Garden Grove knocked down trees to build homes. Now the city has a replanting plan

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Once prospering with crops like oranges, walnuts, chili peppers and strawberries, the city of Garden Grove in Orange County now seems like a misnomer.

“It used to be a wonderland,” says LA Times columnist Gustavo Arellano. “The older residents will tell you there used to be so many orange groves that at certain times during the summer, if you got a breeze, you'd get the smell of orange blossoms covering all of Orange County.”

But World War II suburbanization changed that, he says. Farmers sold their land to developers during and after the 1950s, and that agricultural wonderland was dug up for tract homes. “At one point, it was the fastest growing city in the United States,” says Arellano.

Garden Grove now has 17 trees per 100 residents, which is lower than the county’s average of 22, according to city data. Voice of OC reports that tree services accounted for less than 1% of Garden Grove’s annual city budget between 2005 and 2018.

“This is a city that could stand to have more trees,” says Arellano. “It cools everything down and makes things prettier, and also adds property value to the houses.”

Climate change and rising temperatures have Garden Grove City Council members debating a long-term plan for funding, maintaining, and planting more trees in that city over the next 40 years. It will take time and money, but Arellano thinks the political will and residential pressure is there. 

“Especially with activists pushing, you're gonna see a new movement across Orange County to grow more trees,” he says.