate appraisers, 86 percent of them agreed that landscaping added to the dollar value of commercial real estate. Also, 92 percent agreed that landscaping enhances the sales appeal of commercial real estate.
Trees also boost occupancy rates in commercial areas. One study looked at 30 architecture and urban design variables of potential importance in determining office occupancy rates. Results suggested that landscape amenities have the highest correlation with occupancy rates, higher even than direct access to arterial routes.
Urban forests make cities healthier and more comfortable for shoppers and visitors. Buildings and paving in city centers create a heat island effect. A mature tree canopy reduces air temperatures by about 5 to 10° F, influencing the internal temperatures of nearby buildings. Two trees supply the oxygen needs of a person each year. Also, cooler air temperatures created by tree canopies reduce smog levels by up to 6 percent, making a city more desirable and producing savings in air clean-up campaigns. Finally, a mature tree absorbs from 120 to 240 lbs. of the small particles and gases of air pollution.
The Trees Mean Business project recognizes that urban forests are a significant and increasingly valuable asset of the urban environment. With the absence of a similar tree planting/maintenance program in the City of San Diego, this is an important economic development project that helps attract business to the city.
The BID Council began its “Trees Mean Business” program in March of 2003, in partnership with San Diego Job Corp and with initial funding from Mayor Murphy’s Tree Initiative. The budget has since expanded from the $50,000 first year’s operation to $180,000, including additional funding sources such as Council District gas tax allocations, North Bay redevelopment funds, and SBEP. The State of California awarded an additional $46,000 in Proposition 12 grant money, which includes a City matching grant, in June 2004.