Fwd: [tb-cybergardens]: Arborcide Article
- Subject: [cg] Fwd: [tb-cybergardens]: Arborcide Article
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 10:44:13 -0500
More on tree killers from the NY Times.
Your tree hugging friend,
From: Lenny Librizzi <email@example.com>
Sent: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 09:55:20 -0500
Subject: Re: [tb-cybergardens]: Arborcide Article
News from the tb-cybergardens mailing list
The NY Times had an article yesterday, more about San Francisco than NYC but
arborcide is a problem everywhere. Many cities are proposing or passing laws
to landmark trees, making arborcide a criminal offense and raising fines for
cutting down trees even on private property!
My favorite proposed law is from LA where "violators could be charged with a
misdemeanor and, in extreme cases, have their building permit withheld for up
to 10 years."
New York Times
January 30, 2006
New Laws Crack Down on Urban Paul Bunyans
By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 29 - As trees go, the pair of scraggly-looking Monterey
cypresses sitting on a crest on Telegraph Hill are somewhat pitiful, even
downright forlorn. But in a city where some movie stars bear wings, even
ordinary trees can be transformed into a cause cilhbre.
The trees are a favorite feeding spot and hawk lookout point for the
now-famous wild parrots of Telegraph Hill (see the movie, read the book). In
recent weeks, the removal of three adjoining trees by an absentee property
owner and the resulting brouhaha - including the spectacle of the parrot
author Mark Bittner throwing himself in front of a chain saw - prompted San
Francisco officials to amend the city's Urban Forestry Ordinance to allow
significant trees to be designated landmarks, including those on private
The amendment, which takes effect in February, treats trees much like historic
buildings. It would place San Francisco squarely in a growing movement, from
suburban Washington to Los Angeles, to protect mature urban trees - and in
some communities, make it a crime to chop them down.
Once a cause for genteel women's clubs bent on beautification, the new
get-tough stance on trees is largely a result of real estate. A study of three
dozen cities using satellite imagery by the nonprofit group American Forests,
completed two years ago, found that over the past 25 years, cities have lost
up to 30 percent of their tree canopy to development.
San Francisco's tree canopy hovers at a slim 11.9 percent of the city's
surface area, compared with New York's 21 percent and Washington's 28.6.
The loss of the so-called urban forest, said Deborah Gangloff, the group's
executive director, is the result of sprawl, budget cuts and street widening,
among other factors. The average city street tree lives 7 years compared with
60 years in a park and 150 years in a forest, the group's research shows.
"They're stuck in a concrete box, get bikes chained to them, with dogs
relieving themselves and cars hitting them," Ms. Gangloff said. "They don't
have room to grow because of power lines and sewer pipes. It's a hard life."
The avian drama in San Francisco follows a tree war that unfolded along the
Potomac River in Montgomery County, Md. Last month, the Montgomery County
planning board reached a settlement with the Washington Redskins' owner,
Daniel M. Snyder, and his wife, Tanya, for clear-cutting some 130
view-obstructing dogwoods and other trees on their verdant riverfront estate.
The couple's neo-Georgian palazzo sits on land bounded by the C Chesapeake &
Ohio Canal National Historic Park, which is run by the National Park Service.
The county fined Mr. Snyder $37,000 for clear-cutting without a permit and
ordered him to plant some 600 saplings. A spokesman for Mr. Snyder declined to
Inspired by Mr. Snyder's Paul Bunyan move, the Montgomery County Council voted
to triple the penalties for willfully violating the county's Forest
Conservation Law and make it a criminal offense punishable by up to six months
"This problem is enormous and growing," said Howard A. Denis, a Republican
Council member. "It's a quality of life issue. No one has the right to
desecrate property and leave the county with a net loss of trees."
The tear-down phenomenon, in which trophy homes subsume suburban lots, has put
new pressure on large "patriarch" trees, said Dave Docter, the managing
arborist for Palo Alto, Calif. "Communities are scrambling to enact laws to
mandate proper review," he said.
Named for a 1,000-year-old redwood, Palo Alto is a microcosm: in 1992, the
demolition of a beloved Queen Anne Victorian and its surrounding oaks, planted
in the 1920's on then-dirt streets, prompted an emergency oak-tree-cutting
moratorium; six years later, spurred by the unprecedented demolition of older
homes, the city expanded its tree ordinance to include private property.
The concerns are not just aesthetic: over the last decade, a host of studies
have underscored the role of trees - especially mature ones - as "green
infrastructure" that help reduce air-conditioning and energy costs, intercept
storm water runoff, capture dust and other pollutants, curb the effect of
greenhouse gases and increase property values. A study by the University of
Washington even found that people shopped longer and more often in tree-lined
retail areas and spent about 12 percent more money.
"Cities are beginning to recognize trees as capital assets just like roads,
bridges and schools," said James R. Lyons, executive director of the Casey
Trees Endowment Fund, a tree canopy restoration advocacy group based in
Washington, and an under secretary of agriculture in the Clinton
administration. "They're a significant investment that provides value to the
city and residents. People don't think about them until they're gone."
A result, said Buck Abbey, an associate professor of landscape architecture at
Louisiana State University, is "a kind of tree socialism" - a growing
recognition "that a community's interest does not stop at the property line."
Professor Abbey has surveyed tree loss from Hurricane Katrina and written
extensively on municipal tree ordinances. He said: "It's part of the
recognition of community. The line between public and private property is not
visible if a massive live oak is gone."
The tree wars seem likely to escalate along with stricter tree laws. In Los
Angeles, for instance, the City Council is about to consider an amendment to
the city's oak tree ordinance, which protects native oaks at least eight
inches in diameter. The expanded ordinance would include three other species -
black walnuts, California sycamores and bay laurels - and protect more trees
by reducing the diameter of a landmark tree to four inches.
