Paso Fino Goes to Council With New Plan

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Latest proposal keeps the greenbelts, keeps eight units, and keeps the canary pines on public land - will the neighbors and council be able to support it?
Latest proposal keeps the greenbelts, keeps eight units, and keeps the Canary pines on public land – will the neighbors and council be able to support it?

The developers for Paso Fino are back with a new proposal that will go before council a week from Tuesday. The new plan seeks to leave in place eight units while preserving the greenbelt and keeping the Canary Island pine trees on public land.

This represented a key sticking point for the previous Plan C-2, which caused neighbors and the planning commission discomfort because that plan protected the trees but put them into private hands.

As a result, the commission in October voted 3-2 to ask the developers to consider Plan D which would allow for six homes, despite developer Jason Taormino’s statement that the plan did not work and would not allow the developer to build on three of the lots.

Plan D would preserve the greenbelt, reduce the number of lots from eight to six, and preserve all nine Canary pine trees in public ownership.

Will the compromise be enough to satisfy neighbors, some of whom have argued that eight units is too dense, and ultimately the city council?

Jason Taormino told the planning commission, as he told the Vanguard, that Plan D was unworkable. He told the planning commission, “What we see is you can’t build on three lots and one lot would have a house with no yard. It doesn’t work.”

Greg McPherson, a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service, addressed the issue of the Canary Island pines which, he argued, “do warrant being a heritage grove because of their stature, because of their age, and because of their health.”

“I have some concerns with C-2 which has those trees inside the property in the backyards,” he explained. He called it a “lose-lose” proposition in the long run. “I can imagine moving into those homes and waking up in the morning and seeing those pines and thinking I’m living in Lake Tahoe and not in Davis, because they’re so beautiful. But I think that someone, after having lived with those pines for awhile, their opinion may change.”

He argued, “Pines and people that close together don’t really mix well.” Both he and the next speaker expressed concerns that the mess from dripping sap would ultimately lead to people wanting to remove the trees.

The new plan seeks to address those concerns, shrinking the size of Lot 8 to allow the pines to be on the other side of the property line.

Commissioner George Hague in October said he was sensitive to the concerns of the community about the buffer zone, as well as the nine pine trees. He said, “I learned something about the difficulty in doing business in Davis. But at the end of a very long discussion… the bottom line is that the residents wanted the buffer zone protected. It is protected. They wanted the trees preserved, they are preserved.”

He said eight homes plus a bunch of ADUs “might fit on the lot, but I don’t think that the lifestyle they generate would have been supported by the limitations of the lot.” He said, “I believe the developer has addressed those concerns. There are no more ADUs.”

However, for Cheryl Essex, another member of the planning commission, the development “is supported in this area as long as the public good is retained. We’ve heard that over and over again.” About the public good in this instance, “the citizens are willing to give up some of the greenbelt in order to bring those majestic Canary Island Pine Trees into public ownership. That’s what we’ve been told.”

Marilee Hanson flat out stated that she cannot support plan C-2, that the Canary pines need to be on public land. She said, “I can’t support (C-2)… the public has been speaking for years that, in order for those Canary pines to truly be saved, they need to be on public land.”

She made the motion, that would be adopted on a 3-2 vote, to support something like Plan D.  Chair Rob Hofmann joined Merilee Hanson and Cheryl Essex, with George Hague and David Inns in dissent.

At that time Dave Taormino, one of the developers, said he was willing to compromise. He said, “What I’ve heard tonight, it sounds like overwhelmingly, is that you want the trees, or as many of the trees as possible, into public ownership. If that’s the direction you want to go, give me that instruction.”

He said they could go back to the drawing board and, prior to going to the city council, “we’ll come up with as much as possible with the trees on public land. I think I can do that for six trees and maintain the eight dwelling units with the eighth one being a senior cottage. I can live with that.”

“I never said the plan that keeps the most trees as possible in the public ownership,” Merilee Hanson stated. “I said something like alternative D which keeps the Canary Pines in public ownership is preferable.”

