The public comment period on this program, which will be codified and impact our urban forest for the next 30 years, closed May 31st. Now we wait to hear back from the City.
The City of Los Angeles has launched a program to repair our broken sidewalks. As part of a settlement of the Willits class action lawsuit, a sidewalk repair program (SRP) called Safe Sidewalks LA began 3 years ago, and as a result, hundreds of large trees have already been removed, even though an environmental impact report (EIR) had not been conducted. We all want our sidewalks repaired, but we cannot afford to lose our urban tree canopy.
Through this 30-year SRP program, close to 13,000 large, mature trees are projected to be removed and replaced with 15-gallon saplings.
On December 26, 2019, the Sidewalk Repair Program Draft EIR was finally released. Here is a link: https://sidewalks.lacity.org/environmental-impact-report. The NCSA Trees Committee has serious concerns that this lengthy report is not informed by science and ignores the City’s own Dudek report, which cites tree preservation as critical for the health of our city and its inhabitants.
The goal of this draft EIR is to “streamline” the implementation of the sidewalk repair program and enable trees to be removed without challenge. We have concerns about the rush to remove trees without adequate due process, public involvement, and consideration of more sustainable approaches. We know there are hardscape alternatives to tree removals, such as bulb-outs, that are utilized in other cities to divert the sidewalk around the tree in order to retain it that are not proposed for Los Angeles. Visit www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/Trees/TreeSidewalksOperationsPlan_final215.pdf to learn more.
Although new young trees will be planted, the projected return to the tree canopy baseline as it existed prior to the program will not occur for 30 years. The report ignores or fails to evaluate numerous health and environmental impacts that result from tree removals. These include an increased heat island effect, a decline in air quality, loss of wildlife, and loss of stormwater capture. No mitigation of ecosystem services loss is addressed in this EIR because trees are considered a design element rather than an ecosystem service provider.
Trees take decades to grow to maturity, and the report anticipates a new tree mortality rate of only 8%, which we believe is overly optimistic, particularly given that budget and capacity constraints may make proper maintenance and irrigation of young trees extremely challenging. The City of Santa Monica’s chief forester reported at the City of Los Angeles’s 2019 Tree Summit that they experience 20% mortality with street tree saplings, and their urban forestry program is highly regarded. The City of Los Angeles’s replacement-tree list excludes important large-canopy tree species, and it is the large trees that provide greater ecosystem services than smaller trees. It is these valuable species that are frequent candidates for removal.
We are now in an important public comment period that ends on May 31st. It is imperative that the public provides input on this program that will be codified and will impact our urban forest for the next 30 years. We urge you to submit comment letters as individual, or if you're able to agendize and meet, as a Neighborhood Council.
Here's the NCSA Trees Committee letter to which you can refer for some of the salient points: NCSA Comment Letter
Please address your letter to:
TO: Shilpa Gupta, Environmental Supervisor I, City of Los Angeles Public Works, Bureau of Engineering (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CC: Robert Vega, Bureau of Engineering (email@example.com); Julie Sauter, Deputy City Engineer (firstname.lastname@example.org); Amber Elton, Bureau of Engineering (email@example.com); Gary Lee Moore, City Engineer (firstname.lastname@example.org); Fernando Campos, Executive Officer, Bureau of Public Works (email@example.com);Adel Hagekhalil, StreetsLA (firstname.lastname@example.org); Martin Schlageter, StreetsLA (email@example.com); Kevin James, Commissioner, Bureau of Public Works (firstname.lastname@example.org); Aura Garcia, Commissioner Bureau of Public Works (email@example.com); Mike Davis, Commissioner, Bureau of Public Works (firstname.lastname@example.org); Jessica Caloza, Commissioner Bureau of Public Works (email@example.com); Teresa Villegas, Commissioner, Bureau of Public Works (firstname.lastname@example.org); Mayor Eric Garcetti (email@example.com); Council Member Paul Koretz (firstname.lastname@example.org); Council Member Mike Bonin (email@example.com)