By Pavan Potti
DAVIS – During Wednesday evening’s Recreation and Park Commission meeting, Urban Forest Manager Rob Cain provided an update on the City of Davis Tree Ordinance development and shared changes and what the next steps may look like regarding community outreach.
The Tree Ordinance in Davis, adapted from Chapter 37 of the Municipal code, serves as the city’s acknowledgment of the importance of trees to the community. The Tree Ordinance is intended to protect the community forest so that the benefits from trees remain and extend towards the city in the long term.
Cain started off his presentation by explaining the development process of the Tree Ordinance that included reviewing existing city documents in cities such as Folsom, Citrus Heights, Sacramento and Placer County.
Cain claimed that many of the recent proposal revisions to the Tree Ordinance were rooted in the fact that getting information online was not user-friendly. To solve this, tree categories were reduced to three sections for clarity: landmark trees, city trees and private trees. Sections of the Ordinance were organized consistently making it easier to find important information from the municipal code, and separate sections for the permit/request application process were created.
Cain continued his presentation by describing some of the administrative provisions of the Tree Ordinance which included adding an applicability section that specifies how “any type of trees on a single-family or duplex parcel that has been preserved as a condition of approval or as part of or a project description of a planned development zone is subject to the regulations relating to trees of significance.”
An ‘expanded definitions’ section that adds three impact types for any tree (minor, moderate, and significant respectively), replaces the community services director position with the Tree Commission and Urban Forest Manager and moves all permit-related language from combined sections to separate sections.
For private trees, Cain claimed that these trees replaced previous trees of significance. Small and large tree lists were also removed. Additionally, any trees that die on developed property are required to be replaced within six months.
More importantly, the proposed revisions to the Tree Ordinance require that a permit/request be submitted with the planning application when protected trees are within 15 feet of a project site.
In terms of trees in parking lots, there are two new requirements for minimum rooting volume based on mature tree sites per parking lot shade guidelines. These include the requirement for a five-year tree maintenance plan and the requirement to replace dead parking lot trees within six months.
Urban foresters are also required to be notified of increased impacts to protected trees within seven days, in efforts to protect trees during construction periods. The criteria for protected trees can include but is not restricted to the tree being an outstanding specimen of desirable species, the tree is one of the largest or oldest trees in Davis or the tree is of historical importance to the city.
Tree mitigation was also a central segment of Cain’s presentation. He stated that mitigation is always required for significant impacts and removal and may be required for moderate impacts as well. A new table defining mitigation credit for various plant sizes has been added, along with an in-lieu fee of $189 per truck inch.
Violation of Chapter 37 of the Municipal Code as public nuisance comes with consequences. Public nuisances according to the code include trees growing in private property but are overhanging on streets and obstructing its use; planting that interferes with street development; vines or ivy that grow over any street trees, public hydrant, pole, or electrolier or having a plant that impedes sidewalks, bike paths or traffic lanes.
Some of the current progressive administrative enforcement options for any violations include written warnings, fines and stop work orders. Violators will be reported to license or certification organizations.
Cain also highlighted some of the next steps for the Tree Ordinance. He mentioned the implementations of public health complaints through in-person meetings, outreach events and/or virtual meetings. More specifically a public outreach at the Farmer’s Market on May 22, 2021, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. There is also the plan to have the draft ordinance reviewed before being sent to city staff for a final review.