The beauty of spring is all around us, take a moment to enjoy it. Take a walk through any of our coastal canyons, parks and open spaces. You’ll be rewarded!
In May and June of 2015, The Los Angeles Times published articles addressing the problem of crumbling sidewalk infrastructure within the City of Los Angeles. The articles focused on the challenges pedestrians face in this car-dominated city. After years of mounting complaints and lawsuits caused by defective, dangerous sidewalks, city officials are finally beginning to address the problems caused by trees that were planted within city parkways, medians and right of ways.
After decades of deferred maintenance, the City Council, the Mayor, and public work officials are finally turning their attention toward addressing the problem, and trying to figure out how to juggle spending requirements resulting from legal settlements and sort out who is responsible for future sidewalk maintenance, as well as liability for future injuries caused by damaged sidewalks.
The first question, who is responsible for sidewalk repair and replacement caused by trees growing within city parkways and right of ways? California state law placed the burden of sidewalk repairs on adjacent property owners. A majority of California cities adhere to the state policy, however not the City of Los Angeles, which forty years ago opted for a policy that made the City responsible for repairing sidewalks damaged by tree roots in city parkways. Back in the 1970’s, when federal funding was available for the work, Los Angeles opted to pay for tree-damaged sidewalks. When the federal funding was depleted, voters declined to support tax increases for the repair work, leading to the current massive backlog of damaged sidewalks.
Instead of removing invasive, surface rooting tree species and replacing damaged sidewalks, the city embarked on a less expensive program of temporary asphalt patches in an attempt to smooth over displaced, uneven sidewalks. The problems continue to mount, with over 19,000 sidewalk complaints within the past five years alone. Over 40% of the complaints have been ignored, with no repairs having been made, mainly due to inspections never being made or the sidewalks so severely damaged they require complete rebuilding.
The City is now proposing a policy to address the situation. Under the proposed policy, neighborhood sidewalks damaged by city parkway trees would be replaced at the city’s expense. However, after repairs are completed, responsibility for repair, maintenance and liability would be shifted upon the adjacent property owner.
The proposal has received mixed comments from residential and commercial property owners. Businesses already pay taxes they assume local government should be using for infrastructure repairs. Additionally, requiring businesses to pay for repairs would harm retailers, especially in districts lined with problematics trees. Many commercial property owners would be forced to pass on the expense to the small business owners that rent the property.
Under the “fix and release” program, repairs would be made by the city, and then future responsibility for the sidewalks transferred to the homeowner. Some homeowners feel this would be an equitable solution to the current problem, other disagree, stating they would be saddled with big bills down the road, particularly if the city does not fix the “root” cause of the problem, that being tree roots or leaking utilities.
The city must grapple with both sides of a delicate issue, trying to preserve the benefits of large, picturesque trees providing neighborhood character while having to remove the same trees whose invasive roots have damaged infrastructure and would continue to do so if left in place. To begin the process, the city acknowledged they do not really know how extensive the problem is. The city has no existing tree inventory of the tree and sidewalk condition. Without this information, it would be difficult for the city to measure progress as they attempt to implement any new sidewalk management policy.
Certified and registered consulting arborists consult with Southern California municipalities and private property owners involved in trip and fall litigation caused by tree root lifted and damaged sidewalks. Typically lifted and damaged sidewalks caused by tree roots are due to inappropriate tree selection. Species such as Sycamore, Ficus, Eucalyptus and Ash trees planted decades ago in restricted parkway planters were most often associated with damaged infrastructure.
Sidewalk repair or replacement without addressing the existing tree species ignores the problem. Passing on responsibility for future repairs and liability to adjacent property owners would be an unjust situation for taxpayers. Large, surface rooting, invasive species should be closely examined for mitigation in conjunction with infrastructure replacement. Perhaps root pruning and root barriers might be an appropriate remediation that would protect future infrastructure while retaining large pre-existing species.
However, many species planted decades ago were and will always be inappropriate for confined parkways. Root pruning a large Ficus or Sycamore could easily de-stabilize the tree, resulting in a catastrophic failure. Who would be liable for a tree failure and resultant property damage, or worse, personal injury or death? Citizens might have to accept they cannot have the best of both worlds, where large, invasive trees are retained for neighborhood character, sidewalks are repaired and the city remains responsible.
