P. O. Box 7706,
San Jose CA 95150
Sept. 17, 2007
Kevin Briggs, City Manager’s Office
Tree Preservation Policy & Services Review
San Jose City Hall
200 E. Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA 95113
cc: Chuck Reed, Mayor, City of San Jose
Debra Figone, City Manager, City of San Jose
Joe Horwedel, Planning Director, City of San Jose
Pierluigi Oliverio, San Jose Councilmember, Dist. 6
Judy Chirco, San Jose Councilmember, Dist. 9
re: Revisions to the San Jose Tree Ordinance
Dear Mr. Briggs,
I am writing on behalf of the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA) in support of tree preservation and of revisions to the City ordinances to enhance their protection.
The arguments for and against trees and ordinances protecting them are so familiar it’s barely worth repeating them here:
We recognize that not every tree can, or should, be saved. It is appropriate to remove (and replace) dead, damaged, or diseased trees, or even trees of an inappropriate species. Not every tree is suited for its location, and the sooner it is replaced with an appropriate tree the better. And sometimes even a healthy tree can interfere with the appropriate development of a property. The existing City tree ordinance covers all these situations, and the permit process helps assure that the rules are followed. Follow-up is important to assure that the required replacement trees are indeed planted and maintained: an inspection after six months could help assure compliance.
The most controversial part of the ordinance relates to trees on private property. If a tree is small, it just affects the individual landowner, and he or she is free to deal with it as he/she wishes. However, larger trees impact larger areas: they provide cooling shade for neighboring properties and they add beauty to the area, and thus they affect the value of those properties. The permit process protects trees over 56" in circumference to make sure that those neighbors who would be most affected by the removal of a tree have some say on the matter.
The main problem we have in Willow Glen is with developers. People love to live here because of the quaint homes, shaded gardens, and tree-lined streets. Developers are buying parcels with small houses and established trees, scrapping everything away, building the largest mini-mansions that can fit within the property lines, and then moving on. The purchasers of these new residences may be content – they still have a view of the surrounding trees and gardens – but the neighbors now have a monster house next door rather than the cooling and sheltering trees: in effect, the developer made a profit by taking value from the neighbors. The tree ordinances and permits establish a process by which these neighbors can have the City planners work with the developers to find design alternatives that may save treasured trees while still allowing an economically viable development. (I know it can be done – I talked with the developer of a project on a parcel adjacent to mine: he was able to redesign the project to shift one room a foot or two and thus spared a tall fir tree, and still sold the house for $2.4 million.)
We believe several refinements are needed in the tree ordinance:
Two other points – not part of the ordinance revisions, but instead changes in policy:
The “urban forest” adds significantly to the community: the tree-lined streets are the most walkable, and large trees in private yards enhance the environment and the aesthetics in the surrounding area. The City’s tree ordinance just needs enforcement, and a little enhancing, in order to properly balance property rights with the needs of the community.
Please contact us if we can provide any additional information.
// signed //
Lawrence Ames, WGNA President