City council members unanimously pass tree ordinance

After months of discussion and multiple re-drafts, the Encinitas City Council on April 26 unanimously agreed on an ordinance that would protect and regulate city trees.

Four trees on Second and Third streets came under fire in September when city staff told concerned citizens that the trees posed safety issues and were a potential legal liability to the city.

Under the ordinance introduced April 26 and passed by the council with little discussion, certain trees would be designated as “Heritage Trees” that hold significance in the city. Such trees cannot be removed without a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

In the Encinitas Urban Forest Management program’s administration manual, the Planning Commission may designate a tree or trees as Heritage Trees due to any of the following factors:

“1. The tree/s is/are one of the oldest and largest of its species. 2. The tree/s is/are of unique form or species. 3. The tree/s has/have historic significance due to an association with an historic building, site, street, person or event. 4. The tree/s is/are a defining landmark or significant outstanding feature of a neighborhood.”

The city would also designate a city arborist, who shall advise on urban forestry matters, as well as create an Urban Forest Advisory Committee.

The group would have duties such as: working with the arborist to review tree plans, providing comments on the Approved Tree Species Master List and advising staff regarding public outreach programs.

According to the ordinance, pruning of city trees and heritage trees would have to conform to certain standards. Tree topping and the unauthorized removal of city trees would be prohibited.

Mike Palat, chairman of the San Diego Regional Urban Forest Council, suggested the new city arborist should hold master classes on the proper ways to prune trees.

Sheila Cameron, former Encinitas Mayor and organizer of the city’s Save the Trees Committee, considered the ordinance important, especially following The Arbor Day Foundation’s designation of Encinitas as Tree City USA in March.

“Being a Tree City means we realize the importance of trees in our city,” she said.

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