The question now is whether the latest proposal, which keeps all trees on public land with eight lots, will suffice.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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33 thoughts on “Paso Fino Goes to Council With New Plan”

  1. SODA

    A little confused: does current proposal have a designation?  It is neither D nor C-2?

    What is new about it?  Do the neighbors agree?  I have gotten emails which appear to indicate no but not a reason….thx

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      It is being called D2-Revised.

      As I see it, it keeps the eight units, reduces the size of the 8th unit to keep all the pines on public land, whereas C-2 put them on people’s property and the fear was they could them remove them at their discretion.

      I will be following up with the neighbors, but I know there is some opposition to keeping it at 8 units rather than 6 as proposed by Plan D.

      1. sisterhood

        When my family rented a home on Cowell, years ago, the homeowner removed a gorgeous tree from our backyard. That tree was gigantic. It must have been very old. The only reason the owner removed it was because he had to pay a pruner to prune back the branches that grew too close to our fireplace. It was a very sad day when that tree went down.

  2. Don Shor

    January 23 2015

    To the Davis City Council

    Re: Paso Fino development

    Dear Council Members,

    This letter is regarding the proposal for Paso Fino and the protection measures necessary for the Canary Island pines on the site. It was originally written as background for a meeting of Brett Lee and Rochelle Swanson with the homeowners and interested parties on January 6.

    My understanding from the proceedings of the Planning Commission was that the pines are to be protected on public land. I have been asked if the current design layout, which has eight houses on the site, gives adequate protection to the trees.

    My opinion is that the current layout has the homes too close to the trees and provides inadequate protection for their long-term health.

    Protection guidelines

    When development occurs around mature trees, specific measures are taken to protect the trees during construction. For the long term, design elements are considered for their impact on soil drainage, changes in irrigation, changes in grade, soil compaction, and issues caused by proximity to yards and houses and activities. A certain area needs to be protected, measured with respect to the tree’s drip line.

    Jargon and principles

    Arborist reports make reference to the “drip line” of the trees. The drip line is literally that: the canopy of the tree, measured in diameter. The term refers to the area where water would drip from the leaves or needles.  An area called the “critical root radius” must be protected during construction. This calculated area, called the “protected root zone,” extends past the dripline and should be left as unchanged as possible. For mature trees in a new development, it is best to leave that zone undeveloped.

    We never know exactly where a tree’s roots are, but we do know that generally they grow out well past the drip line into nearby soil. When you cover the soil where the roots are with concrete, or compact it, or heap soil on it, or take soil away, you can harm the roots. You render them less able to take up water, you kill the roots by cutting through them, and in some instances you make the trees unsafe by removing important anchoring roots.

    From the plans, it appears that the protected root zone of some trees would be in private property, and that branches of the trees would actually hang over into back yards.

    Rule of thumb and Paso Fino specifics

    A rule that arborists use is to protect a radius of soil 1.5 times the inches in diameter of the trunk. Thus a tree with a ten-inch trunk diameter should have a protected root zone of 15 feet out, or 30 feet diameter.

    Using the detailed Tree Evaluation by Tree Associates (May 28 Planning Commission report), we have the trunk sizes of the Canary Island pines. Pulling the data for 8 of them, the area to be protected should be an average of 59% greater than the drip lines of the trees. Each tree needs an average of a 40-foot diameter protected area.

    That open area should be relatively undisturbed. Minor changes in grade are acceptable, compaction during construction can be mitigated per the arborist’s recommendations, but any significant change to the grade, slope, flow of water, or irrigation scheduling should be avoided as these can lead to increased disease susceptibility. Damaging the roots shortens the life of the tree and makes it potentially dangerous.

    Bottom line: it does not appear to me that the current layout provides a sufficient protected root zone for the trees.

    Grading issues

    It is crucial that the grading plan accommodate the pines. This is something for staff to review and which needs to be written into the development agreement. There is significant acreage that is going to be covered with concrete, causing runoff where water once soaked in. When water runs off it often puddles and collects in low areas. Standing water around established trees can be very harmful. Changing the grade and the flow of water toward the trees should be avoided as a high priority.

