Mayor Gloria Cuts Down More Trees Than He Plants

by on April 24, 2023 · 3 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Mayor Todd Gloria and dozens of volunteers planted 60 trees in Mission Bay on Saturday, Earth Day — which was also Arbor Day. Most of the trees planted were fig trees.

Meanwhile, city crews and contractors are busy counting the number of trees along city streets — estimated to be about 300,000 — as part of a year-long effort to update San Diego’s inventory of tree canopy.

San Diego’s climate action plan initially called for tree canopies to cover about 15 percent of the city by 2020. Mayor Todd Gloria recently doubled down on the goal, calling for 35 percent coverage by 2035. The city’s current canopy coverage was last assessed about a decade ago at 13 percent.

The counting of trees — part of the city’s ambition to expand the city’s tree canopy as climate change spurs more extreme heat events — should be completed by December 2023.

But this could be a steep hill to climb for San Diego, as recent events have demonstrated that the city likes to chop trees down.

Talk to the people in Ocean Beach about Torrey Pines, the folks in Point Loma about Palm Trees or residents of Kensington about their historic pepper trees — or watch the news as just a month ago city crews cut down a row of large ficus trees in the Midway District.

Even the reporter of a recent piece in the U-T about the canopy count doubts the city can close in on its goal. Joshua Emerson Smith wrote:

However, it’s unlikely that significant progress has been made. The city has planted about 1,220 trees a year on average since 2020. But officials confirmed Tuesday that it’s losing just as many trees to old age and new development.

That means the city may have actually lost canopy coverage in recent years, said Anne Fege, the longstanding chair of the city’s Community Forest Advisory Board. “You actually go backwards because the removed trees are bigger,” she said. “Trees don’t grow that fast.”

The city’s newest goal for canopy coverage would require planting about 100,000 new trees by 2035, or about 8,333 a year. This year, the city estimates it will only plant about 1,000.

Fege said she’s advocated for years to increase the city’s forestry budget with little success. “The story is tired,” she said. “They’re not spending the money. They’re not doing the job.”

Recently, Anne Fege wrote an article we reposted entitled, “San Diego Trees Are Going, Going …”:

In recent decades, trees are being lost in older neighborhoods to infill development, with limited tree protection or replacement required by newly approved code changes. Other older trees, such as Torrey pines, have “outgrown” their sidewalk or yard spaces; are uprooted in storms and high winds; die because they aren’t watered deeply (once, each month without rain); or have to be removed because of public safety risks.

The vice-chair of the OB Planning Board told the Rag that over the last 5 years, the city has cut down nearly all the trees on his block and have planted only one.

So, despite Mayor Gloria getting his hands dirty last Saturday, when it comes down to it, it’s a lot of PR and photo ops.

It’s fairly universally acknowledged by Gloria’s constituents, his administration is cutting down more trees than it’s planting, and as Fege says, the trees being cut down are older and larger, and the ones being planted are young, thinner and have years to go before they provide canopy.



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gravitas April 24, 2023 at 12:05 pm

BRAVO!!! The truth about all the tree cuttings….making way for more Gloria “development” spaces?!!


Paulette Williams April 24, 2023 at 7:32 pm

San Diego’s very own Onceler. Dr. Seuss would be horrified.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman April 25, 2023 at 7:09 pm

Trees? No money for improving the City’s vanishing green canopy, but lotsa cash still available for $500,000 monthly rent at vacant and asbestos-laden 101 Ash Street — even though they’re trying to disappear it and build anew so the citizens will forget about that sordid episode of San Diego-style bipartisan self-dealing.
BTW, good for DA Summer Stephan for getting real estate broker “volunteer” Jason Hughes to repay the City’s $9.4 million he made on the down-low on the sale of Civic Plaza Center and 101 Ash Street properties. But that case’s global settlement doesn’t begin to cover the past and present cost to taxpayers and the scandalous culpability of scores of past and present politicians and city officials who skated.


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