City of Trees must treasure its canopy

Amreet Sandhu stands by a diseased elm tree in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Sacramento.
Amreet Sandhu stands by a diseased elm tree in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Sacramento. Courtesy of Amreet Sandhu

Of all the beautiful, old, leafy neighborhoods of Sacramento, my favorite is Elmhurst in East Sacramento. But the T Street corridor, the heart of Elmhurst, is threatened.

Dutch elm disease has struck and is painful to see. If the sick trees are not immediately treated, the sickness may spread to remaining trees, eliminating even more elms in a short amount of time. The city of Sacramento should not allow this decay to continue.

The trees were not watered last year until one of our neighbors asked a city worker to check the sprinkler system box. The worker discovered that the sprinkler system had been accidentally turned off or tampered with for an unknown amount of time. That has left several mature trees dead or dying.

This is not an issue confined to elms or Elmhurst. Much of Sacramento’s tree canopy is in decline, the result of neglect or removal of historic trees. This loss impacts temperature, air quality, livability and bird migration. At its core, preserving Sacramento’s tree canopy is an equity issue.

Sadly, city leaders do not seem to value tree maintenance and preservation of historic trees as much as they should. At its Aug. 4 meeting, the council eliminated protection against Dutch elm disease and the definition of a “heritage tree” in its tree ordinance revisions. The new ordinance does not focus on prevention. Instead, under the city’s nuisance code, having a diseased tree on one’s property could be a misdemeanor.

To my surprise, neither point was raised at Aug. 4 meeting. The new ordinance passed unanimously. I raised these issues, three hours later, during the public comment after being denied the opportunity to speak before the council vote.

Unfortunately, the council acted with an unnecessary sense of urgency on an issue that affects quality of life in our city. Not a single neighborhood association was in support. The City of Trees deserves much better.

Amreet Sandhu is president of the Elmhurst Neighborhood Association.