Over the decades, many newer street tree species have been developed that provide desirable growth characteristics while minimizing damaging invasive root systems and towering canopies that conflict with traffic and overhead utilities. Reasonable compromises can and should be made toward replacing older, inappropriate tree species with newer species that will provide community benefits while minimizing maintenance costs and damaged infrastructure.
Hopefully, the City of Los Angeles and other municipalities facing this problem elect to use certified and registered consulting arborist and horticulturists as they consider how to address their urban forest and infrastructure issues.
To read the full Los Angeles Times Article, click the link:
I have been getting an increased number of calls from people concerned about their tree(s) starting to dieback. They want a certified or registered consulting arborist to evaluate the tree health condition, determine the cause of the tree decline, and recommend treatment options or removal.
For the past two to three years, I have noticed the increasing number of declining trees throughout San Diego. Especially noticeable is the tree dieback in the backcountry as well as local canyons and open spaces. Even drought tolerant Eucalyptus, Oak and Pines trees are struggling to survive.
The cause of our tree decline and dieback is the ongoing California drought. With yet another year of little winter rain, soils throughout San Diego county have little moisture reserve remaining. The drought is affecting native as well as ornamental trees used in the landscape.
Indeed, certain trees in our area are struggling due to insect infestation. The gold spotted oak borer attacking Coast Live Oak, as well as a host of ornamentals including Olive and Liquidambar trees have been infected with fusarium vascular disease introduced from borer and insect infestations. Therefore, it is not uncommon for most people to assume their tree must be declining due to some kind of insect or disease.
I have observed people rarely consider the effect of the drought as being the primary cause for tree decline. The tree living in the back yard or slope area for the past several decades may be dying simply because there is no more water in the soil profile! Even the deepest rooted trees cannot survive accumulated years of consecutive drought.
I recently received a call from a gentleman complaining his fifty year old Jacaranda tree was dying. The new foliage had germinated then died back, now small twigs and branches were dropping. The bark on the trunk was exhibiting uncharacteristic roughening. The tree was located at the bottom of a slope near a turf area. Months ago, the turf sprinklers had been turned off, now the tree was struggling to survive.
Tree roots seeking moisture grow well beyond the drip line of the tree crown. Under drought conditions, soil moisture is not being recharged from winter rains. Unless a tree is receiving supplemental irrigation, it is reliant upon finding soil moisture by growing into irrigated turf and planter areas.
With increased water restrictions and rates, people are reducing or eliminating irrigation to their lawns and shrub beds without considering the effect on nearby trees. Trees that adapted their root systems to getting water from nearby irrigated areas that no longer get watered will begin to decline as the remaining soil moisture is exhausted.
A tree weakened by drought becomes increasingly susceptible to secondary pest or disease infestations. Many beetles can detect stressed trees from miles away. However, attempts to eradicate secondary insect infestations will not resolve the underlying cause of the tree decline.
So, if you notice your tree starting to decline, here is a brief check list of considerations:
-Is the tree irrigated or non-irrigated?
-If non-irrigated, does the tree get water from a nearby irrigated source?
-Has there been recent re-programming or turning off the irrigation?
-Any recent construction or trenching nearby the tree?
-Any grade change such as fill soils placed over the tree roots or cuts?
A well maintained, mature street tree in the front yard of a property may add an additional 7% to the assessed value of a property, a dead or declining tree obviously reduces street appeal and real estate value. Trees can be retained and successfully survive the ongoing drought, contact a certified or registered consulting arborist to provide a tree health evaluation and recommendations on how to protect your tree investment value.
If you are a landscape or tree care contractor, you should be aware of the potential liability you face by an unhappy client. This awareness begins when you understand your “duty of care” as a landscape or tree care professional.
What is “duty of care”? It is a very important legal concept that simply stated means a person or organization has the legal obligation to avoid acts or omissions that could harm others. The duty of care extends to your actions or lack of action that would cause harm to your client or their property, perhaps even extending to adjacent properties and utilities.
Licensed contractors should understand their client hired them for their expertise and professionalism. The client is reliant upon the contractor to provide a product and service that conforms to industry standards. It is incumbent upon the contractor to satisfy all contractual obligations and satisfy the industry standard of care, or face a possible lawsuit.
