Air Quality, Placemaking and Spatial Equity: The Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan | Design Workshop

Honourable Mention for the 2021 WLA Awards – Concept – Analysis & Planning category

Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan
Image Credit: Design Workshop, Inc.

Landlocked within California’s semi-arid Inland Empire, residents of Fontana are exposed to air quality that is worse than 95% of census tracts in California. Its urban forest – a mere 0.36% coverage – is distinctly less than other communities in Los Angeles Basin. This statistic, when considered with the influence of major transportation corridors, notable industrial hubs, frequent regional wildfires, and projected population growth, is at further risk as outdated and unconsolidated landscape regulations face increased development pressures.

Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan
Image Credit: Southern California Association of Governments
Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan
Image Credit: Design Workshop, Inc.

Recognizing these statistics, the City of Fontana and The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) commissioned the landscape architect to craft an Urban Greening Master Plan to increase citywide tree canopy, improve multi-modal mobility, catalyze economic development, consolidate various regulations, and update policies to improve visual character, conserve water and reduce maintenance. Beyond such goals, the landscape architect elevated the project’s purpose to explore how such a plan can directly improve air quality.

The Plan creates a multi-scalar, green infrastructure vision that influences development patterns, improves individual health and quality of life, and creates a more resilient future for the community and greater Basin.

• At the Individual Tree Scale

The landscape architect conducted an initial analysis of the city’s 71,574 existing street trees using the i-Tree and National Tree Benefits Calculator. Quantitative benefits, including 1) Atmospheric Carbon Absorption; 2) Stormwater Interception; 3) Property Value Increase; 4) Energy Conservation; and 5) Annual Dollar Benefits, were identified for individual species. Today, Fontana’s street tree inventory accounts for $6.8 million of annual benefits. With community input, the landscape architect and arborist synthesized these measures with other environmental considerations and produced a distinct tree palette.

Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan
Image Credit: Southern California Association of Governments

• At the Site Scale

Advancing beyond recommending individual species, the team considered how to integrate urban greening into urban morphology. The landscape architect selected a series of priority streets covering all street hierarchies and example sites from each land-use typology, then applied designs that maximized potential for urban greening while optimizing function. Each typology was then measured in before and after scenarios. Metrics include canopy coverage, landscape area, permeable and impermeable surface, and greenhouse gas reduction.

Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan
Image Credit: Southern California Association of Governments
Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan
Image Credit: Southern California Association of Governments

• At the Citywide Scale

Taking the site-scale studies to a citywide scale, the Plan established a citywide – framework for future implementation. The framework incorporates green streets and green places. Green streets are composed of best scenarios of all street types, vegetated highways and gateways, achieving a connected green system. Green places include best scenarios of all land use typologies.

Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan
Image Credit: Southern California Association of Governments
Image Credit: Southern California Association of Governments

In summary, through bilingual community engagement, the design team implemented a four-step planning process – Discover, Guide, Prioritize, and Implement. Transferable in its approach for other communities, the Plan achieved immediate policy change with its ambitious, long-term goal of increasing tree canopy coverage to 5% by 2050 – a transformational increase of over 1300%. Today, the Plan is becoming adopted as part of the General Plan, achieving a consolidated, visionary and policy-reinforced guide to transform Fontana’s built environment.

Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan
Image Credit: Southern California Association of Governments

The Fontana Urban Greening Master Plan

Project Credits:

Client/Owner: Southern California Association of Governments and the City of Fontana

Landscape Architecture/Urban Planning: Design Workshop Inc., Los Angeles, CA

Kurt Culbertson, FASLA (Principal)

Jason Ficht (Project Manager)

Xiaojian Fan (Landscape Designer)

Chen Liu (Landscape Designer)

Transportation Planning: Nelson\Nygaard, Los Angeles, CA

Irrigation Design: Hines Inc. Fort Collins, CO

Arborist: Class One Arboriculture, Glendale, CA

Image Credits: Southern California Association of Governments and Design Workshop Inc. as captioned