City Council Debates Tree Removal Policy

If you don’t like a tree affecting your property, you can simply have it removed, can’t you?

Not so fast, according to the City Council of Arroyo Grande, California.

Arroyo Grande prides itself on being a “Tree City USA”—a recognition given by the Arbor Day Foundation to cities that practice “excellence in urban forest management.” Current city ordinances prohibit the removal of trees from residential, commercial and mixed-use land without specific permits.

Removal permits are granted only if the tree is dead, dying, preventing legitimate construction or presenting a risk to public safety.

This policy has been pitted against individual needs through a request by resident Steven Andrews.

At last week’s City Council meeting, Andrews petitioned to remove a coastal live oak tree. The tree is at least 50 years old and spans both Andrews’s home and the sidewalk.

The tree, he claims, drops debris that causes him severe allergies. He says that because he has a weakened respiratory system, the tree’s presence causes him to become very ill several times a year.

The council rejected his request, saying such an exception could set a precedent for removing more trees in the future. It recommended that he have the tree trimmed back as far as possible instead, and may reconsider the decision if Andrews’s health does not improve after the tree trimming.

Mayor Tony Ferrara has acknowledged that there are other trees in the city causing concerns, such as those planted too near sidewalks and becoming tripping hazards.

“It is important to have a tree professionally removed for safety,” says Jake Elvebo, President of Extreme Enterprises. “A homeowner removing a tree without the proper equipment poses many professional dangers. Branches can fall and damage property, or even worse – injure people.”

Tree Cites

There are Tree City USA communities throughout all 50 states.

In order to be recognized as such, cities must meet four standards: having a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program and an Arbor Day observance.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the program helps to strengthen community ties around urban forest conservation and educate others as to its importance.

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