ENCINITAS — Imagine driving along South Coast Highway through downtown Encinitas under a canopy of evergreens and looking down D Street to find a burst of red color — thanks to the fall foliage of Chinese pistache trees.
On Nov. 29, urban forestry specialists presented visual concepts like that one and requested public input on the Downtown In-Fill Tree Planting Program, which is a long-term proposed plan for how to create a cohesive, aesthetic and sustainable “treescape” downtown.
The type of trees to plant, their water needs and how to use color effectively to create botanical interest were all topics discussed at the special meeting hosted by the city of Encinitas, the Urban Forest Advisory Committee and the Downtown Urban Forestry Ad-hoc Council Subcommittee.
Tony Kranz, a city councilman and member of the subcommittee, explained that the end goal is to present City Council with a plan that it will hopefully adopt.
City Arborist Chris Kallstrand described the tree-planting program as “a road map.” He recommended that Encinitas decide how it will replace trees that die as well as what types of trees it will plant in areas he called vacancies. Kallstrand showed a map that identified more than 220 current locations in the downtown area where trees could be planted now.
But Kallstrand and other subcommittee members want an established program in place, approved by the council, that provides guidance on when and what to plant.
They presented concepts, called “tree palettes,” that used drought-tolerant trees exclusively, irrigated trees and trees with mixed water needs. When asked to identify their favorite designs, attendees chose the drought-tolerant ones.
One drought-tolerant tree palette for the downtown area features a progressive seasonal bloom pattern on east-west streets that moves from south to north. Residents, for example, would find yellow spring flowers produced by golden trumpet trees on H and G streets and then, in summer, purple blossoms on crape myrtle trees on F and E streets.
In that design, the north-south streets would be filled with evergreen or semi-deciduous species — with umbrella-shaped canopy trees mid-block and taller trees at the intersections. The idea would be to create a wide, green canopy north to south and pops of seasonal color east to west.
William Morrison, the subcommittee and Urban Forest Advisory Committee member who designed the plan, told attendees that he loved the image of riding on the train and looking west at “ribbons of color” stretching down to the ocean.
Many of the proposed tree selections come from an ongoing study that identifies trees considered capable of adapting to anticipated climate changes, like seasonal drought and higher temperatures.
No palms, which make up about one-third of the city’s street-tree population now, will be planted. Kallstrand explained in a written statement to The Coast News, “Palm trees are aesthetically pleasing, but do not provide the same environmental benefit, such as cooling and carbon sequestration as hardwood trees. They also typically have higher annual maintenance costs.”
The planting program does not include plans to remove any trees.