If you are a landscape, maintenance or tree contractor interested in learning how to minimize you legal exposure and reduce your liability, please read the full article at:
The Professional Tree Care Association (PTCA) of San Diego hosted their annual seminar and field day, a two day event on Friday, August 22 and Saturday August 23, 2014. This was the 25th annual event and like many of the previous seminars, this was another informative, educational experience bringing together a wide diversity of speakers and audience!
The seminar was on Friday and this years theme centered on the ongoing California drought and ramifications to trees. There were a number of great speakers, starting with Mr. Ron Matranga who provided an overview about trees in times of drought, current and future water restrictions . Dr. Roger Kjelgren, Professor from Utah State University, provided a simplified method for landscape irrigation demand estimation. Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, the Urban Horticulture Extension Specialist from Washington State University discussed how to treat and avoid drought stress in landscape trees and Ms. JoEllen Jacoby, the Water Conservation Landscape Architect for the City of San Diego enlightened us about planning for current and future water restrictions (gulp, better get some rain this winter)!
Ms. Mary Matav, Agronomist from Agri-Serve presented information on how to combat pests and drought, followed by Dr. Tracy Ellis, Entomologist with the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, scaring all of us about tree insect interceptions and quarantines in San Diego County.
A great roster of speakers who delivered relevant information in a beautiful setting at Balboa Park in San Diego. On Saturday, the event transferred to the field, where information discussed at the seminar was applied and viewed in the field, an aspect of the field day I find very beneficial.
As usual, Dr. John Kabashima, the Environmental Horticulture Advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension, presented new, current information on the latest insect threat to our ornamental and agronomic trees in California, that being the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer, (PSHB). As many of us already know, this destructive ambrosia beetle is now active throughout the Southern California.
The PSHB is an invasive ambrosia beetle that carries the fungus Fusarium euwallaceae. The female tunnels through the bark and lays galleries of pre-fertilized eggs and grows the fungus, which becomes food the newly hatched beetles. The fungi infects the tree with a disease called Fusarium Dieback (FD), which interrupts the transport of water and nutrients through the vascular system of the tree. In essence, this is a vascular clogging disease resulting in dieback and death of a large host of trees. Unfortunately, there is no cure at the present time and beware of PSHB/FD look-alikes. Here is very informative attachment Dr. Kabashima provided that really provides current information about this insect. Handout is published from the University of California and the UC division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. PSHB Information
Many thanks to all of the hardworking voluntary staff of the PTCA. What a great local association, I am very proud to be a member of. The PTCA is an active association promoting the best in tree care and tree knowledge. An association composted of tree care companies, certified and consulting arborists and tree care professionals, the PTCA continues to provide current and relevant topics for it’s membership and community at large. Thanks again PTCA, looking forward to next years Seminar and Field Day!
I attended a recent seminar in San Diego entitled Trees and Solar Power: Natural Partners, sponsored by the California Urban Forest Council (CAUFC). It was a very informative seminar, bringing together professionals from the solar and tree industries, as well as city planners, landscape architects, arborists and related professionals.
Even with decades experience as a landscape contractor, certified arborist, professional horticulturist and land development infrastructure project manager, I was not aware of the current solar and arboriculture laws. For example, the State of California and many other states enacted solar legislation decades ago. Due to the oil crisis in the 1970’s and 1980’s, there was increased interest in promoting alternative energy sources. Many states adopted laws to encourage renewable energy technologies, solar being one of them.
In 1978, California enacted the Solar Shade Control Act, in part to protect consumer rights to install and operate solar energy systems on a home or business and to protect consumer rights to access sunlight. In 2008, the law was amended due to a very public controversy between two Santa Clara County residents being criminally prosecuted and convicted under the Act for allowing their redwood trees to cast shade on a neighbors solar panels.
Based on the Solar Shade Act of 2008, a site plan reflecting the pre-existing conditions at the time a solar system is installed should be a mandatory permit and legal requirement. As lawsuits increase due to conflicts between trees shading solar collectors, a site plan showing trees in place pre-existing a solar installation will become an important legal instrument.
