Guest Commentary: Official Appeal of the Cutting of 205 Trees at Sutter Hospital As a Violation of Davis Culture and the Law.

By Alan Hirsch

Preface:  this is the first half of the legal appeal to stop the Sutter’s plan to “Save Money on Solar” by cutting more trees.  For more background,  click on  the story the Vanguard broke last week and the Tree Davis letter objecting to Sutter’s plan.

To the Davis City Council:

We concerned members of the Community and/or Sutter Patients, argue the tree removal at Sutter Hospital violates both Davis culture and our local law in many ways.  We ask the city council to reverse the plan to clear cutting of parking lot trees and send this back to the Tree Commission for these reasons:

  1. This project’s design, and the method by which it was “approved” by city staff, violates the Davis culture of public participation, dialogue, fact finding, and transparency. City Council should send it back to the Tree Commission, and we ask that Sutter, as a good citizen, willingly agree to this. We believe Sutter was misinformed about the correct legal and community process to follow.
  2. We ask that the Davis City Council find that trees provide benefit, particularly for health, that solar panels do not. We ask they reject the city staff finding that removal of trees in the parking lots at Sutter “enhances the character.” (staff memo of 7/14/2021)
  3. There are other treeless places on the Sutter campus to put solar panels that would reduce the number of mature trees cut. This should have been considered in the project’s design and the public hearing on 7-14.
  4. Find that Sutter trees are defined as Protected Trees under the city tree protection law. Muni code 37.01.010
  5. Tree Modification Permits from both 2019 and 2021 for removal of total of 205 protected trees are null and void as the Municipal code say a Modification Permit cannot be used for removal of Protected Trees, a removal permit must be used. 37.02.050a and 37.02.070
  6. Tree Commission charter states all tree removals must be reviewed by this Commission with no exception granted. We ask that Council find that the process used for removal at Sutter is a violation of the law on its face. (City Resolution 06-187 series 2006)
  7. The municipal code 37.04.010 states all parking lots must have 50% tree shade after 15 years. Law grants no exception granted for solar panels. Even though the Tree Commission and the Natural Resources Commission are discussing what future exceptions might be allowed, under the existing law only the city council, not planning staff, can approve an exception and a mitigation plan. We ask City Council to affirm the law as it stands until modified, and that the existing Sutter mitigation plan approved by city staff be labeled null and void.
  8. For the mitigation, legally required number of mature trees should be counted, not what remains. Sutter has killed or stunted and then failed to replace Tree required by  Parking lot shade law in advance of their request for a removal permit. For example, in 7-14-21 staff document states there are 20  dead or stunted tree that Sutter will have not or have limited requirement to “mitigate” for cutting. We ask the city council to reject the mitigation plan.
  9. Mitigation of any removed trees, dead, missing or stunted trees should be discussed by the community, not just by Sutter in closed meetings with the city arborist. The mitigation should address the project’s impact on the community. The mitigation plan for the cutting of 142 tree in June of 2019 has not even been released as public document.


You can also sign the petition if you are a Sutter patient or a Davis resident here:   If you want to be part of filing an injunction to stop Sutter from cutting the 142 tree permitted illegally in 2019 until this can be heard, contact Alan Hirsch

Alan Hirsch is a Davis Resident and self-proclaimed as “the Davis Lorax”

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Bill Marshall

    Protected tree means trees protected under this article: landmark trees, trees of significance, city-maintained street trees, city trees and trees identified to become a city tree.

    Fails on all counts.

    1. Bill Marshall

      One hopes all five of them realize that…

      The author is basically also asking (demanding?) that they take ex post facto action as to the previous approval… that is flat out WRONG…

      The derivation of

      The municipal code 37.04.010 states all parking lots must have 50% tree shade after 15 years.

      was based on 1) shading (to avoid ‘heat island effect’), 2) when it was originally adopted, there was no such thing as effective solar panels, and trees were seen as the only way to do that, 3) name one shopping center, 15 years or older, that were subject to that ordinance, that have 50% shading (spoiler alert…. there aren’t any)… the solar panels will achieve much better than 50% shading (main concern, to avoid the heat island effect)… that portion of the ordinance should be repealed/revised to get back to the original impetus… shading of parking lots… we now have two tools… trees and solar panels… each have their place…

      Would be interesting to do a complete life cycle analysis of solar panels vs. trees, as to shading, maintenance and other costs, water use, and overall environmental effectiveness.  I have neither the expertise nor inclination to do so…

      1. Richard_McCann

        The Tree and Natural Resources Commissions have formed the Temporary Joint Subcommittee of the Natural Resources and Tree Commissions on revising the parking lot shade ordinance. Addressing the question of the trade off between tree shade and solar panels is one aspect of the subcommittee’s work (of which I am a member). Next meeting should be August 11 at 5 pm. Here’s where the agendas and meeting materials are posted. ( You are most welcome to attend those. I’ll save my opinions on this matter to those meetings.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Fair response… will plan to…

          Which Commission are you a member of?  Looking @ City website, Natural Resources?

          I’ll save my opinions on this matter to those meetings.

          So, you‘ve already formed your opinion… betting it’s set in stone… not appropriate for a Commission member, particularly when the agenda/reports are not out… no public input except perhaps your “base” behind the scenes… whatever… it is what it is…

          Reminds me of an old sign… “My mind is made up, don’t bother me with facts.”  This will be an orchestrated charade, to be sure…

          1. Don Shor

            So, you‘ve already formed your opinion

            I see no reason to assume that. Richard’s comments, along with those of other commissioners, are a matter of record in the minutes that I posted, as part of the discussion this subcommittee is having. There are policy issues and technical issues the two commissions need to address and this is actually a pretty complicated subject. The members bring different backgrounds and areas of expertise to the topic. Just as a matter of background I’d expect some to know a lot about solar and less about trees, and vice versa. That’s the point of the 2 x 2.
            As a member of that subcommittee I think any commissioner has some constraints on what can be said publicly. The meetings are the place for the opinions to be presented for the public record.

        2. Alan Miller

          So, you‘ve already formedyour opinion… betting it’s set in stone… not appropriate for a Commission member . . .

          Geez, mellow out WM.  Like the opinions of most politicians and commissioners aren’t set in stone?  So maybe he slipped and admitted he has an opinion . . . why don’t you instead criticize the other 90% who just PRETEND to be open minded for political gain or appearance.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Don… thank you for that… will drill down between now and the meeting Richard McC refers to…

      Context is much of ‘everything’… including ‘history’…

      I have no dog in this fight, sorta’… I hate bullies, and mistrust those that would retroactively change rules, and those that want to assert proposed rules apply to proposals rather than to current rules…

      We had a Certified Arborist come by yesterday, and he determined the tree was ‘moribund’… am so glad it should be removed prior to the Tree Commission successfully trying to exert “control” (that’s what it apparently is about, telling others what they have to do), over removal of a backyard tree that we planted 27 years ago… but they may want to assert retroactivity to that, as well… zealots and Druids are suspect… but not as much as those who want to control everyone else…

      And the last phrase includes conservatives/liberal-progressives, hard core members of either parties, as well…

  2. Bill Marshall

    why don’t you instead criticize the other 90% who just PRETEND to be open minded for political gain or appearance.

    I have… repeatedly… sometimes, stridently… other venues…

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