    One might think that increased irrigation would be beneficial, but this species is adapted to summer-dry rainfall patterns and needs careful summer irrigation. Changing the watering around mature trees is a common cause of crown rot and mortality. The irrigation guidelines recommended by the consulting arborist need to be followed to keep the trees healthy. Inadvertantly increasing the supply of water can cause disease infection.

    The problem: drainage issues after development

    If the new yards are too close to the trees, there is increased likelihood that changes to the individual landscapes may cause water to drain toward the trees. When people put in paths, sheds, accessory dwelling units, play structures, they increase the flow of water off their site. That has to go somewhere. This is another issue that needs to be addressed by staff in the development plans, but there is nothing that can be done after the fact once the houses are occupied. Drainage needs to be provided down the site behind the houses. And the more of a buffer that is provided between the new yards and the trees, the less risk they face.

    Neighbor/nuisance concerns

    One of the great threats to trees is the reaction of neighbors to the nuisance that they can create. Litigation about trees overhanging fences, about roots underlying patios, and other perceived nuisances is common. People often take unwise action against trees that bother them. Pines simply should not be pruned, for the most part, and certainly not by amateurs.

    If the branches of these pines hang into back yards, now or as they grow older, the needle and cone drop, pitch and sap drip, and the shade patterns will likely lead to conflicts. Protecting the area at least 50% greater than the drip line will give room for the current tree canopies and future growth, and will help buffer the trees and the neighbors from these issues.

    It was clear to me watching the Planning Commission meeting, that protection of all of these Canary Island pines was a goal of the commissioners. It is a desirable species, well adapted to our area. Careful implementation of this infill development should enable them to live for decades and provide value to the community as well as the development itself.

    I am happy to discuss this further if you have any questions.

    Take care,

    Don Shor

    Redwood Barn Nursery

  3. sisterhood

    “My opinion is that the current layout has the homes too close to the trees and provides inadequate protection for their long-term health.”

    Don, I’m glad to read that Davis has someone like you to watch out for its trees.  Thank you.

  4. South of Davis

    Don wrote:

    > Each tree needs an average of a 40-foot diameter protected area.

    With the typical Davis home lot in the 5,000 to 6,000 sf range do even 10% of the backyard trees have a 40-foot diameter area that is not covered with a house, pool or cement patio?

    Thinking of front yards in town I can’t think of ANY (even in El Macero with the huge lots) trees where there is a 40-foot area around the tree that is not covered by the house, a driveway or the street.

    Am I missing something or are you asking the Paseo Fino developers to leave more room around there trees than (almost) everyone else in town (and even some people with big lots outside of town)?

    1. Don Shor

      When you are building around existing mature trees, there are standards that are applied to protect those trees. If you built a subdivision around established trees, you would protect those trees in the manner I have described. If you build a subdivision and then plant trees, the roots will grow into the soil area that is available. What I am describing is what is needed to keep the Canary Island pines on the site healthy.

      One of the fastest ways to kill a mature tree on a developed site is to build over the roots, change the grade, or change the watering around the tree.
      I suggest that your observations are also incorrect. But that isn’t the point here.

      1. Don Shor

        Let me put this another way. If you are thinking of doing an addition to your house, and you have a healthy tree of value in your back yard, I strongly urge you to hire a consulting arborist to assess how close you can safely build to that tree without putting it at risk. They have established industry guidelines for that, based on the size and age of the tree.

        You also will want the arborist to develop guidelines for protecting the tree during construction, and get follow-up care instructions.

        Failing to protect the existing roots of established trees puts them at risk. Developing around established trees requires planning and careful siting of new buildings. I don’t believe the long-term health of the trees has been adequately addressed in the current plan before the council.

        When construction is done around mature city trees, it is common for the builder to be required to post a bond for the value of the tree (which is many thousands of dollars) because of the potential harm to the tree.

