Horridculture – Tree Preservation Ordinances

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Padding should protect these London plane street trees from minor altercations with machinery that will be used to demolish the associated buildings and construct new buildings.

Much of my work involves inspection of trees to assess health, stability and structural integrity, and subsequent composition of associated arborist’s reports to document such assessments. These reports are necessary for the issuance of permits to remove mature trees within many municipalities. They are only effective for that purpose if they recommend and justify removal.

If there is nothing wrong with the health, stability or structural integrity of subject trees, removal might be justified for other reasons. For example, the removal of superfluous trees might be justified if it would promote healthier development of remaining trees. Trees that disperse roots that are beginning to damage adjacent infrastructure might likewise need to be removed.

It seems like it is too much to be concerned with for something that property owners should not need permission to remove from their own property. For what people pay for property here, they should be able to do whatever they want to with it. However, mature trees are considered to be assets to their respective Communities, and components of the collective urban forests.

These majorly and justifiably controversial concerns are actually not the the only difficulties associated with municipal tree preservation ordinances.

While a young coast live oak in the extreme corner of my garden was not quite big enough to require a permit for removal, I asked the next door neighbor if he would like it to be removed before the roots damaged his driveway. I explained that if we waited any longer, the tree would be protected, and that a permit to remove such an exemplary tree would not likely be issued.

Tree preservation ordinances are often the motivating factor for the removal of trees before they get big enough to be protected! I was fortunate that my neighbor wanted my oak to stay.

Green Roof

P71125Is this a bad idea for a green roof?

Is it a houseplant that got too big?

Is it a wheelchair accessible tree-house?

None of the above. It is just weird architecture, designed to preserve a rare Chilean wine palm. The tree was probably planted in the front garden of a Victorian home that was on this site before the site was redeveloped. Chilean wine palms were more popular back then; and this one seems to be about that age. Although it seems to be healthy now, the constriction in the trunk indicates that it had been stressed by the redevelopment, which undoubtedly covered much of the established root system. The time it took for the length of trunk above the constriction to grow coincides with the estimated age of the building below. The tree very likely had better access to rainwater before.

Because it is a palm, the trunk will not get any wider than it is. Because the trunk is so stout, it probably does not move much in the wind. However, the blue tarp around the trunk indicates that there is a problem with the roof leaking around the trunk. It is obviously difficult to get a good seal.

It is impossible to determine from this picture if the building is built on a slab or a simple foundation. A foundation would be a bit healthier for the tree. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that a foundation is less detrimental to the tree than a slab would be. It probably would be better for the building too, since a slab could have been displaced by new roots emerging from the base of the trunk.

Perhaps all this discussion is pointless. This weird but creative idea works. Although distressed and very likely embarrassed, the tree was preserved, and shades the building below.