I’m fascinated with urban greening projects, not just creating municipal parks, but also the concept of groups of people coming together to plant trees and other greenery throughout city streets. One such organization that does an amazing job in my town, San Francisco, is the non-profit Friends of the Urban Forest. There are many such organizations all over the country, some that plant trees anywhere in a city, others that focus on helping disadvantaged neighborhoods by transforming blight into greenery or community gardens.

Aside from the aesthetic value of turning sun-drenched concrete sidewalks into green canopies there are  numerous benefits to the environment. There’s a great deal of research on the subject of urban planting projects and the resulting benefits. Such projects help the environment by decreasing air pollutants, lower municipality expenses by absorbing water runoff, and affect resident’s energy usage by moderating temperatures. An example is a comprehensive research study conducted at the Pacific Southwest Research Station of the US Forest Service.

But aside from the obvious ecological benefits, what’s in it for residents? Turns out that urban greening projects offer one of the most compelling benefits for a homeowner – increased property values.

In his study Geoffrey Donovan of the USDA Forest Service demonstrates how planting trees at the entrance of a home actually adds value to the sale price of properties in Portland, OR.

The average increase in a Portland home sale price due to planting curbside trees is $8,870, or 3% of the property value. In a similar study about going rates for rental units Donovan also calculates the increase in rents at about 6% for units with curbside trees.

While one cannot expect Portland’s numbers to be indicative of other cities, it’s extremely likely that trees increase property prices and rents in any metro area.

By how much may be an open question, but my hypothesis is that cities with historically high property values (such as San Francisco), are likely to see increases in properties with curbside vegetation at potentially higher levels than Portland’s average of $8,870.

So why not take the initiative to add such value to your property? Take advantage of your city’s greening programs or of those of an urban greening non-profit organization, and get your street greener for practically free.


On a side note, check out the CityNature blog for examples of metro areas around the world that have successfully improved neighborhoods with greening initiatives.


Donovan GH, Butry DT. 2010. Trees in the city: valuing street trees in Portland, Oregon. Landscape and Urban Planning 94: 77-83.
Donovan GH, Butry DT. 2011. The effect of urban trees on the rental price of single-family homes in Portland, Oregon. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 10(3): 163-168.