        1. Mark West

          How much will we be paying the land owner to buy these trees, or do you all expect them to be given to the City for free?  These are not City trees as of yet, they are trees that happen to be on private land within the City.  If we are going to follow Don’s advice and require a larger buffer around these trees, then we will be taking significant value from the owner by requiring that land to remain undeveloped.

          Don, are you proposing we take that extra land from the owner without compensation?

          1. Don Shor

            I am proposing that the builder follow the recommendations of the planning commission that the trees be protected and that the standards for how to protect trees be followed here. Not much point in building the current configuration with the trees that close to the new units if it means the trees will be harmed.
            I don’t know if the builder can reconfigure the site to get 8 units on it and still protect the trees. It seems that 6 units was the way to do that.

            The actual process would be to determine the protected root zone needed for each tree. It is based on the diameter of the trunk. Looking at the plan that was provided, four of the trees would be at greatest risk.

            Mark, protecting the trees at all “takes significant value from the owner.” But if they have been told to protect the trees, they need to do it right.

        2. Mark West

          “Not much point in building the current configuration with the trees that close to the new units if it means the trees will be harmed.”

          In your opinion from the diagram above, how many of the trees will be impacted by building within the boundary that you propose?  All of them, or only a few?  If it is only a couple, what is the incremental value to you for saving all of the trees vs saving most and putting a couple in possible danger (only possible since no one is suggesting cutting them down).

          How much revenue will the City lose in taxes and fees on an annual basis if the developer only puts 6 houses on the site rather than 8?  Is giving up that potential revenue, and the services the revenues pay for, of greater or lesser value than the trees?  If the developer decides that building six units makes the project uneconomic, should we be willing to forgo the taxes and fees from the entire project in exchange for the trees and bare ground?  What happens to the six to eight families who might be able to live in Davis if this project moves forward?  Is saving all of the trees more important that those families?

          I put these questions out there so that we can think about the priorities.  Saving all of the trees is a laudable goal, but is it really the highest priority use of our tax dollars (or potential tax dollars) and in the best interests of all the citizens? Would we not get much the same benefit from saving all but two of the trees, or saving all of the trees but putting two at potential risk?

          1. Don Shor

            It looks as though 4 – 5 of the 9 trees would be in greatest danger, from a quick review of the plan I have.

            A tree that is dying becomes an expensive liability, particularly if it then falls over. To use your ‘what-if’ process, what if the tree falls over and crushes a little kid? Think of the children, Mark!

            The developer bought the site with a prior plan on the table for six units, if I recall. He has no reason to expect an increase in the number of units allowed. He has every right to try to make the project more profitable, of course, but there are other factors that come in to play. Like satisfying the neighbors, and protecting trees on site.

            A large number of trees are going to be removed for this project, by the way. Just not the pines.

            You are re-arguing the decision to save the trees. I am stating what is best for the trees if the goal is to save them. The current proposal doesn’t protect them.

        3. Mark West

          So to you the trees are the only important thing?

          I am not arguing the decision, I am asking if the decision makes sense in terms of our priorities, including to the point of taking the project off the table entirely.  The developer bought the land, not the previous project. It is up to him (not you or me) to decide if the project makes economic sense for his business.  I personally don’t see any incremental increase in value of saving all of the trees versus potentially putting a few at risk.

          Now to your inane ‘what about the children’ comment.  If one of the trees starts to die, it should be taken out.  That would be unfortunate, but the trees will die eventually. In fact, I have it on good authority that trees die with or without our intervention. Just one of those facts of life.

          By the way, the City tree (Hackberry)  in front of my neighbor’s house split down the middle, with one half of the tree completely dead and the other threatening to fall on to the circle where my children play.  The City’s tree commission decided that the tree was fine and did not need to be removed.  So much for the safety of the children…

          1. Don Shor

            So to you the trees are the only important thing?

            No, Mark.

            Now to your inane ‘what about the children’ comment. If one of the trees starts to die, it should be taken out. That would be unfortunate, but the trees will die eventually. In fact, I have it on good authority that trees die with or without our intervention. Just one of those facts of life.

