8/27/18 – Irvine Green Ribbon Committee Meeting Report, Part I, Urban Forestry in Irvine

Urban Forestry in Irvine

An urban forest is a natural resource composed of all trees on public and private property within the City limit and sphere of influence.
The benefits of trees are as follows: They provide shade, which will reduce energy costs. (Research shows that trees can reduce energy costs used to cool buildings by up to 35%). They absorbs pollutants, thereby, providing healthier air to breathe. And trees provide beauty, a quality that can be hard to quantify; however, research shows that matures can add up to 5-20% to property values.
Source: Irvine Municipal Code, Chapter 4–Urban Forestry

The Irvine Green Ribbon Committee held one of their quarterly meeting on August 27, 2018. The topics discussed were the Irvine Public Works Urban Forestry Program, reorganization of the Green Ribbon Committee and review of the committee’s work plan, and the selection of a professional service company to provide a community choice energy feasibility study and the selection of a professional service company to provide the City of Irvine strategic energy plan. Today, I will write about the what was discussed concerning the Urban Forestry Program.

Irvine Public Works Presentation

The Urban Forestry discussion started out with a presentation from two Irvine Public Works representatives. They made the following statements:

Matters regarding trees in Irvine are guided by Irvine’s Urban Forest Ordinance, Streetscape Maintenance Ordinance, and  sustainability plan.

The first trees that were planted in  Irvine’s public space were in Turtle Rock, and the most recent trees plantings were in Portola Springs. Irvine has over 30,000 trees on public landscapes, and that is approximately one-fifth of Irvine’s urban forest resource. The estimated value of trees in Irvine public space is approximately $25,000,000, and the estimated total value of Irvine’s urban forest is $1,000,000,000.

Every Arbor Day the Public Works Department partners with an Irvine fourth grade class to educate the students on trees. They also stated the most crucial time for investment in a tree is the first twenty years of its life. Irvine has been a Tree City USA for 28 years.

Committee Members Statements and Questions

Dustin Nirschl (Councilmember Fox appointee to the Planning Commission) asked if when it was time for trees to be replaced  could they be replaced by trees native to the area. The Public Works reply was that they do try to replace with native trees; however, planting a diversity of trees is also important. So while native trees, such as oaks, are planted, other trees would also be used in replacement so that a disease outbreak in one tree type will not devastate all trees in an area. Nirschl also asked if the planning commission could get a list of trees that are deemed acceptable for planting in Irvine and if residents could give input on trees that they see as hazards.

 Norm Kisamov (Mayor Wagner appointee) was concerned that the need for shade in Irvine was not being given adequate attention. He was also concerned about so many trees being cut down in Irvine. He stated that recently many trees at the Heritage Park Library area, near Culver/Walnut, along Irvine Center Drive,  and in Northwood Park were cut down (80% was his estimate for the number of trees cut down in Northwood recently). He questioned the need to cut down so many of these trees at once. He also asked if a way existed to confirm that a tree really needed to be cut down .  Kisamov further stated that he wanted the older majestic tree keep around as long as possible as they add a beauty to an area that is hard to quantify. He stated that he wanted his grandchildren to be able to enjoy these majestic trees.

Bemmy Maharramli (member-at-large) asked about the status of the UCI bore beetle problem and if anything existed that allowed public access to Irvine’s tree inventory. In addition, Maharramli asked if a synergy could be found between dealing with the shade issue and other issues such as sustainability.

Gang Chen (Councilmember Shea appointee) stated that sports fields need a guideline regarding what percentage of the area should have trees. He also stated that removal of trees should be staggered so that an area does not lose so many of its older, majestic, shade-providing trees at one time.

Chairperson Melissa Fox stated the following: The statues regarding the Urban Forrest in Irvine are vague and work could be done to clarify them. She has heard many concerns from residents about the lack of shade in Irvine. More of the trees planted by the Irvine Company should be drought tolerant, but the City currently has no mechanism to enforce this. Tree topping as a pruning method causes harm and is a  misdemeanor that is enforceable by the Irvine Police Department. However, up to this point, many Irvine HOAs have not  complied with Irvine’s no-tree topping law, and it has not been heavily enforced. Note: “Topping trees has long been a problem in community forestry, not only by creating visual blight, but also by endangering the health of trees and the safety of pedestrians and property.”–Journal of Arboriculture 25(4): July 1999

Public Comments

During public comments, Sylvia Walker made a suggestion that is related to Irvine’s urban forestry program: She suggested that a cover crop, such as clover, be put under the citrus trees that are located near Harvard and Irvine Center Drive (this is the area that use to be the Incredible Edible Park). This is a sustainability practice that will retain moisture in the soil, thereby, reducing the need for watering; fix nitrogen into the soil, thereby reducing the need for fertilizer; and is more attractive than bare dirt.

Sidenote — Additional information on the benefits of trees: “It is becoming increasingly clear that trees help people live longer, healthier, happier lives—to the tune of $6.8 billion in averted health costs annually in the U.S., according to research published this week [July 29, 2014]. And we’re only beginning to understand the nature and magnitude of their tree-benevolence.“–“The Health Benefits of Trees,” The Atlantic, July 29,2014

This concludes the summary of Irvine’s 8-27-2018 Green Ribbon Committee urban forestry discussion. Upcoming posts will cover what was discussed at this Green Ribbon Committee meeting regarding  committee reorganization and  work plan review as well as the selection of professional service companies to provide the City a community choice energy feasibility study as well as a strategic energy plan.

September 19, 2018 Update–The following related posts are now available:

8/27/18 — Irvine Green Ribbon Committee Meeting Notes–Part II, Work Plan and Reorganization

8/27/18 — Irvine Green Ribbon Committee Meeting Notes–Part III, Irvine Strategic Energy Plan and CCE