Guest Commentary: Sutter Tree Cutting Begins at Sutter ER – I Am Heartbroken

By Alan Hirsch

Tuesday they cut at least 100 trees at Sutter hospital—50 of which are unrelated to hospital expansion, only related to solar panels.

As photos show, some trees are on the very far edge of the property, 200 yards from any building work.

The scene of this unnecessary destruction is devastating to me.

Yes, it may have been legal as it followed city process, but city staff did not appropriately notice these cuttings in their “process” and they kept it secret— their administrative had approved it for two years, secret from Tree Davis and the Tree Commission.

City staff ignore an explicit EIR tree requirement in certifying the cutting.

Yes, what Sutter did may have been legal, but city staff made it legal—by a truncated process.

Most environmental degradation is done legally.

Just like other social injustice, often done under the color of law.

But the struggle continues…

The community will protest Phase 2—the proposed removal of an additional 63 trees. We beg to differ with the lead city planner who said before the Planning Commission that cutting these trees for solar panels has “nothing to do with the trees.”  Was she being defensive and was afraid to back down, or did she truly believe this? I don’t know.

There are over 750 signatures on petitions gathered on and counting.  (link)

We are raising money for signs and maybe a lawsuit at (link)

The hearing on phase 2 will be Tuesday September 21 council meeting. Mark your calendar. Write council by clicking here.

In the end, sadness:  This conflict was entirely avoidable if there was appropriate public process.

My beloved Davis has been hurt.

They turned what should have been a universal celebration of the expansion of our local hospital into a point of conflict.

Alan Hirsch is Davis’ Part Time 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. Ron Glick

    “We are raising money for signs and maybe a lawsuit”

    Its a little late for a lawsuit unless you can somehow get into court and find a judge willing to grant a temporary restraining order before any remaining cutting occurs. On what basis it would be granted I don’t know.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Well, given that everything is being done by EXISTING laws and rules (not the woulda’, coulda’ shoulda’ ones), and given that “politics” is legal, judges are re-elected, I think I can sniff out the ‘legal’ basis.

      I would question the competency, worthiness for office, of any judge that issues a TRO, given the facts, in this matter.

    2. David Greenwald

      One way to deal with the legal issues – make it moot.

      Of course it now makes Sutter look like a corporate hack rather than a local business partner.

  2. Don Shor

    This is appalling. The whole process needs to be overhauled. The next phase needs to be blocked. The Tree Commission needs oversight on mass removals of this sort.

    Solar panels kill trees.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ahh… ex post facto rules and laws…

      I agree that moving forward, “The whole process needs to be overhauled.”   No disagreement on that… not sure we’d agree what that would entail as to specifics.

      But there is a general principle… have a brother-in-law who would organize games between our kids and his… he set the rules… then when his kids were losing, he suddenly changed the rules… left a bad taste for our kids and me… ex post facto…

      Therefore, I disagree that “next phase needs to be blocked”… ex post facto, as to process.  I am skeptical as to whether the Tree Commission should be given “veto rights” over private property, private planting/removal decisions.

      We have ~25-30 foot redwood tree in our back yard (~ 25 years old)… we had it evaluated by a Certified Arborist, employed by a firm Don S recommended… basically, dead, or terminal.  We have scheduled it for removal, late October.  If the City makes that removal subject to Tree Commission approval between now and then, I will not apply for a permit, and if anyone tries to have a judge issue a TRO, I guarantee, I’ll be in Court, citing ex post facto, and if issued, I’ll sue anyone who brought the TRO to the Courts.  Not a threat, just a ‘dead dog serious’ promise. 

      Sutter should consider doing similarly, even though some of the facts are different. The Sutter trees may not be dying, but they are solely limited as to their ‘thriving’ as to meeting the ostensible ‘goals’ of lot shading.

      1. Don Shor

        Any revision of the process should have a minimum threshold for that removal. X # of trees, and/or trees with provable public benefit; something like that. I don’t envision Tree Commission review of removal of a tree from a private back yard.
        The 2 x 2 subcommittee of NRC and the Tree Commission is where this discussion is intended to begin.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Well Don, can tell you that the Street Tree Commission grilled me and Rob Cain for about an hour about removing 1 street tree, ~15 years ago, to put in a Traffic Signal pole @ Covell/John Jones Rd… Staff report indicated that there was no feasible alternate location (and went to lengths to explain why)… tree should not have been planted there in the first place, as the signal had been anticipated… a 3:1 mitigation was offered in the staff report… in the vicinity… a split decision, after all the facts had been laid out, and an hour of ‘grilling’.  Passed by one vote.

          Saw many instances of where citizens came to them citing driveway upheavals due to improper choice of species/location for “City street trees”, and they were told by the “czars” to ‘suck it up, fix your driveway, but don’t harm the tree’.

          Last year, a City greenbelt tree, a pine, was so grossly malformed, that its trunk was a plausible danger to a neighbor’s house structure… from the time we had the City arborist come out, inspect, and concur that his recommendation was removal (owner and neighbors offered to not only pay for removal, but also offer 2:1 replacement nearby (a few years after the neighborhood worked with the City and Tree Davis to acquire and ‘sweat equity’ plant 10 trees in the vicinity where trees had failed and had been removed by the City).

          It took the  Tree Commission “czars” 5-6 months to approve, on a split vote.

          That’s why I consider that Commission to be a bunch of “druid nazis”…

          The 2 x 2 subcommittee of NRC and the Tree Commission is where this discussion is intended to begin.

          Am highly skeptical of ‘where it will end up’, based on past performance… I seriously doubt the public outreach the sub-committee will do before they make their recommendations to the CC.  And, of course, with reps from two Commissions making a recommendation, the CC would be between a rock and a hard place.

          I don’t envision Tree Commission review of removal of a tree from a private back yard.

          50-50 bet on that? A lunch?  Winner’s choice of where?  I’m in…


        2. Bill Marshall

          You’re correct Ron G… I went way over the top… I apologize to all.  Particularly using the N-word…

          But a number of commissioners, on a number of City commissions, truly love the idea of dictating to others…

          And it isn’t JUST homeowners that my concern lies with.  It is all private property owners, whether residential or commercial retail.

        3. Mark West

          We should disband the tree commission immediately. The City has an arborist who is more than capable of making these decisions for the City. We don’t need a bunch of untrained wannabees butting in.

        4. Ron Glick

          Mark, I don’t know if disbanding is the answer. A change in the ordinance that empowers the commission to allow removal of a healthy tree at the request of the property owner would be an improvement and would save the city council time. Besides, disbanding would violate Parkinson’s law, that government expands to the space allowed. The commission could do good work as community ambassadors for the urban forest.

          I think the big problem is the tool the city uses to monetize the removal of a tree. It includes many extraneous variables that serve more as a deterrent to removal by driving up the cost than as a actual assessment of the replacement value of the tree.

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