            News flash. Trees fall over. Sometimes they have rots and root decays that are not detected. So my comment about a tree becoming a liability is not inane. And things that are done around the trees, things that impact their roots, things that change the moisture around the trunk, things like that? They cause rot. Rot is not always detectable. Trees fall down and break things, sometimes they even kill people. Sometimes that results in considerable liability to the tree’s owner. It is a fact. Ask any tree service.

            I personally don’t see any incremental increase in value of saving all of the trees versus potentially putting a few at risk.


            Splendid. Be sure to make your views known to the city council, then.

        4. Mark West

          “Trees fall down and break things, sometimes they even kill people. Sometimes that results in considerable liability to the tree’s owner. It is a fact. Ask any tree service.”

          Agreed, but you are the one advocating that the City take on that risk by claiming ownership of the trees…and by the way, these trees will fall over one day with or without the development of the property (perhaps tomorrow, perhaps a 100 years from now) so your comment was inane.

          1. Don Shor

            Management of the property affects how and when trees die. So my comment was not inane. My post and letter were about proper management of the trees to keep them healthy.
            I really don’t know why you insist on being insulting.

        5. Mark West

          “I really don’t know why you insist on being insulting.”

          You have chosen to be insulted by my comments, that is your problem, not mine.  I have only questioned the premise that saving all of these trees is a priority to the City, when in my mind, paying our bills should take precedence.

          Your comment regarding ‘the children’ added no value to the conversation and was clearly made to be provocative.  It was unnecessary and therefore inane.  Trees die and fall over and in the process, other creatures sometimes die as well, which is not exactly earth shattering news. Death by tree fall would of course be tragic, but the frequency of such an event is so low as to be practically non-existent. When was the last time (first time?) that someone died due to a City of Davis owned tree falling over?

          The salient question however is, are these trees of such value that saving all of them is the highest priority facing the City today? I think not, but you apparently view the situation differently.

          No surprise.

           

          1. Don Shor

            You have chosen to be insulted by my comments, that is your problem, not mine.

            No, Mark. When you describe someone’s comments as ‘inane’ you are being insulting. Intentionally.

            It is clear that you are unfamiliar with arboriculture, tree safety, and any of the professional standards associated with management of trees.

            I do not believe that “saving all of them is the highest priority facing the City today.” I never said that I believe that. I never even assigned a priority to this issue. I was asked my opinion about the protection being provided to the trees in the current iteration of Paso Fino, and I gave that. I provided my reasonably informed opinion on the subject. My opinion is that the project, as proposed, would threaten the health, longevity, value, and safety of several of the trees.

            Limb drop and trees falling cause injury, property damage, and sometimes deaths. How the trees are managed can be a factor in the likelihood of such events. Harming the roots, changing the grade, changing the irrigation, can all cause trees to become more dangerous. Near-neighbor nuisance issues can lead to improper pruning, which can also make trees more vulnerable to disease and can make them more dangerous.

            If one of the trees starts to die, it should be taken out. That would be unfortunate, but the trees will die eventually. In fact, I have it on good authority that trees die with or without our intervention. Just one of those facts of life.

            One of the factors that is used to assess the value of a tree is its likely longevity. Not all trees are equally long-lived. Canary Island pines are high value trees. The arborist’s report bears that out.

        6. sisterhood

          “… I am asking if the decision makes sense in terms of our priorities, including to the point of taking the project off the table entirely.”

          What are your top few priorities?

        7. Mark West

          Don Shor:

          “To use your ‘what-if’ process, what if the tree falls over and crushes a little kid? Think of the children, Mark!”

          “No, Mark. When you describe someone’s comments as ‘inane’ you are being insulting. Intentionally.”

          Your comment above is the one that is insulting in it’s absolute inanity.  It offers nothing to the conversation as in intentionally provocative, and stupid.  I intentionally insulted your comment, but did not say a word about you.  You chose to take on the insult to yourself, your problem, not mine.

