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The Street Services Section is responsible for planting and maintaining approximately 20,000 trees within the public right-of-way and in City parks.
The City of San Leandro has been named a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation since 1996. Tree Cities must demonstrate a commitment to plant and care for community forests. In 2013, the City earned the prestigious Growth Award for the eighth consecutive year. The award recognizes environmental improvement and higher levels of tree care in Tree City USA communities.
Each year in April, the City celebrates Arbor Day by issuing a proclamation and planting a tree in a City park.
City trees often serve several architectural and engineering functions. They provide privacy, emphasize views, or screen out objectionable views. They reduce glare and reflection. They direct pedestrian traffic. They provide social, environmental and economic benefits to the community.
Trees alter the environment by moderating climate, improving air quality, conserving water, and harboring wildlife. Climate control is obtained by moderating the effects of sun, wind, and rain. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed or deflected by leaves on deciduous trees in the summer and is only filtered by branches of deciduous trees in winter. Trees intercept rain water, store some of it, and reduce storm runoff and the possibility of flooding.
Dew and frost are less common under trees because less radiant energy is released from the soil in those areas at night. Temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than that away from trees. By using trees in the cities, we are able to moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas.
Air quality can be improved through the use of trees. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air to form carbohydrates that are used in the plant’s structure and function. In this process, leaves also absorb other air pollutants—such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide—and give off oxygen.
By planting trees, we return to a more natural, less artificial environment. Birds and other wildlife are attracted to the area. The natural cycles of plant growth, reproduction, and decomposition are again present, both above and below ground. Natural harmony is restored to the urban environment.
The economic benefits of trees can be both direct and indirect. Direct economic benefits are usually associated with energy costs. Air-conditioning costs are lower in a tree-shaded home. Heating costs are reduced when a home has a windbreak. Trees are a wise investment of funds because landscaped homes are more valuable than nonlandscaped homes. The savings in energy costs and the increase in property value directly benefit each home owner.
The indirect economic benefits to the community or region are even greater. Lowered electricity bills are paid by customers when power companies are able to use less water in their cooling towers, build fewer new facilities to meet peak demands, use reduced amounts of fossil fuel in their furnaces, and use fewer measures to control air pollution. Communities also can save money if fewer facilities must be built to control storm water in the region.
Information provided by the International Society of Arboriculture.
In early 2014, concerned residents attended a City Council meeting to request that the City consider enacting a tree ordinance that would apply to trees on private property (also sometimes referred to as a "Heritage Tree Ordinance"). Currently, the City only regulates trees on City property and within the public-right-of-way. The residents making the request were upset because a very large walnut tree, located on private property, was removed by the property owner. At that meeting, the City Council directed staff to look into the matter, including what other cities in the East Bay do regarding the regulation of trees on private property, and to report back to the Rules Subcommittee.
In two subsequent City Council Rules Committee meetings, staff presented information on how other cities regulated (or not) private trees and presented a draft ordinance for comment and review. At the most recent Committee meeting held in April 2016, staff was directed to bring the matter back to the full Council for consideration; the Committee requested information on how many trees citywide would such an ordinance, if enacted, affect. Staff indicated that gathering that data would take time. Currently, staff anticipates bringing the matter back to the City Council for consideration towards the end of the year.
In its current form, the draft ordinance would apply only to trees that are 24 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH) or greater located in a front yard; the ordinance would not apply to non-native species; and may, at the discretion of the Public Works Director, require submittal of an arborist's report, which would not be required for normal tree trimming and maintenance. Removal of regulated trees without City approval would be treated as a Municipal Code violation. Under the City's current Fee Schedule, a first violation is charged $100; a second violation is $200; and a third violation (treated as a misdemeanor) is $1,000.
Unless the City Council were to take future action to enact a tree ordinance, there remains no regulation of trees located on private property. No permits or permission from the City are required to trim or remove private trees.
If you have any questions or wish to register your opinion on the draft ordinance, please contact Debbie Pollart, Public Works Director at 577-6020, or via email at email@example.com.