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.