Letter to the Editor: Redding Needs a Tree Ordinance – Now!

This opinion piece was written more than a month ago, before the recent Carr Fire, however, it is even more important today as Redding has lost many trees. If you look at many of the news photos of the fire, you will see many homes that burned to the ground and yet their trees survived, some with less than one-forth of the leaves singed and the rest of the leaves are green, some almost all green. People who had their homes burned in the fire are probably still recovering from the stress and loss and not thinking of trees. However, those who are rebuilding their homes might want to consider having lightly burned trees trimmed to save the tree as it could provide important shade in the coming years. Due to the heat from the fire they may need a good soaking. Native species such as blue oak, black oak and interior live oak can come back even if they have lost most or all their leaves provided the base of the tree is not badly burned. It is best to consult an independent certified arborist before having any trees cut as trees add considerable value to a property.

The Tree Ordinance that Shasta Environmental Alliance is proposing would be like many northern California cities, it allows a property owner to cut trees on a lot under one acre if there is a residence on it without a permit. Vacant lots of all sizes would require a permit as would a house on a lot over one acre in size.

The City of Redding needs a Tree Ordinance that will protect many of our native trees which are currently being cut with little regard to alternatives that would save them or require planting replacement trees elsewhere.

Many people think Redding has a Tree Ordinance, but it doesn’t. Instead, it has a Tree Management Ordinance which is basically a series of guidelines with no enforcement powers to prevent clearcutting of every native oak tree on every undeveloped parcel in Redding should a developer so choose, and the Redding Planning Department agrees.

Our current ordinance was put together in 2006 with a committee of real estate developers, city staff and a minority of just two members representing the public. The result is a toothless ordinance with many loopholes allowing tree protections to be waived or ignored.

The result has been devastating for preserving our native trees, especially native oaks. Last year, 700 oak trees on Churn Creek Road at South Bonnyview Road were cut down, with only three oak trees being spared. Across the freeway on Bechelli Lane, at the proposed new Costco, there are approximately 4000 trees in a thick, urban forest which at present is a welcoming green gateway into our city. Under the current proposal, all but 45 trees will be cut down on this 25-acre site., exposing a view of a 3 ½ acre warehouse, a 30 pump gas station, a 62,000 square foot shopping complex and a two lighted Costco signs.

On Eureka Way west of Buenaventura, Sierra Pacific Industries has massively altered the landscape with clear cuts. They are cutting almost every native oak tree in their way except those in canyons too steep to build on or in a small set aside area. On some of the steep canyons they will be cutting all of the trees and shrubs trees because of fire danger. Over the objections of the Planning Department and the Fire Department, they will place eleven homes on hilltops with very steep slopes that cannot be safely defended. There is nothing illegal about this, because Redding has a tree ordinance that sanctions it. Every single tree in a development can be cut down under Redding’s Tree Management Ordinance if the Planning Department and City Council allow it for “economic reasons.”

Fortunately, some Redding Planners and developers do care about trees and will work to save some.

However, in the final analysis, large real estate developers can put considerable political pressure on the Planning Department which is why Redding needs a real Tree Ordinance

Cities throughout California have strict ordinances protecting their native trees, especially oak trees. Sometimes trees have to be cut to make way for new homes and businesses, but Redding needs strict ordinances controlling it. The City of Chico charges $368 per six inches of diameter per tree cut, while allowing a certain amount to be cut at no charge. The City of Roseville charges $118 per inch of diameter for each oak tree that is cut. Both cities then put the funds collected towards their urban forests.

Trees are beneficial to cities and their residents. They increase property values, provide beauty, shade and natural cooling, lessen the heat island effect, reduce cooling bills and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Redding deserves a true tree ordinance and it should not be written by real estate developers, but by a broad range of Redding residents. Hopefully our City Council will work towards developing such an ordinance to protect our native oak trees and to encourage planting of more street and residential trees. Then Redding can truly deserve being called a “Tree City, USA.”

If you would like to see Redding preserve more of its trees, write to the Redding City Council in care of Redding City Hall at 777 Cypress Ave., Redding, CA 96001.

David Ledger,
Shasta Environmental Alliance

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