We derive many benefits from large trees, from their beauty and aesthetics to the shade and passive cooling affect they have on our homes and businesses. The same is true for deciduous trees in the winter when they drop their leaves, permitting solar radiation to warm our homes. In a residential setting, large existing trees will invariably cast shading onto a structure. It is incumbent upon a solar company to analyze shading from the Client and neighboring trees for correct solar panel design and installation.
If a solar company identifies trees as a potential shading conflict with a rooftop solar installation, a certified arborist and or professional horticulturist should be added to the design team. Depending on the tree species, growth form, and distance from the structure, there may be several alternatives available to mitigate tree shading without complete tree removal or butchering the tree through indiscriminate topping.
Have a certified arborist or professional horticulturist consult with the solar company to ensure retention of the desired landscape aesthetics combined with the energy savings benefits of rooftop solar.
Read the full article at Trees and Solar-Environmental Conflict or Can the Two Co-Exist?
I recently read a great article by Delle Willett of the North Park News entitled Landscape Architects: Artists with the Earth as a Canvas. The article focused on three local women landscape architects who have made significant contributions to enhancing the aesthetics and functionality to the City of San Diego.
While reading about the history of female landscape architects, I couldn’t help be reflect on my own background and education within the fielof landscape architecture and landscape contracting. As a college student, my path began at UC Santa Barbara and completed with a Bachelor of Science degree from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.
I wrote and article correlating my own academic history with the three landscape architects discussed in the newspaper article. For men or women interested in the field of landscape architecture, design, planning, horticulture, arboriculture and landscape contracting, or anyone who struggled to find their own passion and career path in college, I think you’ll enjoy the read.
Wow, just when I thought the PTCA (Professional Tree Care Association) annual seminar was the bomb, the following field day was just as great. While the seminar was an indoor event focusing on a variety of topics presented by outstanding industry professionals and educators, the field day was spent outdoor at beautiful Balboa park in San Diego.
The day consisted of a number of workshops organized into several different tracks that allowed participants to choose from a palette of presentations that provided something for everybody. Tree climbers and field workers loved the tree climbing workshop and training by Mr. Martin Morales. His workshop included climbing and positioning for safe work in trees, also taught about knots, ropes and equipment inspection, while providing new tips and tricks. I am way to old for climbing, but enjoyed watching guys in the trees, had an opportunity to meet Martin during an incredible lunch (carne asada). We were looking at a rigging holding a tree log, he immediately pointed out flaws and worn equipment, I would never have noticed. Fortunately we have educated tree climbers who understand the importance of proper equipment, training and safety. Another track included Tree Risk Assessment best management practices (BMP’s) workshop taught by Mr. Ron Matranga and Dr. R. Bruce Allison. Since I consult and provide tree risk assessment as part of my practice, it was a great opportunity to learn about best management practices involved with the new TRAQ (tree risk assessment qualified) versus the previous TRACE (tree risk assessment certification exam) methodology. Dr. Allison demonstrated new sonic tomography techniques for non-destructive testing of the interior of tree trunks, new cutting edge technology that is already an advancement from just two years ago. Using probes and determining the time for sound waves to travel through tree trunks and how the sound wave moves at different velocities around interior trunk decay will assist arborists to use in advanced tree risk assessment. As Dr. Allison noted, hopefully in the next few years, the cost will come down and we will have a pocket sized device and an app to use to help us understand what is happening with interior tree decay.
We all know about new invasive insects and diseases affecting our trees, new invasive species are being detected at a rate on one every 60 days, Dr. John Kabashiima provided the sobering statistic it is now one every 45 days! The gold spotted oak borer has decimated tens of thousands of Coast Live Oak and Black Oaks throughout California.
This pest has been spread throughout the state, particularly San Diego county by people using the dead wood for fire wood, transporting it in their vehicles where they unwitting spread the insect throughout the county. Don’t move infected wood!
For pest control advisors and applicators, there was a pesticide application for trees demonstration and a safety workshop and tree identification workshop and quiz available to test your knowledge. Field guys loved the chainsaw sharpening and troubleshooting workshop presented by Mr. Paul Lasiter and Mr. Joe Garcia. Another great aspect for everyone was presentation of many workshops in Spanish and English, a very inclusive aspect that helped all of us enjoy the day.
I learned a great deal of new information I never would have even considered without this great field day presentation. Have you ever considered how heavy a downed tree trunk is? Well, there was a workshop on how to calculate the wood weight of felled trees, presented by Mr. Harvey Pedersen. Crane operators have to have a reasonable idea of how much a log or portion of a tree trunk weighs in order to safely lift it. Mr. Pederson presented wood weight calculations of various types of trees and an amazingly accurate method for estimating the weight of a log, which was then lifted by the crane which provided the true weight to compare against our estimated weights. How cool is that!
Just want to thank all of those involved in the PTCA Seminar and Field Day for a truly memorable event, a special thanks to our friend Dave Shaw
who once again served as the master of ceremony and kept us all entertained. Keep up the great work, looking forward to next years seminar and field day.
Learn more about the PTCA at http://www.ptcasandiego.org
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 http://www.ptcasandiego.org
Like many citizens of the City of San Diego, I have been closely monitoring proposals for the redevelopment of Balboa Park. For those who might not be aware of this situation, the Plaza de Panama committee plan proposed changes to Balboa Park including removing vehicles and free parking within the park where they are now allowed and replace that with paid parking structures. Included in the plan is construction of a 400 foot bridge extension and freeway like transition road from the historic Laurel / Cabrillo bridge for visitors to access the new parking structures. The idea was to finish construction in time for the centennial celebration of 1915 Panama-California Exhibition, the reason Balboa Park first came into existence.
SOHO, (Save Our Heritage Organization), filed suit two years ago to block the city from proceeding with the proposed design. On February 4, 2013, SOHO claimed a great victory when Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor ruled the City Council violated municipal code and utilized “faulty logic” in approving the Plaza de Panama Committee plan last July, 2012. Judge Taylor ruled the City “abused its discretion” in approving the project and ruled to set aside the project’s required Site Development Permit.
Key to the ruling was according to municipal code for historic sites, the City was required to find that the project site would otherwise have “no reasonable beneficial use” in order to have the permit approved. Obviously, Balboa Park has a great deal of “beneficial use” without the permit issuance, which the City seemed to ignore in their decision to proceed with the committees recommendation, perhaps the reason Judge Taylor deemed City Council had “abused it discretion”, used “faulty logic” and held that “the critical finding by the City Council is so lacking in evidentiary support as to render it unreasonable; it must therefore be set aside”.
Balboa Park is a rare and extraordinary site located in the urban center of San Diego. This has been a free “peoples park” for locals and tourists for generations. Supporters of the Plaza de Panama project contend it would reclaim the park from cars that currently drive through the park to reach parking lots. Opponents to the plan claim while one small area of cars would be freed up, the remainder of the park would be dominated by traffic, new buildings and acres of concrete parking lots. Tranquil Alcazar Gardens would become an automobile, bus and delivery zone.
With so much as stake for one of San Diego’s most important, historic and enduring landmarks, why has the City of San Diego failed to find an agreeable compromise? Balboa Park is a historic resource that should be protected and sensibly improved to benefit ALL the citizens of San Diego, not just special interest groups or donors such as Mr. Jacobs, who pledged to donate $30 million for improvements, but only using the Plaza de Panama plan, in other words, the philanthropic donation had political strings tied to it. Not much of a philanthropic gesture in my opinion. If Mr. Jacobs is truly interested in improving Balboa Park for ALL citizens, tourists and park visitors, he donation should not be tied to a specific design.
While I have spent a career working in land development, I am also a proud citizen of San Diego and I do not want to see the historic Cabrillo bridge turned into a freeway, and do not want to see the western historic architectural facade of the existing buildings destroyed because of a poorly conceived traffic circulation plan. There are better alternatives available and the City Council needs to stop considering free donations with strings attached as the reason for choosing one alternative plan over another.
Balboa Park was conceived and developed as a free park for all citizens to enjoy. That was the original intent, we should honor that objective in careful deliberation about the future of how to thoughtfully redevelop the park for future generations. Lets not rush to a limited decision so we can have a park renovated in time for the centennial.
Click to read the full SOHO article, SOHO Wins! Balboa Park Saved!