City Responds to Grand Jury Report on Tree Program

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Special to the Vanguard

Davis, CA – The Yolo County Grand Jury last week issued a report in response to a complaint about the City of Davis street tree maintenance.

On Wednesday, the city announced that it is in receipt of a Yolo County Grand Jury report entitled “A Forest for the Trees: A Report on a Davis Resource.” The city will review the report and provide a written response to the Yolo County Superior Court within 90 days as required by law.

The report examines the background, approach and findings of the city’s care, administration and maintenance of street trees, education to private property owners regarding city-owned trees on their property and issues within Chapters 15 and 37 of the Davis Municipal Code. The report also reviews the organizational structure and management of the Davis Tree program.

Recommendations from the Yolo County Grand Jury report include bolstering efforts to inform private property owners on how to maintain city-owned street trees on their property, enforcing compliance with Chapter 37 (Trees) and amending language in the Davis Municipal Code, among others.

The Grand Jury did give the Davis City Council a commendation at the end of the report, for its new Urban Forest Management Plan. The commendation reads, “The Davis City Council should be commended for its Urban Forestry Program, and in particular, its innovative new Urban Forest Management Plan. Under its memorandum of understanding with the City, Tree Davis has sponsored educational events, in coordination with City staff, for multiple audiences. These outreach efforts have resulted in the development of an active volunteer program and a valuable volunteer list.”

In March of 2023, the Davis City Council adopted a 40-year Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) that provides a framework of goals and objectives for the City to undertake to protect and preserve its urban forest. This adoption concluded a year-long effort in collaboration with the community and urban forestry stewards to ensure the Plan reflects the community’s values and goals in urban forestry management.

City staff is currently working on prioritizing the UFMP’s next steps by best utilizing current resources. Recognizing that priorities, resources and technology are evolving, the UFMP will be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the most current, science-based best practices and industry standards and address future challenges and opportunities as they arise.

Recommendations from the UFMP include building on existing outreach and engagement with the community and an update of the city’s Tree Ordinance to address concerns around enforcement and tree protection.

“We appreciate the extensive work that the Grand Jury does every year,” said Davis Mayor Will Arnold. “The City Council and City staff will carefully review and consider the findings and provide a response to the report.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the Yolo County Grand Jury Reports page.


SUMMARY OF GRAND JURY REPORT

The 2022-23 Yolo County Grand Jury (Grand Jury) received a complaint about Davis (City) street tree maintenance. This report addresses issues of street tree care connected with Chapters 15 and 37 of the Davis Municipal Code (DMC).

The complaint filed with the Grand Jury asserted that some City street trees planted on private property were in poor condition because property owners were not aware of their duty to water these trees. The City’s failure to enforce this duty might then result in added costs to the city due to having to remove trees that died prematurely. The Grand Jury has found that the City has not developed an effective education program to inform private property owners of this duty. Further, the City has failed to provide any incentive to the property owners to incur the expense of watering the City-owned trees.

The Grand Jury researched the 2018 Measure H, (1) which renewed a park maintenance parcel tax to support City-owned trees and parks for an additional 20 years. The Grand Jury found that, contrary to voter intent, the Davis City Council deleted “street trees” from the categories approved to receive the benefits of this parcel tax. Instead, the City inserted “street lighting” when adopting Ordinance 2521, (2) implementing Measure H.

Finally, the Grand Jury found that the organizational structure of the Davis tree program is fragmented, and it is not clear who is responsible for management and oversight of the street trees.  The City needs to correct or clarify DMC Chapter 37 (3) to accurately specify which City officers, commissions or committees have responsibility to direct each element of the new Davis Urban Forest Management Plan. (4)

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2 thoughts on “City Responds to Grand Jury Report on Tree Program”

  1. Ron Oertel

    I don’t think I understood all of the potential scope of grand jury investigations.  Regardless, this paragraph stood out for me:

    The complaint filed with the Grand Jury asserted that some City street trees planted on private property were in poor condition because property owners were not aware of their duty to water these trees. The City’s failure to enforce this duty might then result in added costs to the city due to having to remove trees that died prematurely. The Grand Jury has found that the City has not developed an effective education program to inform private property owners of this duty. Further, the City has failed to provide any incentive to the property owners to incur the expense of watering the City-owned trees.

    Seems kind of sad that the city went through the trouble and expense only to have property owners either “not appreciate” the trees, or to “not realize” that trees may need water.

    Then again, maybe the city should ask property owners if they’re interested, as a first step.

    Seems to me that “buy-in” needs to occur first – BEFORE raising concerns about the outcome. (Unless, of course, it’s a “requirement”.

    Either that, or plant trees which would grow “without” intervention in the form of expensive, artificially-supplied water. Of which there aren’t many – other than perhaps valley oaks.

  2. Ferguson MItchell

    A city tree fell and crushed my car on New Years. It was riddled with mistletoe and had been reported by the property owner a number of times, the city refused to do anything about it, and then refused to compensate us for the damage (thankfully we had comprehensive insurance). There’s another tree just like it on the property, also covered in mistletoe, and the city is still refusing to chop it down.

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