Back in October, 2018, City Council Member David Ryu introduced three motions aimed at protecting the city’s tree canopy. The motions would, in Ryu’s words, “reform our tree policies from top to bottom” and included “changes to our protected tree ordinance, changes to our tree replacement program, and increased staffing at the Bureau of Street Services to provide more expertise and experience in urban canopy management and planning.”
On Wednesday, February 6, two of the motions (Council File 18-0988, which would “establish a Director of Community Forestry position within the Urban Forestry Division of the Bureau of Street Services;” and Council File 15-0467-S8, which would “restore the Urban Forestry Division’s staffing levels to pre-2008 levels, create a citywide street tree inventory and urban management plan, address the city’s tree maintenance and replacement policy, and analyze new sidewalk designs that consider the need to preserve the City’s street trees”) were supported by the City Council’s Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, and will now move forward to the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee for review.
“Today, the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee moved forward on two motions that aim to reform our tree replacement policy, bring increased experience and long-range vision to our City’s Urban Forestry Division, and find new ways to protect our urban canopy while at the same time fixing our broken sidewalks,” Ryu said in a public statement last week. “Trees not only add beauty to our neighborhoods, they provide a home for our local wildlife and are the best tool we have to clean our air and cool our City. I’m proud to have introduced these motions with Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, and look forward to developing a more holistic relationship between our City and its trees.”
Locally, the movement on Ryu’s motions was applauded, too. Jeffry Carpenter, a Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council board member, who helped formulate resolutions supporting city tree policy reforms for the GWNC, said “I think Councilmember’s Ryu’s efforts to find resources to begin to restore some resources to Urban Forestry is hugely important, as staffing in that bureau has been incredibly decimated by budget cuts and retirements…We have a very long way to go to have the City’s urban forestry operations where they should be and the Councilmember is to be commended for not delaying in taking action.”
Carpenter explained that “Much of the GWNC’s urban forest is getting old and faces many threats and we urgently need to have a robust and proactive maintenance and re-forestation program established in the City…The City needs to be stepping up to protect our City assets.” One specific threat to the city’s tree canopy, he said, is that “anyone can take down a City street tree with virtually complete impunity…so that they can get oversized driveways for new oversized front yard garages. It seems that, in the current scheme of things, this is something that is very difficult to control and even if penalties can be assessed, they are of virtually no consequence. Yet just the loss of a mature street tree is worth tens of thousands of dollars in adjacent property values and ultimately much much more in neighborhood livability.”
Julie Stromberg, chair of the GWNC’s Sustainability Committee, who has also worked with the Community Forest Advisory Committee (CFAC) and Ryu’s office on drafting the new tree initiatives, told the Buzz that, “The Council Office did a great job incorporating CFAC’s work throughout the years in these motions. I applaud the council office for becoming the champion for our urban forest and taking an positive and impactful environmental position.”
If the Budget and Finance Committee supports the two motions, they would move to the full City Council for a final vote. The third Ryu-sponsored motion on tree preservation (Council File 15-0499-S1) is still being reviewed by the Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, and the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee.