PTCA Arbor Essence

No, this is not a perfume, rather it is the title for this years PTCA Seminar and Field Day.  PTCA, known as the Professional Tree Care Association of San Diego, is a premier industry association for professionals within the tree care industry.  The association contains a wide diversity of professionals, including representatives from outstanding tree care and tree service companies, ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborists, utility arborists, board certified master arborist, ASCA (American Association of Consulting Arborists) RSA’s (Registered Consulting Arborist), and industry professionals from utility companies, San Diego Zoo, golf courses, private industries, landscape contractors, landscape architects, educators and more.

A common thread shared by all of these different professionals and educators is our love of TREES and desire to further improve our understanding of the field of arboriculture!  It is a comforting feeling sitting is a room with hundreds of people sharing our knowledge and experiences with trees, learning new information, meeting old and making new friends.

Each year, the PTCA sponsors the annual Seminar and Field Day.  The first day (today) featured an incredible diversity of speakers and topics, there is something for everyone.  Here is a sampling of todays speakers:

Ms. Leah Rottke, professor at Cuyamaca College spoke about what to plant now for upcoming changes brought about by climate change in Southern California, Ms. Pat Nolan, County Pathologist for San Diego County of Department of Agriculture spoke about invasive diseases  moving into the Urban Forest.  In the morning session, Dr. Tom Scott, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, UC Riverside discussed Management of Oak trees in San Diego County followed by an afternoon discussion about the Gold Spotted Oak Borer research (GSOB) and update.  Mr. Ron Matranga, Board Certified Master Arborist from Atlas Tree Service provided an overview of the ISA Traq (Tree Risk Assessment Qualified) program and Mr.Randall Stamen, Esq., from Riverside, California delivered a sobering lecture about Arboriculture and the law, including tree risk assessment and case studies.  Mr. Brian Bishop of Bishops Tree Service discussed improving the efficiency of tree crews and Dr. John Kabashima, Ph.D., UC County Extension, Orange County gave an entertaining lecture about effective sampling for diagnoses of insect and disease problems.  All of that in ONE day!

Really looking forward to tomorrow, the field day featuring workshops in tree risk assessment and BMP (best management practices), insects and diseases of shade tree diagnoses, pesticide applications for tree demonstrations, safety and tree identification, electrical safety, wood weight calculations, improving efficiency and maximizing safety.  There will be a tree climbing workshop provided in Spanish and English.

If you are a tree, landscape, horticulture, educator, consultant, or expert witness and have not yet attended a PTCA field day, you are missing out on a premier educational and entertaining event.  Members of the ISA, ASCA and urban forest councils, city and jurisdictional representatives, recreational and utility companies all come together in a common bond of learning, teaching and sharing, not to mention fantastic networking opportunities.  Hope to see you at the next PTCA Seminar and Field Day!

Learn more about the PTCA at

Unsure of What Plants to Select for Your Landscape or Garden?

The Basics on Landscape Design, Tree and Shrub Selection for Southern California Landscapes

I am most definitely a native SoCal.  Born in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, educated at UC Santa Barbara and California Polytechnic University, living in San Diego for many decades, I have lived in Southern California my entire life.
Yes, we complain when we have hot spells, (last summer was ridiculous), Santa Ana winds, and the fog, but overall, we have the best climate in the world for growing plants.  Whether for ornamental landscapes or vegetable gardening, we a blessed with a climate and environmental conditions that allow us to grow an incredible variety of trees, shrubs, ground covers, turf, vegetables and fruits pretty much 365 days a year.
Walk or drive throughout our neighborhoods and check out the incredible plant diversity.  We are very accustomed to the trees and plants that surround us.  However, if you are from the midwest, east coast or other parts of the country or the world, you are most likely amazed at the variety of plant material.  Botanical gardens and arboretums from Santa Barbara to San Diego boast incredible displays of plants from around the world that flourish in our mild Mediterranean climate.
We have neighbors recently moved to San Diego from Kansas City.  They purchased a home and want to landscape but are completely baffled about what to plant.  Obviously, the trees and shrubs they were accustomed to in Kansas City were very different from what is available for landscaping in San Diego.  I offered some suggestions to help simplify the plant selection process.
There are many approaches one can take to designing and installing an ornamental landscape for their home or place of business.  Using a landscape architect to design a planting and irrigation plan is an excellent choice, however it can be costly.  Landscape contractors can provide design services as part of a design build contract, however you might feel uncomfortable about possible conflict of interest, and whether the contractor is truly knowledgeable about plant material and design.  Then, there are the millions of property owners trying to do it themselves.  This article is for you!

Where to Start?

Don’t get caught up with or distracted by endless design themes and details.  If you have a certain theme in mind, fine, then you most likely already know the kinds of plant material you want to use.  I prefer to design and select plant based on the site environmental conditions matched to the cultural requirements of each plant to be used in the landscape.  What does that mean?

What are Environmental Site Conditions?

The first step in selecting plant material is determining your specific site conditions.  There are many factors that affect plant growth and they are reflected in your site.  Analyze your location and be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Does the site face the north (full shade), east (part shade part sun), west (part sun – full sun), or south, (full sun).  Determining the site sun exposure is one of the most important environmental conditions.
  2. What are the temperature extremes.  Does the site receive cold weather extremes such as frequent frosts, freezes, snow or hail?  Does the site receive intense heat?  Determine the temperature extremes as well as the average seasonal temperature for your location.
  3. Is the site near the coast where it will receive constant salt air and sea breezes?
  4. Is the site windy, contain microclimates, protected by a structure?
  5. Is the soil a heavy, poorly drained clay or lighter, well drained loam, or sand?
  6. Is the soil structure friable and fertile or dry and compacted?
  7. Does the site drain well or is water trapped onsite or on top of a perched water table or spring?
  8. Are there rodent or pest or disease problems?
  9. Are there physical site constraints such as overhead or underground utilities, concrete or masonry improvement?

These are just a sampling of typical environmental site conditions that affect plant growth.  The more you know about the site to be landscaped, the better informed you will be in order to make appropriate plant selections.
In the next installment, I’ll discuss plant cultural requirements and the importance of selecting plant material with cultural requirements that match the site environmental conditions, a key to successful landscape project!

An Expert Witness for Which, Defendant or Plaintiff?

I first wrote a similar article a few years ago but the link to the article was lost during website changes.  In this blog, I wanted to revisit and update the topic of expert witness impartiality and measures I take to ensure I end up working for the right client!

When I began offering certified arborist, landscape, horticulture, and site development expert witness consulting services in San Diego, California, a business associate asked which “side” I worked for, the defendant or plaintiff.  He did not want to refer the incorrect potential client to me.  I was taken aback, my lack of experience had not prepared me for this question.  How could an expert work for only one side or the other without appearing as an advocate?  My answer to him was simple, I use the case facts and evidence to determine the standard of care issue in deciding to work for either a defendant or plaintiff attorney.

Of course, impartial cuts both ways, and if discovery information leads me to an impartial opinion not in the best interest of the client, professional integrity requires I inform the client why my opinion does NOT support their position.  When this occurs (and fortunately very infrequently), you can still benefit the client by instructing council on why their case is not supported by the scientific, technical or forensic evidence. This information may assist council in deciding to not pursue a case, or pursue settlement discussions.  I minimize this situation through careful and extensive telephone screening of incoming requests.

It is challenging to maintain a neutral position during a telephone discussion with a potential client.  Naturally, we all want to build our practice, so when a potential business contact occurs over the phone, careful listening, screening and asking pertinent questions is extremely important to ascertain whether the information provided by the potential client is a position I will arrive at independently on an impartial basis.  Regardless of the information and position propounded by the attorney, maintaining neutrality during a telephone conversation is essential to protect my integrity as an impartial expert who arrives at his opinion based on fact and discovery, not being bought or convinced by a client’s presentation.

Whether a defendant or plaintiff client, the common thread is determining satisfaction or failure to meet industry or professional standard of care.  Ascertaining this information during initial discussions is an essential tool I use in screening potential clients.  If a defendant call, the information provided during questioning should establish a reasonable degree of certainty the client satisfied the professional or industry standard of care, conversely a plaintiff contact should provide convincing and truthful information detailing why the defendant failed to satisfy the standard of care.

For this reason, I provide expert witness services for both defendant and plaintiff cases because determining the standard of care from a technical perspective should be an objective, impartial process.   Through the telephone screening process, I am able to ascertain whether an attorney is knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the case or if they might be creating their own theories.  Fortunately, most of the attorney’s I have worked with had a thorough, detailed understanding of their client’s position that simplified the screening process.  They provided sufficient information and facts that instilled confidence I would be able to reach an impartial expert opinion in their favor if discovery supported their information, which has consistently turned out to be case.

I provide plaintiff and defendant clients with expert opinions in the field of landscape, arboriculture, horticulture and land development.   My opinions are qualified and supported by decades experience as a land development professional, certified arborist, certified tree risk assessor, professional horticulturist and licensed C-27 California landscape contractor.   Cases involve a variety of tree, plant, landscape and development issues.  Most common are trip and fall cases caused by incorrect sprinkler type or other landscape and irrigation appurtenances.  Numerous tree cases involving tree limbs encroaching property lines, potentially unsafe trees and tree risk assessment.  Improperly selected or poorly maintained plant material has resulted vehicular accidents and fatalities.  A fraudulent final map and land sale resulted in a plaintiff lawsuit when they were unable to develop the parcel in a timely manner.

The common thread is determining the industry or professional standard of care.  Decades of experience and education taught me the skills to efficiently distill facts and evidence from story and fiction. When due diligence is complete and my opinion formed, it is very important to communicate the technical reasons that support my opinion in simple to understand yet convincing narrative to the client.

Arborist, landscape, tree and plant, horticulture, and land development issues comprise a relatively small niche in the legal industry.  However, trees, plants, landscape and irrigation systems are a part of the urban environment.  As construction and development activities increase, accidents resulting in personal injury and property damage occur.  Landscape construction defects may go undetected for years before manifesting into a serious situation.  Tree limbs and roots grow over property lines, damaging property and causing serious injury.  Unlicensed or unknowledgeable contractors abound, many using illegal, outdated contracts, or worse, no written contract, inexperienced or overly aggressive general contractors and subcontractors create project conflicts through unknowledgeable supervision, missing written change orders and documentation.

Forensic determination of the cause of an accident due to landscape or trees is a regular part of my consulting practice.  In landscape construction, forensic analysis is extremely challenging due to the living and changing nature of the plant material, soils, segregating and determining design flaws versus construction contracting or maintenance practices, all are intertwined into a potentially difficult knot to unravel.   You have to have the knowledge and experience to know how and where to drill down and find the facts, evidence and documentation needed to support an expert opinion.

Landscape, arboriculture and horticulture are actually separate fields of study leading to different careers. Ornamental horticulture focuses on trees and plants used for non-food crop, such as landscape, nursery and floriculture.  Arborists have in depth knowledge of tree while landscape contractors install and maintain landscape. Tree, plant and landscape cases often overlap, when that occurs, having a knowledgeable landscape expert versed in all related fields can make all the difference, regardless if a defendant or plaintiff case.

Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC is an independent certified arborist, certified tree risk assessor, landscape, horticulture, land development consulting firm. The company offers landscape expert witness services, for attorneys and insurers and professional consulting services for certified arboristtree risk assessmentlandscape and horticulture and land development.

Why use just an arborist or a landscape contractor when you can have a professional consultant experienced in landscape , arboriculture, horticulture and land development!

Rappoport Development Consulting Services Awarded Arborist Sub-Contract on SANDAG Project

Jeremy Rappoport, President of Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC (RDCS) is pleased to announce that the company has been awarded a sub-contract agreement with Kimley-Horn and Associates (KHA) for the San Diego Association of Government (SANDAG) project South Bay Bus Rapid Transit project (SBBRT).

The South Bay Bus Rapid Transit is currently in planning and will eventually be a  21 mile service connecting the Otay Mesa international border crossing with downtown San Diego via eastern Chula Vista. The SBBRT project is being designed and built through SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments. SANDAG hired Kimley-Horn & Associates for engineering and environmental planning services for the SBBRT project, currently planned to go into service in late 2014.

The first segment of the project involves design and construction of 13-mile Bus Rapid Transit line between downtown San Diego and the Eastern Chula Vista. The route will use East Palomar Street, I-805 and state route 94 for the BRT line. The new line is expected to provide Chula Vista, National City and San Diego residents with a fast, frequent, reliable high quality transit service along arterial “transit only” lanes.

The SBBRT project will bring high speed dedicated rapid transit bus lanes and elevated platforms for easy and quick loading and unloading. The goal is to offer a mass transit alternative  along a corridor and area that currently does not have one. The BRT service will make it faster and easier for commuters to use mass transit because the specially constructed buses will use “transit priority” lanes, combined with traffic signal improvements, fewer station stops and real time passenger and bus information.

East Palomar Street is a major arterial street with an east-west alignment. A portion of the SBBRT is currently being designed and engineered by Kimley-Horn and Associates, a national design, engineering, and environmental engineering and consulting firm, with local offices in San Diego. The high speed bus lanes are designed to be constructed in the existing median strip and median planters that exist along East Palomar Street. New bus stations will also be built in close proximity to the high speed bus lanes for easy, safe egress and access to the buses.

East Palomar Street medians and right of ways contain over 1,500 existing trees and palm trees along a 3.5 mile portion of the SBBRT alignment. Plans call for demolition and removal of all trees within the medians and the right of ways. KHA sub-contracted with Rappoport Development Consulting Services for environmental consulting services including certified arborist, horticulture and landscape consulting services. RDCS will provide  tree inventory summarizing the quantity of various tree species, tree condition, and maintenance needs. The findings will be summarized in an arborist report including analysis and recommendations for disposition of the existing trees. Additional scope includes tree labeling,  developing an opinion of costs, tree related specifications, details and best management practices.

Portions of East Palomar Street were developed anticipating the design and construction of future bus lanes within the medians. In those areas where the bus lanes were anticipated, trees were planted within the outside portion of each median to accommodate new lanes within the median between rows of trees, and it is hoped many of the existing Mexican Fan Palms can be re-used with minor relocation within the newly design medians. In older portions of East Palomar Street, the future high speed bus lanes were not planned for and existing medians contain trees located in the center of the median that will have to be removed. The street width must be widened within the north and south right of ways to accommodate the new bus lanes within the center of the street.

The current street tree plantings along East Palomar Street are dominated by two trees, Pyrus calleryana, known as the Bradford Pear and Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican Fan Palm. Secondary trees include Koelruetaria bipinnata, the Golden Rain Tree and Corymbia ficifolia, the Red Flowering Gum. In general, the street tree theme has a formal emphasis with trees planted in centered row alignment. The Bradford Pear is a heavily used street tree in Chula Vista. The tree goes deciduous through the winter then produces a massive profusion of white flowers in the late spring. While an extremely showy tree during flower, after it flowers it becomes a shade tree and can be boring when overused.

The Mexican Fan palm is iconic to the City of Chula Vista and Southern California in general. Most of the palm trees are 17 to 25 feet tall and provide a architectural form the palm is famous for. It is anticipated most of the existing palm trees will be reused in the new bus lane street tree planting.  A certain number of the palms will remain in their current location while others are relocated to select areas of the project.

RDCS is certified by the California Department of General Services as a small business enterprise. RDCS LLC set a precedent being the first certified arborist consultant approved by SANDAG to the SANDAG A&E Bench (Architectural and Engineering).

With this designation from SANDAG, RDCS continues to raise awareness about the importance of our urban forest and the positive attributes a certified arborist and professional horticulturist can bring to a public works project. Jeremy Rappoport, President of RDCS expects to team with the in house landscape architectural team and various project stakeholders in developing and selecting a new, exciting and climate appropriate street tree palette for the SBBRT project.

RDCS LLC is an approved small business on call sub-consultant for Master Engineering, Architectural and Environmental consulting firms throughout California. Jeremy Rappoport, President of RDCS LLC, is a former director of land development, land development manager, purchasing agent, landscape and grading superintendent for public and private master development companies and homebuilders. Jeremy is a C-27 California landscape contractor and professional horticulturist, with a B.S. degree in Ornamental Horticulture from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Mr. Rappoport combines credentials as a certified arborist, certified tree risk assessor, C-27 landscape contractor and decades of land development expertise with a B.S. degree, continuing education and training to provide commercial, professional tree, plant, landscape and land development consulting

RDCS certified small business

Rappoport Development Consulting Services received approval from the California Department of General Services as a certified small business (SB).  Each certified SB receives a five percent (5%) bid preference on applicable solicitations.  Master
consultants and general contractors bidding California public works projects may receive a 5% preference using a RDCS LLC as a certified arborist sub-consultant.

In related news, with the certification of RDCS LLC as a small business, RDCS LLC is an approved A&E Bench Consultant for SANDAG projects.  Master consultants choose to seek certified arborist sub-proposals from RDCS LLC for SANDAG public works projects throughout San Diego county.  This is a tremendous benefit for master environmental and engineering consulting firms to add RDCS LLC to list of qualified certified arborist sub-consultants.

Environmental and Engineering firms working on large transportation, utility, and infra-structure public works and private improvement projects often times experience issues related to existing trees located in the path of or adjacent to public and private improvement projects.  When this occurs, agencies may require using a certified arborist as a sub-consultant.

As a sub-consultant to environmental and engineering firms, as well as general contractors, RDCS LLC provides multiple consulting services including:

  • Tree Inventories
  • Tree risk and health assessment
  • Tree construction protection and preservation plans
  • Tree Best Management Practices (BMP’s)
  • Tree appraisals.
  • Tree risk and tree management plans.
  • Field monitoring, inspections, supervision

General Consultants and Contractors can now benefit by having a professional, certified arborist consultant and receive a 5% bid preference using a  California certified small business

Give Jeremy Rappoport a call at 858-205-4748

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