Most notably, violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and, in extreme
cases, have their building permit withheld for up to 10 years. The ordinance,
moreover, would require developers to get a permit to knock down protected
trees and replace them with new trees at a ratio of at least 2 to 1.
Paula Bagasao, co-founder of Proh-LA, a group dedicated to protecting property
rights on hillsides, especially vacant lots, called the ordinance "a backyard
building moratorium" that would delay projects and add unnecessary costs. She
finds the inclusion of black walnut trees particularly irksome.
"These nuts fall all over East L.A., sending up all this black stuff and
giving birth to little walnut trees," she said. "The nuts fall on peoples'
heads at parties. The walnut tree is not an endangered species."
The City of Charlotte, N.C., requires developers to preserve 10 percent of a
subdivision's area in trees and also save all "heritage trees" approaching the
size of those in the North Carolina state list of "champion trees." The state
lost 1.2 million acres of urban forest between 1990 and 2002, nearly
three-quarters of it because of urbanization, according to American Forests.
Mark Baldwin, executive vice president of the Home Builders' Association of
Charlotte, said the policy "creates an inconvenience for the developer as far
as density, but it certainly pays off in the price of the homes." The extra
costs of "tree saves," he added, are passed on to the homeowner.
Here on Telegraph Hill, the ruckus over the parrots' cypress trees - leafy
equivalents of the mansions of the stars - has underscored the somewhat
precarious status of the city's trees. Despite its green, tree-hugger
reputation, San Francisco, built partly on windswept sand dunes and deforested
during the Gold Rush, has never been lush with trees. In contrast to New York,
the majority of street trees here are not maintained or even planted by the
city; it is up to individual property owners to plant trees.
The new ordinance would allow the Board of Supervisors to designate landmark
trees anywhere in San Francisco, including those harboring significant
wildlife. John Cowen, the property owner who cut the three cypress trees, said
he felled them for safety and liability reasons.
"Everyone is freaked out about the urban canopy producing oxygen and habitat
for this and that," Mr. Cowen said. "But these trees are rotten."
The skirmish between Mr. Cowen and Mr. Bittner, the author, and Judy Irving,
the maker of the parrots film, became so fraught that Mayor Gavin Newsom sent
his director of city greening, Marshall Foster, in as an intermediary.
Mr. Foster said that he had worked out a five-year plan to eventually replace
the cypress trees with new ones, and that a community group had offered to
subsidize pruning in the meantime. He conceded that the soap opera among the
cypresses was a human one. "The parrots are oblivious," he said.
Corrections XML HeOn Mon, 30 Jan 2006 20:44:00 -0500, Donald Loggins
> Parks Dept kills Heights trees -
> then charges a patsy with murder
> By Gersh Kuntzman
> The Brooklyn Papers
> Five Brooklyn Heights residents in the
> prime of their lives were murdered in broad
> daylight last week - and a man who fought
> to keep them alive has been charged in the
> crime even though he didn't pull the trigger.
> The actual killers of two London plane trees and
> three gingkoes - which stood for decades in front
> of a large apartment tower at 75 Henry St. - were
> workers for the New York City Parks Department.
> The Case of the Terminated Trees reads like a
> mystery novel - except this isn't a whodunnit, but
> a whydunnit.
> The roots of this tall tale go back to November,
> when contractors renovating the cement plaza at
> the apartment building may have damaged the 35-
> year-old trees.
> Or maybe not.
> "We got hit with summonses and received a letter
> from the Parks Department saying we damaged
> the trees and they had to be removed at our expense,"
> explained an engineer from York Restoration,
> who requested anonymity because the murder
> charge is being appealed.
> The company's owner, George York, hired arborist
> Don Venezia, who inspected the allegedly
> wounded trees.
> "At this time," Venezia wrote, "the trees have set
> bud and in my opinion are alive and healthy."
> Venezia said that one of the gingkoes has "some
> small root damage, less than one inch," but suggested
> that the problem could be remedied by trimming
> "the damaged roots."
> The Parks Department did not accept Venezia's
> diagnosis. "Brooklyn forestry requests that these
> Four of the five tree stumps that remain in
> front of 75 Henry St. after the Parks Department
> chopped down their 35-year-old tops.
> trees are removed due to root damage ASAP,"
> Matthew Wells, a department forester, wrote back.
> York offered a compromise - namely that the
> trial be put on hold until the spring to see if the
> trees were thriving. If they were not, York
> promised to replace them.
> But the company got no response until
> last week, when Parks Department workers
> showed up with chainsaws and started removing
> the trees.
> "One of the workers stopped cutting after
> he removed the first branch and called his
> supervisor because the tree was alive," said
> the York engineer. "He said, 'Are you sure I
> have the right tree?' But he was told to keep
> cutting. That's how crazy this whole thing
> But as with any good murder story,
> George Della Latta, president of the building's
> co-op board, thinks nefarious forces
> are at work.
> "The way I figure it, the lifespan of a
> street tree is, what, 20 years?" Latta said.
> "So the Parks Department figures they're
> going to have to replace these trees anyway,
> so why not find a way to make someone
> else not only pay for their removal, but pay
> to replace them, too?"
> Latta has been sharing his theory with
> elected officials and even reporter David
> Diaz, who does the "Shame on You!" segment
> on WCBS-Channel 2 news.
> The Parks Department did not return repeated
> calls for comment.
> The irony is that the trees were allegedly
> damaged during ongoing construction that
> will transform the barren cement plaza at 75
> Henry St. into a lushly landscaped sitting
> Some of the lost trees actually appear in
> the architectural renderings of the $4-million
> The Brooklyn Papers / Greg Mango
> Donald Loggins
--Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC)
51 Chambers Street room 228
New York, New York 10007
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