By Alan Hirsch, City Lorax
This Tuesday, the city council will address details to permit a 7 story dorm proposed for University Commons/Trader Joe's shopping center.
There is debate about it size, height, affordability, type of units in the build.
But there is one fact everyone agrees on:
IF it follows the current city policy it will end up in the middle of an unshaded parking lot full of stunted trees.
The Davis policy calls for planning on paper for them to plan enough trees to, theoretically get 50% shade.
But facts on the ground show trees rarely flourish on commercial parking lots in Davis.
First, because the city details on how to plant trees is wrong (the city arborist has admitted this),
And most importantly, there is no city enforcement and no consequences if landlords neglect the trees. If you look at most Davis commercial shopping centers, you can see the result out-of-town landlord cutting corners on tree maintenance. Look at the stunted tree in front of Nugget, Savemart, CVS, Safeway, Office Depot. Look at inappropriately small trees when larger trees are needed. Look at rocks placed around base of trees that burn their roots, or planting holes so small that the tree become girdled.
It does not have to be like this: compare that with the parking lot trees at owner-occupied Sutter Hospital or Kaiser clinic.
Yes, the current city council, unlike its predecessors, is to be commended as they have begun the process of updating our sadly out of date Tree Ordinance to fix this.
But the question is if this project will be grandfathered in under the old ordinance.
The City Council is aware of this problem, and in fact addressed this with the DISC development going in on the Mace Curve.
In fact, the DISC developer Dan Ramos readily agreed to this as he realized the City Tree code is inadequate.
DISC Development Agreement, going before votes in November, has the following Tree features:
- Plant enough trees to provide 50% shade in parking lots and also 80% shade in pedestrian areas within 15 years.
- Require state-of-the art tree planting techniques (suspended pavement or structural soil) not the cheaper, antiquated method still ok under current city tree code.
- Make the developer agree on enforcement and maintenance program in advance: Developer will pay the city to hire an arborist to monitor tree care. Not just once, or for first 15 years, but every two years for entire life of project.
- Agree on real consequences: have developer agree in advance to replant trees that have failed or are stunted.
- Assure accountability by getting a copyright release from landscape architect so tree plans are a public document.
Councilman Lucas Frerichs has already asked that these be required in the Development Agreement.
I hope others on Council join him on Tuesday.
I also hope council asks why this project was not reviewed the Tree Commission, as DISC was?