ENCINITAS — After years of discussion and re-writes, the Encinitas City Council has approved a set of regulations aimed at protecting Encinitas’ publicly planted trees and other venerable trees. The City Council unanimously adopted the first reading of the new municipal tree ordinance on April 26, but the swift approval belies the yearlong journey it took for the council to arrive to this point.
A council subcommittee comprised of former Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer and current Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz crafted the new regulations for more than a year and introduced them in November 2016, just before Shaffer stepped down from the council. Since then, the council has tabled approval of the ordinance at least four times over various concerns from residents and council members.
The municipal tree ordinance gives added protection to so-called “heritage trees” — trees that have certain historical or cultural significance or are the oldest or largest of its species. Under the new regulations, those trees can only be removed with the approval of the planning commission. It also requires that the city arborist, a position for which the city is currently recruiting, OK the removal of any trees planted on public right of way.
The ordinance also establishes an urban forest advisory committee, which according to the regulations will be no less than five members with relevant experience that will advise the City Council on tree plans, heritage tree applications, the city’s approved tree species master list, tree removals and public outreach plans.
The “topping” of city trees — the removal of large branches and trunks from the tops of trees — would be prohibited for city trees under the new ordinance, and tree pruning would have to conform to the standards set out in the city’s administrative manual. The city arborist would have to approve the pruning of any heritage trees. The council must adopt a second reading before the ordinance officially takes effect.