Sacramento plans to pull out trees near Convention Center during renovation

The city plans to cut down 51 trees downtown and replant 80 more, the Sacramento City Council decided Tuesday.

The 51 trees stand in the way of the expansion of the Sacramento Convention Center and Community Center Theater, city officials said at their weekly meeting.

Though the city will be planting more trees, they will be significantly smaller than the existing trees. The 51 trees being removed total 679 inches “diameter at standard height,” city arborist Kevin Hocker said, while the 80 trees the city is replanting total 216 inches.

Vice Mayor Steve Hansen made a motion that would place about $150,000 into a fund to replant trees in other parts of the city to make up for the 463 inches lost. Hansen’s motion amended the tree plan, which passed on a 7-1 vote with Councilman Eric Guerra absent. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby voted no after she asked Hansen to add a measure to his motion that would ask staff to research the possibility of saving two Callery pear trees near a bus stop on L Street. When Hansen declined, Ashby voted against the item.

Leading up to the meeting, members of Trees for Sacramento and other residents told Hansen they were alarmed by a document on the city website that said city staff was asking the council to cut down 96 trees for the projects. The real number is actually 51, Hocker told the council at the meeting. The higher number included some large shrubs.

Judith Lamare, of Trees for Sacramento, said the city should have considered tree removals at the time the council was asked to approve the design plan for the projects, when there was still time to make changes without wasting a lot of money.

“That way we wouldn’t get in the position we’re in tonight,” Lamare said.

Paul Andrews said the lost trees would mean about 22,000 square feet of shade lost downtown, which will make it harder for people to be outside in the summer.

“This sets a precedent that if a project is large enough, we can do away with some of the concerns about trees,” said Andrews, who works downtown.

The trees being removed include London plane, fan palm, elm, Japanese maple, redwood, pine, crepe myrtle and others, Hocker said. The replacement trees include honey locust, prospector elm, red crape myrtle, aurora dogwood and others.

If a private developer was completing the project, the city would only require five trees totaling 141 inches be replanted, Hocker said. Prior to 2016, there would have been no requirement.

“We’ve progressively increased our commitment to replacing trees and we do feel we’re exceeding our current standards, and of course our standards have been increasing over time,” Hocker said.

It’s been several years since a project in the city required this many trees to be cut down, but removing this many trees for a development of this size is common for private developers in the city, Hocker said.

“There are probably in excess of 1 million trees in the city limits,” Hocker said. “If you want to talk street trees, there’s a tree every 40 feet, so if you are doing anything that spans more than 40 feet, you’re going to hit a tree somewhere.”

Several of the trees coming down would not have been allowed to be built so close to the buildings by today’s standards, said Ofelia Avalos, city senior engineer.

Some of the trees that will be replanted come in 24- and 36-inches square boxes, Avalos said.

“We’re not planning to put back dinky trees,” Avalos said.

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