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Southeast GA (SEGA) URISA – Atlanta Urban Tree Canopy Update

Mark your calendar for our next SEGA URISA Event! Feel free to forward this event invitation to others who may be interested.
Date: September 5, 2018 (Wednesday)
Time: Noon – 2:30pm (see Agenda for details)
Location: Mendonsa Room @ Metropolitan Planning Commission, Savannah
                 110 E State St, Savannah, GA 31401
Lunch (optional): $10 – Firehouse Sub (Deadline: August 29 @ 5pm)
Topic: Atlanta Urban Tree Canopy Study (see below for summary)
Speaker: Tony Giarrusso (Georgia Tech Center for Spatial Planning Analytics and Visualization)
If you would like to attend the meeting but cannot be there in person, you can join us via a conference call. Please RSVP and indicate that you will be attending remotely. Conference call access information will be sent in a separate email.
For questions, please email us: or contact Mandy Terkhorn at (912) 651-1458
Presentation Summary
Tony Giarrusso, Associate Director of the Center for Spatial Planning Analytics and Visualization in the College of Design at Georgia Tech, recently completed his second tree canopy assessment for the City of Atlanta, the results of which were highlighted in June 2018 both nationally and locally through news stories published by the Daily Beast and WABE, Georgia public radio. Using high-resolution satellite imagery to identify tree canopy, Mr. Giarrusso estimated that 47.1% of the city was covered by trees in 2014, a seemingly insignificant change from what he found in the 2008 canopy assessment (47.9%). However, after further investigation, Mr. Giarrusso found that while the quantity of tree canopy had not shrunk much between 2008-2014, the quality of tree canopy had diminished significantly. Through a combination of field visits and computer-based review of the satellite imagery, Mr. Giarrusso identified hundreds of acres of land that had been cleared for development prior to 2008 yet remained undeveloped in 2014 and subsequently showed signs of canopy growth, albeit it low quality, fast-growing pines. Unfortunately, these areas of “false” growth comprised the majority of canopy gain between 2008-2014. While identification of canopy gain wasn’t as straight-forward as might be expected, documentation of canopy loss was much simpler, and subsequently more alarming. Mr. Giarrusso determined that the majority of canopy loss in the City of Atlanta was a result of redevelopment of single-family homes, where a small house was almost always replaced with a larger house built-out to the maximum allowable lot coverage. In other words, single-family homes got bigger at the expense of the city’s tree canopy. Using development permit data obtained from the city, Mr. Giarrusso determined that approximately 30-40% of all single-family developments between 2012-2017 were actually redevelopments of single-family lots, most of which were built-out to the maximum lot coverage. And field visits during 2016 and 2017 strongly confirmed that this trend has accelerated substantially since 2014 and does not appear to be stopping any time soon. Please join us on ….to learn how the results of this study and those found in the next assessment (2019) are being used by the City of Atlanta to evaluate policy and its effects on the city’s tree canopy.

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