Much as we love trees — they improve air quality; buffer us from traffic, noise, sun and wind; and add color and beauty to our lives — we don’t believe in arbitrarily protecting a tree at the expense of human health and safety.
Likewise, if a tree’s roots are doing major damage to sidewalks, streets, pipes and other expensive infrastructure, it’s a waste of taxpayer funds to repair the damage and allow the tree to remain.
For that reason, we’re glad to hear the Arroyo Grande City Council will re-examine its stringent tree ordinance. That ordinance strictly regulates tree removal and is especially protective of coastal live oaks, which cannot be removed even from asingle-family residential property without a city permit.
That requirement recently sent Arroyo Grande resident Steven Andrews to the council for relief. Andrews has a large 50-year-old oak tree on his property, and he says the debris from the tree aggravates his allergies, causing him to become extremely ill.
Andrews applied for a permit to remove the tree, but that request was denied by the city’s Parks & Recreation Commission. He then appealed to the City Council, which also denied the request. It did, however, advise Andrews to trim the tree back as much as possible, and if that doesn’t help, to return to the council.
City Council members worried that if they granted Andrews’ request, that could set a precedent.
But here’s our concern: If the council is too unbending, that could lead homeowners to surreptitiously cut down trees if they believe there’s no chance the city will grant a permit.
And it isn’t just homeowners who are affected; the city also is bound by strict regulations in caring for the 5,300 trees in parks and along streets.
In the course of the tree discussion, Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara raised general concerns about trees encroaching on public sidewalks and posing safety hazards.
We share those concerns, and we aren’t talking only about Arroyo Grande. Street trees are growing into power lines, buckling sidewalks and overpowering their surroundings in several communities, including San Luis Obispo.
We agree that trees are important and deserve to be protected.
But urban forests must be maintained properly and, sometimes, that means removing a tree that’s been inappropriately placed, causing extensive damage to property or threatening health and safety.
We commend agencies like Arroyo Grande that recognize the importance of trees in an urban environment, but tree protection must be tempered with common sense. The Arroyo Grande City Council is wise to take another look at its ordinance to ensure restrictions are not going overboard.