Quarterly Reports

In October 2018, The Tree Next Door issued a "Trees Are Coming Down Now" flier asking for the City Arborist Department to start complying with several sections of the Tree Protection Ordinance for which they have been out of compliance for years. One section required a quarterly report to be produced showing the total number and DBH of trees removed by various categories, including DDH (dead, dying, or hazardous) trees. The City Arborist Division used to produce these quarterly reports but had not produced any reports since the introduction of the Accela reporting system which did not compile the tree data required by Sec. 158-103(f) of the Tree Protection Ordinance. The City claimed that due to staffing issues they did not have the resources to compile the tree records in Accela.

We have been extremely concerned that the City has been engaged in rewriting the tree ordinance since January 2019, presumably to grow our canopy coverage to 50%, with no idea how many trees we are losing in the City, where we are losing them, what kind we are losing and for what reasons they are coming down. We also have had no idea how many trees are being replanted.

In response to a crescendo of requests from the community, starting with The Tree Next Door's flier, the City Arborist Department has finally released a quarterly report* showing the number of trees that were removed in the third quarter of 2019.

This is the first time we have had a quarterly report in over a decade. From 2008 to 2019, the City had no data of tree loss and tree replanting, which means that since 2008 we have had no way to quantitatively understand how our tree canopy is being impacted by development, aging, disease, and other environmental factors. As we have watched City Planning progress further into the tree ordinance rewrite over these past months, it has alarmed us that all the rewrite team's new proposals have not been based on data, but public perception and developer opinion.  Now that they can tabulate the records in Accela for a quarterly report, we hope they will use this data to determine the appropriate solutions to mitigate tree loss in the rewrite of the new tree ordinance.

Furthermore, this data can be used to help create a master plan which is also required by the tree ordinance but has never been written.

*Includes trees on private property only, which are managed by the Arborist Division.  Does not include trees on public property, which are managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

 

FY 2020 - 1st Qtr (2019 - 3rd Qtr) Arborist Division Report Summary

On October 16, 2019 the City released a revision of the 3rd quarter arborist report which substantially increased the number of non-DDH permitted trees and decreased the number of non-permitted trees (illegal) that they reported on October 10. The analysis below has been edited to reflect these changes.

On October 29, 2019, the City released yet another revision of the 3rd quarter arborist report as a response to an ORR.  Two fewer trees cut illegally are reflected on this latest report and the change has been noted below.

2019 3rd Quarter Report Reveals 75% 63% of Lost Trees Not Replaced

The just released third quarter 2019 arborist report* shows that 3,456 4,316 4,314 trees were either issued a permit to be cut or were cut illegally, and of these, 2,459 2,462 (or 71% 57%) were permitted as DDH (dead, dying or hazardous), which means they did not have to be replaced or recompensed. Furthermore, while the report shows that 85% 87% of the permitted non-DDH trees were replaced – a percentage that seems high based on our personal experience – only 25% 37% of the total trees lost (non-DDH + DDH) were replaced.

However, replanted trees averaged only 3.1 inches in diameter, (which some people are already questioning since replaced trees are required to be only 2.5 inches), replacing trees which averaged 16" 16.5" DBH (diameter at breast height). This means that only  17% 6% of the healthy tree DBH was replaced. And it's doubtful that these 3" caliper replacement trees will mature to a size that restores 100% of the healthy canopy given that trees removed for development often are not replaced with the same species of trees, and the soil volume in which newly replanted trees can grow is curtailed by the new development.

Over a Hundred Trees Cut Illegally... and Are 23% Larger

Of the 997 1,854 non-DDH trees removed last quarter, 206 107 105 were removed illegally. If 1 in 5 This means six percent of the non-DDH trees being cut down do not have a permit, which sounds small, but our current tree ordinance is not effectively deterring illegal tree cutting hundreds of trees being cut illegally each year. It may be that more education is needed to help people understand the permitting process, but for many, cutting trees without a permit is simply being used as an option to circumvent the permitting process, and in some cases, an appeal.

Non-DDH trees cut with a permit last quarter were just under 15" a little over 16” DBH whereas trees being cut illegally averaged over 20" DBH, which means trees cut illegally were 30% 23% larger in DBH.

DDH trees were the largest of all, averaging just over 21" DBH, but because DDH trees are more often older trees, it is to be expected that they would be larger.

2020 fy - 1st quarter revised 

Data Source: FY2020 1st Quarter Revised Report Received Via Open Records Request*

 Note: This table does not include 5 trees removed illegally with DBH unknown (i.e. cut down to the stump or grinded)

Implications for the Tree Ordinance Rewrite:

Quarterly Report Requirements

While this report fulfills the quarterly report requirement for trees on private property, it still raises questions that need to be answered in order to fully understand what's happening to our tree canopy. The current quarterly report data is at too high of a level to understand where in the City the permitting activity is concentrated and why certain trees are being permitted as DDH. Also, the report does not address how much recompense is being paid or collected.

Now that we can see what the current report doesn't tell us, we suggest that the new tree ordinance be more thoughtfully written so that future quarterly reports will be able to answer questions the current report doesn't. The quarterly reports need to include enough detail so that the information can drive the tactics to help preserve our tree canopy and measure progress to specific goals.

*Includes trees on private property only, which are managed by the Arborist Division.  Does not include trees on public property, which are managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

 

   

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