Celebrating Beverly Hills’ Long Roots as Tree City USA

During an Arbor Day ceremony on April 26, Beverly Hills City Councilmembers, officials, parents and children gathered at Roxbury Memorial Park to celebrate the city’s environmental efforts, plant a California Live Oak and release handfuls of bugs into a nearby garden. 

The ceremony marked Beverly Hills’ 40th year being named Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, but according to Urban Forest Manager Ken Pfalzgraf, greenery has been part of the city’s identity since its inception. 

In the early days of Beverly Hills, visitors were welcomed by the sudden appearance of trees along the dirt roads that led into the city, Pfalzgraf said. 

“It said, ‘We’re already a neighborhood, we’re just missing you,’” according to Pfalzgraf.  

Pfalzgraf has led the tree program for 23 years, and the strong support he receives from the community and City Council has allowed him to maintain a thriving urban forest, one that’s visible even from 30,000 feet above, he said.  

“If you’re in a plane you can see where my trees are,” he said.   

The Arbor Day ceremony on April 26 was a chance to celebrate the city’s support and to reaffirm the importance of planting trees for future generations, Mayor Lester Friedman added. 


Urban Forest Manager Ken Pfalzgraf said the bugs released into the plants act as a natural pesticide.
Photo by Joey Waldinger

“We have 25,000 trees in our city, and we want to make sure that we continue the tradition of planting trees, and Arbor Day is a day that we highlight the fact that we have committed ourselves to being a very healthy tree city,” Friedman said. 

As Friedman begins his term as mayor, he said he is focused on “continuing the good work that’s been done up till now and making sure that we do have trees.” 

He added, “There are some trees in our city that we are replacing, and we will never take down a tree unless we have another tree that’s going to be planted. And then of course, we want to expand our urban forest as needed.”  

Efforts to replace the city’s trees, however, have caused controversy in recent years. In March 2023, activists with the Robertson Boulevard Special Task Force sued the city for allegedly violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) after crews removed dozens of trees as part of a sidewalk repair program on Robertson.  

Supporters of the activist group claimed that city officials violated CEQA rules and improperly notified residents, while officials maintained that the repairs were necessary to ensure safe sidewalks following several slip-and-fall claims.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant issued a preliminary injunction in July 2023, forbidding the city from removing the remaining 36 trees until the lawsuit concludes, and officials started the environmental impact review process in January.  

“Some trees just live [past] their life expectancy and need to be replaced. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Friedman said. “That doesn’t mean we have any less emphasis on having trees, it’s just that we want to make sure that those trees are healthy and don’t create any potential hazards in our city.”  

After the ceremony concluded on April 26, Manette Cogan, who lives just outside city limits on Rodeo Drive, stayed at the park to play with her grandson, who was visiting from New York City.  

Cogan’s grandson loves the park, and if he’s anything like his grandmother, he’ll grow up loving trees, too. 

“His grandma grew up climbing trees, it was [my] favorite thing to do,” Cogan said. “I always wanted to live in a treehouse.” 

She said Beverly Hills’ greenery was a big attraction when she moved into the neighborhood, though she wished there were more efforts across L.A. County to ensure thriving green spaces for all communities. 

“It’s wonderful to be part of a community that has these spaces, but it doesn’t stop at [city] boundaries,” Cogan said. “We’re all in it together so that this kind of open space is always available.” 

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