Street Tree Policy Goal
The goal of the Santa Barbara County Public Works' Street Tree Policy is to provide a guideline for the replacement of existing street trees. It will also designate suitable trees as replacements, as well as enable the County to cooperate with community groups to seek grants to sustain and nurture the approximately 21,000 street trees also known as the Urban Forest.
The Urban Forest was planted between 30 and 40 years ago when developers were conditioned by the County to plant trees in the parkway strips prior to the roadways being accepted into the County's maintained road system. Many of these trees were selected based on cost rather than suitability for the 4½ foot wide space of the parkway. As a result, several species of trees have outgrown the width of the parkway. Several other species have created nuisances and safety concerns in that their branches are brittle, their roots have uplifted curbs gutters and sidewalks, and their foliage attracts insects.
To nurture and sustain the Urban Forest, and to provide for an aesthetically pleasing, safe, and nuisance free travel way, these trees should be replaced with an appropriate species.
The Street Tree Policy Process
In February of 2000, the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department, Transportation Division, began organizing a draft street tree policy, in accordance with your Board's directive. The process entailed obtaining a consultant to formulate a draft policy. Once this was accomplished, public workshops were held. These workshops were noticed and held on October 11, 2000 for the residents of the First, Second and southern half of the Third Supervisorial Districts, and on October 12, 2000 for the residents of the northern half of the Third District, Fourth and Fifth Supervisorial Districts. Additionally, the workshops were noticed by direct mailing to community groups as well as interested individuals who contacted the Public Works Department in the past concerning street tree issues.
The purpose of the workshops was to present to the public the draft Street Tree Policy and explain the responsibility for the replacement, establishment and maintenance of street trees. Staff also met with individual Supervisors to discuss public comments and input and incorporated these into the draft policy.
Street Tree Policy
The first phase, described above, involved the drafting of the policy and incorporating public input. Key points of Phase I are first, when removal occurs a tree must be planted, and second, the homeowner adjacent to the recently replanted tree will be responsible for its establishment. The county thereafter, will be responsible for the maintenance of the tree. The establishment period is between 3 and 5 years depending upon the species of the tree. The second phase involves working with neighborhood groups to select suitable tree species and designate each roadway countywide with a specific tree. During the second phase, another requirement will be to select additional trees and place them on our arborist approved list of North, Central and South County areas. All approved trees are selected to minimize concrete damage and ease maintenance efforts. Having each road section assigned a specific type of tree, staff offered, will give a balanced symmetrical aspect to the neighborhood, and it will promote cost effective maintenance efforts. The third phase of the process would consist of the Public Works Department cooperating with community groups and interested parties in an effort to obtain funding to further nurture and sustain the Urban Forest. This funding, when applied for by groups or neighborhoods, would allow for the planting of trees in areas now devoid of trees. Future development sites could be identified and trees planted prior to such development. These future projects would be funded completely by grants and matching local funds. The Public Works Department would administrate these projects to ensure quality and safe working procedures.
Alternatives and Recommendations
During the public workshops, the issue of tree canopy or distance between each tree was discussed. One comment at these workshops argued for each tree replant being located 25 feet from the center of the adjacent tree, while other interested parties felt that staff's recommendation of one tree replant per resident frontage was an adequate replacement strategy. The Urban Forest has had numerous trees removed over the past 30 to 40 years due to:
- Storm damage
- Vehicular accidents
- Nuisance abatement
- Natural causes
The street tree policy would provide guidance in addressing the replacement of street trees. Street Tree Maintenance funding competes directly with all other road maintenance activities, such as pavement maintenance, traffic signals and pedestrian crossing installations. The Public Works Department Staff recommends that until grants are obtained through neighborhood and community group efforts, replacement of trees at one tree per frontage would be the more workable strategy. Staff recommends that the draft Street Tree Policy, which includes public and Supervisor input, be adopted by the Board of Supervisors, and that direction be given to proceed with Phase II and III of the street tree enhancement process.