          “I was asked my opinion about the protection being provided to the trees in the current iteration of Paso Fino, and I gave that. I provided my reasonably informed opinion on the subject.”

          You wrote a letter to the City Council, which you chose to publish here, calling on the Council to reject the current plan because it does not properly protect all of the trees.  I read your letter to be one of advocacy against the project and asked you about your priorities.  Your response was, shall we say, less than civil.

           

          I completely understand, and agree, that if the goal is to protect all of the trees, then the current project does not do that, for you see Don, I do understand a good deal about “arboriculture, tree safety, and any of the professional standards associated with management of trees.”  I also accept you as an expert in that particular field and accept your analysis without complaint.  I was not challenging your analysis.  I was questioning your priorities – and those of the City. The fact that you chose to respond to my questions with your churlish comments is nothing but what I have grown to expect.  

          Now I ask you again, do you believe that saving all of these trees is the highest priority, or should we be looking for a compromise that maximizes revenues to the City, while protecting as many of the trees as is practicable?  Every species of tree responds differently to challenges of the sort that these might face if the project moves forward as proposed.  Is this species of tree one that is particularly sensitive to disruption, or is it one that handles moderate disruption reasonably well?

          1. Don Shor

            I read your letter to be one of advocacy against the project

            I am advocating against the current design, not the project. The developers have put forth a variety of iterations of this development proposal. This one, like previous ones, does not protect the trees. It is very likely they could come forth with a proposal for development that would protect the trees. City staff made a suggestion that was discussed at the planning commission meeting that would have done that. It had six units.
            It is quite possible there are other layouts that would enable them to get more units on the site while still preserving the trees. Since those would likely involve tradeoffs of lot size, traffic flow, and possible concerns to neighbors, I don’t know how plausible they are.

            Every species of tree responds differently to challenges of the sort that these might face if the project moves forward as proposed. Is this species of tree one that is particularly sensitive to disruption, or is it one that handles moderate disruption reasonably well?

            Based on the age, species, and previous irrigation history of the trees, I do not think these trees in this situation would handle the disruption (which I consider more than ‘moderate’ in the case of some of them) well.

            do you believe that saving all of these trees is the highest priority, or should we be looking for a compromise that maximizes revenues to the City, while protecting as many of the trees as is practicable?

            It is practical to save all of the trees. Increasing the zoning from 2 units to 6 was a compromise. In the impact on city finances, this project is trivial. So in this situation, with these trees, I would prioritize saving them. Every situation is different: with the Cannery, a number of compromises had to be made about protecting, preserving, or removing trees.

            On this site, the value of the Canary Island pines (and the other trees, most of which will be removed) is described and quantified in the arborist’s report, which you can download from the city web site. You can certainly add up the fees and taxes the extra two units would provide, and give us a spreadsheet detailing the balance of this tradeoff.

    2. Matt Williams

      SoD, the front yard setback requirements in El Macero are 30 feet, and while some the setbacks of some houses exceed that requirement, most align with your statement. Back yard setbacks are 25 feet, and I would suspect that most back yard trees in El Macero in lots that do not have a pool do have a 40-foot diameter protected area. Most of the lots with pools probably don’t consistently have a 40-foot diameter protected area.

      With that said, there is a significant flaw in your logic that needs to be addressed. Virtually every yard tree in El Macero was planted after the house/driveway/patio/pool construction was completed. As a result each tree’s roots have adapted their growth pattern to deal with the effect of the physical barriers/structures/surfaces of their environment. The Canary Pines at Paso Fino have not been forced to make such adaptations, and therefore their roots close to the surface in each of their respective 40-foot diameter root areas are much, much more vulnerable than the roots of a tree that grew up after the physical barriers/structures/surfaces of their environment were constructed.

      That horticultural reality presents a different set of planning parameters for the Paso Fino developers. If they are going to keep the lot lines where they are, then they are going to have to come up with a way to protect the vulnerable root systems of the already established trees.

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