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Tree Davis Position on Sutter Davis Hospital Tree Removal

Sutter Parking Lot Shade Trees 1
Sutter Parking Lot Shade Trees

A recent article in the Davis Vanguard ("City Will Have to Weigh between Trees and Solar Panels at Sutter as Complaints Reign about Public Process," July 21, 2021) described a variety of issues concerning the Planning Commission’s recent approval to remove 205 trees in association with improvements to the Sutter Davis Hospital campus. Tree Davis appreciates the efforts made by David Greenwald and Alan Hirsch to bring this proposal into the public spotlight. The Tree Davis Board has these thoughts to share.

1) Our tree canopy is under increasing threat from decline due to old age, development, and climate change stressors like drought, wind, and pests. Tree Davis supports increasing measures to protect and preserve healthy trees and to grow our community canopy with climate-ready species. 

2) We recognize that in certain circumstances, retaining healthy trees may not be possible. Full mitigation of lost canopy, through planting either on-or off-site should be accomplished, as per our Tree Ordinance.

3) We support retaining mature tree canopy in parking lots when possible because trees can provide environmental and social benefits that PV arrays cannot, such as heat island mitigation, carbon storage, air pollutant uptake, beauty, stress reduction, and wildlife habitat.

4) Tree Davis believes that the Tree Commission’s charter should be updated to include consultation on individual project proposals because of the expertise they can provide. For example, the proposal to transplant 43 mature trees to another location at Sutter Hospital may sound reasonable, but, the benefits may not offset the costs in the long term. The failed effort in Woodland to transplant historic olive trees along Gibson Rd. is an example.

Greg McPherson
President, Tree Davis Board of Directors


Roberta L. Millstein

I do think that in some times and places solar panels in parking lots can be appropriate. But I think it makes NO sense to remove over 200 mature trees to replace them with solar panels, especially since there are other places the solar panels could go (such as the rooftops).

Sutter Davis Hospital, you're supposed to support human health. Well, trees are a part of that, both physically and psychologically. The proposal should be scrapped. If it goes to the City Council (as I hope it does), it should be rejected.

Todd Edelman

Absolutely put panels only on the roofs of all buildings.

Broadening the sustainability analysis - also within the context of general and specific work on Climate Policy in Davis and the region - makes obvious the elephant in the ER: The transportation profile of this place is awful, it's way more spread out than it needs to be, and its energy efficiency is suspect.

I understand that the hospital doesn't only serve Davis residents, and that there's a Sutter Davis urgent care facility next to Target. But it probably has a 99% automobile modal share. Inclusive of Davis Community Clinic next door there's always a few bikes parked there, most certainly belonging to employees. That's it.
Davis Community Transit goes here, of course, but no normal buses even circulate through the parking lot. How 'bout electric bikes for employees or some kind of plan for patients to get the same?

I was there last year for four nights after surgery. I recall looking out the window and thinking I was high up, but the main hospital building is only two stories. Was there any thought about building upwards?

Worse, the only time there it was too hot inside. Perhaps this was about energy savings, but also both the facility people and nurses had no idea how to change the setting.

George Galamba

As a tree hugger and solar panel owner, I'd like to share a few thoughts on this post: As stated above, trees do store carbon, but solar panels reduce the amount of carbon sequestered fossil fuels pump into the atmosphere. Which is more efficient? And as for mature trees in parking lots, I'd like to know where they are. Trees in parking lots are subject to intense heat from asphalt and car engines, and in my limited observation, rarely get the water and care they need to thrive. I suspect that solar panels should get the nod in parking lots. Please see the parking lot between Veteran's Memorial and Davis High School as an example of what can be done.

Roberta L. Millstein

Hi George, you can get a sense of the trees at the site from the picture at the top of the post, or alternatively, head out to Sutter Hospital to check them out for yourself. I am admittedly not a tree expert, but they do look like they are thriving to me.

Roberta L. Millstein

If you are concerned about the loss of the 200 trees, you can donate so that this issue can be appealed to the Davis City Council.

Toni Terhaar

The way the City of Davis deals with developers and homeowners is inconsistent and possibly illegal in terms of the arbitrary decisions made when a homeowner wants to remove a tree. It seems the Planning department has a different standard than the Tree Commission. Developer Taormino (Bretton Woods) cut down about 180 trees next to this property without the proper approvals. The City Attorney told the Tree Commission that they couldn't take any action to fine the developer for cutting down trees (some of which were Swainsons' hawk nesting trees). The Planning Department takes actions that are inconsistent with the Tree Commission and is likely undermining the actions taken by the Tree Commission against individual homeowners.

Roberta L. Millstein

Toni, in this case the Tree Commission didn't even get a chance to weigh in! The City's processes need to be fixed, which I guess is what recommendation #4 from Tree Davis is aimed at. In the case of Sutter Davis Hospital and the loss of the 200+ mature trees, there may be an appeal to the City Council, which would hopefully allow the Tree Commission to provide an analysis and recommendation.

I agree with you that the current process treats homeowners and developers (or businesses) very differently.

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