Sacramento Tree Ordinance Update

Summary of Law and Legislation Committee Recommendation on Tree Ordinance Revise

May 10, 2016

City of Sacramento Law and Legislation Committee recommended approval (3-0) of the proposed Tree Ordinance with following changes:

1. Posting of tree removal shall be 15 calendar days (Harris)

2. Expanding the definition of public nuisance to more specifically refer to Dutch elm disease and another specific tree disease (Guerra).

In addition, staff presented three amendments and announced an immediate launching of a new process to replace the 1994 Urban Forest Management Plan creation process (to replace the 1994 plan) which would begin August 2016. Councilmember Guerra asked staff to report back before the Council hearing with on a plan to communicate with neighborhood associations about tree removal. Harris asked staff and to commit to reporting back to Council on implementation of the ordinance after one year (Harris).

Councilmember Harris who has been Council lead on this effort, stated that competing interests are involved and he had worked diligently with staff to seek suitable compromise on issues presented by the all stakeholders, including the public. He believes all public comment has been thoroughly considered. Harris stated that the revised ordinance protects thousands more trees, has tree replacement requirements, a replacement fund and security to back up replacement requirements, prohibits topping and protects root zones of protected trees. He noted that it is not going to get any better. Larger goals such as the Climate Action Plan and canopy can be addressed in the Urban Forest Management Plan update.

Without our efforts, these key improvements noted by Councilmember Harris would not have occurred. We can take pride that the ordinance is now “squared up” with the General Plan policies and common sense CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) requirements such as guarantees that mitigation for tree removal is actually delivered. Sadly perhaps, it took a full scale community effort to get these corrections made.

We do have concerns that the recommended language makes it easier for staff to remove protected trees because broad authority is given to the Director of Public Works, criteria to be used are subjective, and existing language prohibiting harmful actions is not included in the recommended ordinance. Specifically, there is nothing in the ordinance which would require Urban Forestry to deny removal of a structurally-sound, protected tree. And we are seeing a lot of this. Last week it was 30 protected trees on R Street and several on West El Camino approved to be removed for public improvement projects.

We will keep you advised of the upcoming Council hearing on this issue.

For more information, please visit www.ecosacramento.net/trees4sacramento.

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Speak at the Tree Ordinance Hearing – May 10, 2016

Join Trees4Sacramento to speak up for the trees at the law and legislation committee’s hearing on the proposed revisions to the Sacramento City Tree Ordinance. See the redline of the changes by clicking here.

When: Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 at 3:00pm (NOTE: Date has been changed twice now from the originally announced April 12 date)

What: Law and Legislation Committee Hearing on city tree ordinance revisions

Where: Sacramento City Hall Council Chamber – 915 I Street, 1st Floor

Why: To save the tree canopy in Sacramento!

Who: You and other concerned citizens

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Feb 11 Update from Trees Sacramento

February 11, 2016

Dear Tree Advocates

Trees Sacramento continues to promote a strong tree ordinance with City Staff and Council members. Our letter was signed by six regional environmental organizations, supported by 10 neighborhood associations, and an additional 11 individual community leaders.  Staff has indicated that they hoped to take another version of the tree ordinance to the Law and Legislation Committee in March and to City Council in April 2016.  This version may include some of our recommendations but not others.

In a recent meeting with Council Member Jeff Harris, we were encouraged that some of our recommendations are being considered and some may be incorporated into the next revision of the Staff’s proposed ordinance.  There appears to be support at the City that  trees on city-owned properties would be treated equally with the same protections as city street trees.  Staff is reexamining the issue of requiring replacement and mitigation in the ordinance for removal of protected trees (rather than leaving this to the discretion of the director).

However, staff is still opposed to other important recommendations such as a notification of tree removals, requiring trees in all development projects, and making tree removal factors (criteria) objective and quantifiable.

Upper Land Park Neighbors, Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association,  Trees4Sacramento and ECOS also attended the Parks and Recreation Commission hearing when staff presented the tree ordinance changes they seek.  Most commissioners were strongly in favor of better notification of tree removals to community.  In addition, some members indicated they did not want to hear tree appeals because they lack expertise to make informed decisions.

We are making progress,  but we will have to wait and review the new draft ordinance and prepare a response when it is available.  

In particular we want to ensure that the ordinance revises support and are consistent with our General Plan policies and Climate Action Plan.  Our General Plan policies in question are underlined below:

ER 3.1.2 Manage and Enhance the City’s Tree Canopy

The City shall continue to plant new trees, ensure new developments have sufficient right-of-way width for tree plantings, manage and care for all publicly owned trees, and work to retain healthy trees. The City shall monitor, evaluate and report, by community plan area and citywide, on the entire tree canopy in order to maintain and enhance trees throughout the City and to identify opportunities for new plantings. (RDR/MPSP/SO)

ER 3.1.3 Trees of Significance

The City shall require the retention of City trees and Heritage Trees by promoting stewardship of such trees and ensuring that the design of development projects provides for the retention of these trees wherever possible. Where tree removal cannot be avoided, the City shall require tree replacement or appropriate remediation. (RDR/MPSP)

ER 3.1.4 Visibility of Commercial Corridors

The City shall balance the tree canopy of the urban forest with the need for visibility along commercial corridors, including the selection of tree species with elevated canopies. (RDR)

ER 3.1.6 Urban Heat Island Effects.

The City shall continue to promote planting shade trees with substantial canopies, and require, where feasible, site design that uses trees to shade rooftops, parking facilities, streets, and other facilities to minimize heat island effects. (RDR/PI)

ER 3.1.9 Funding

The City shall provide adequate funding to manage and maintain the city’s urban forest on City property, including tree planting, training, maintenance, removal, and replacement. (SO/FB)

 THANK YOU  for all your help in getting the improvements to the current staff ordinance.  BE AWARE — we will need your help for the upcoming two meetings  – to  get people to send support letters and attend these important meetings.

Trees Sacramento

trees4sacto [at] sbcglobal [dot] net

Please visit our Trees Sacramento page for more information about this issue.

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