Developer Proposes Baseline of Zero Trees Planted in New DiSC Development
The below letter was sent to the Davis City Council regarding a lack of commitment to planting trees in the massive new development. The Davis City Council takes up DiSC 2022 at the Feb. 1 meeting. You can find the agenda here. The agenda contains information for how to view the meeting and offer public comment. The DiSC proposal can be found here.
Dear Davis City Council,
The below letter is informed by my work on the Tree Commission and on the Tree Commission subcommittee on DiSC 2022, but represents my own point of view, though others on the Tree Commission may share it.
Initially I was encouraged to hear the DiSC project was adopting a goal of planting 1,500 trees as the Tree Commission recommended. Then I read the actual language of the proposed baseline feature,
"The Project will add no less than 1,500 new trees to the City’s urban forest to sequester carbon, improve mental health, deter the heat island effect, and provide shading. If less than 1,500 trees are planted onsite, Developer will ensure that the remainder will be planted elsewhere in Davis."
This baseline feature actually commits to planting zero trees in the project itself. The Baseline has no baseline. The language is carefully crafted to commit to only adding trees to "the City's urban forest." The language allows for every single tree to be "planted elsewhere in Davis." The baseline features make no commitment to any number of trees in the project itself. That is totally and completely unacceptable. The vast majority of these 1,500 trees, if not all of these trees, need to be planted in the DiSC project itself.
The ground for planting a tree is the hardest part to come by for planting a new tree, if the developer doesn't commit to planting these trees in the project itself, there is little prospect of planting 1,500 trees elsewhere in the City of Davis anytime soon. The DiSC Baseline Features and Development Agreement provide no mechanism for planting trees "elsewhere in Davis" and no enforcement for assuring trees are planted and maintained elsewhere. That is a further reason why committing to zero trees actually planted in the project is entirely unacceptable.
The perimeter bike path alone will require nearly 600 trees to properly shade the bike path. I am including a table to show that calculation:
The ag buffer is 150' wide, but the perimeter bike path will only travel through the first 50' depth of the buffer. Planting 3 trees as noted in the table every 28' of the 50' depth of the ag buffer is a very reasonable amount to make for a well shaded class I bike path. (Class I requires 80% shade)
Looking at the developers own estimates for tree planting in the project (their estimates did not include shading of the peripheral bike path) easely bring the total number of trees needed in the project to 1,200-1,500 as the Tree Commission recommends.
The tree Commission gave careful consideration to how many trees this project will require, and even built flexibility into the recommendation to give flexibility on parking lots. The developer has previously suggested that Tree Davis prefers a percentage canopy cover to a simple number of trees. I agree with that, but a number can be derived from percentage canopy cover, and that is what we have done. Regardless, the developer has made no commitment as a baseline feature for any percent canopy cover.
The tree commission did not even consider how many trees it will take to shade the east west bike path south of the nugget headquarters or to shade the path inside the Mace curve. These paths will require hundreds more trees in order to be class I paths. This would be a very good reason to increase the Trees required in the Baseline Feature to 1,800.
I urge you to adopt the tree commission's recommendation,
"The DiSC 2022 will have a minimum of 1500 trees, (as Tree is defined in the City of Davis Tree Ordinance 37.01). If the final site plan cannot accommodate 1,500 trees on site, up to 300 trees can be planted at another location in Davis. Any offsite trees will be subject to an annual maintenance fee."
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further.