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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

The City of Davis continues to demonstrate commitment to sustainability, the environment

Public Works Department launches Green Gardening webinar series, and city commissions meet to draft policies for tree planting and solar panel installation

By LEVI GOLDSTEIN city@theaggie.org

 

This past week in Davis, sustainability efforts were on the front line at City Hall. On Oct. 20, the Public Works Utilities and Operations Department held the first workshop of the Virtual Green Gardening webinar series. 

The second workshop was hosted on Oct. 27 by Dawn Calciano, a conservation coordinator at the utilities and operations department. The workshop educated Davis citizens about how to landscape a sustainable yard by choosing the right plants and caring for them adequately. 

“We encourage people to have that knowledge,” Calciano said. “Here’s how to properly water both young trees and more mature trees, how much water do they really need, how do I select trees that are appropriate for my property so that I’m not having to potentially remove the tree in the future.” 

Calciano also shared Davis irrigation and watering policies. Beginning Nov. 1, new sprinkler/spray irrigation watering restrictions were implemented by the city council. Until Feb. 28, 2022, odd-numbered addresses can only water Tuesdays and Saturdays, and even-numbered addresses can only water Wednesdays and Sundays. Citizens can use AquaHawk to track their water usage and monitor their property’s irrigation system. 

Don Shor, the owner of the Redwood Barn Nursery and board member of Tree Davis, understands firsthand the benefits of sustainable landscaping. He has been gardening since he was ten years old, and he opened the Redwood Barn plant nursery in 1981 after graduating from UC Davis with a plant science degree. 

“The process of gardening is the process of setting goals, planning for something and implementing it with a distinct payoff,” Shor said. “You have all that excitement, that enthusiasm, the planning, the knowledge, the process and then you have this reward.” 

Shor is an active educator. He’s a writer for a newspaper column at the Davis Vanguard, he hosts a gardening radio show on KDRT 95.7 and has built a comprehensive website with plant knowledge and advice for beginner to advanced gardeners. He emphasizes the importance of choosing plants for your yard or garden that are local and suitable for the climate, and encourages people to do their research before planting. 

Tree Davis, a local non-profit organization, partnered with the Public Works Utilities and Operations Department on Nov. 3, for the third workshop in the Green Gardening webinar series. The presentation included information on why maintaining a healthy urban forest is important and outlined rules for planting trees in an urban environment. There has already been a noticeable impact of environmental education and outreach. 

“We see this overtime behavioral change,” Calciano said. “During the last drought, we saw, statewide, a shift in how people perceive water conservation in general. We’ve seen reductions in water usage. We’ve seen an increase in the amount of waste that is converted from the landfill that is either going into organics or that is being recycled.”

Also, on Oct. 27, a 2×2 committee consisting of two members from the Tree Commission and two members from the Natural Resources Commission met with “visiting expert” Rowan Beckensten, a Senior Project Engineer at solar developer Silicone Ranch, to discuss the benefits and trade-offs of trees and solar carports in Davis parking lots. 

The 2×2 subcommittee was created to draft new policies and revise Chapter 37 of the City’s Tree Ordinance. Assistant City Manager Ashley Feeney commented that the previous policies are no longer adequate, for they don’t account for new technologies that are emerging in the development industry.

Beckensten informed the committee that even a 2-3% energy output loss caused by shading from trees would be of economic concern to the developer. Trees need to be removed in order to install solar carports in shaded parking lots. Multiple developing companies have already attempted to do this, a controversial issue in City Hall as well as among Davis residents. 

Thus arises a problem that the 2×2 committee is working to solve. John Johnston, the Chair of the Natural Resources Commission, hopes that the updated policies will outline new design standards for parking lots that recognize the benefits of both trees and solar panels. 

Alan Hirsch, a retired public transit worker who calls himself “The Lorax,” considers caring for and fighting for trees the purpose of his life. Not only does he feel appreciation for trees, he also feels a responsibility toward the environment. 

“As Americans, we have the original sin of a carbon footprint,” Hirsch said. “The question is, what do we do to redeem ourselves from that?” 

Despite being a self-proclaimed advocate for trees, Hirsch also believes that a compromise between trees and solar panels is the most favorable outcome. 

“Solar panels do things that trees don’t do, and trees do things that solar panels don’t do,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch has been very vocal at City Hall commission meetings, he said. 

“Some days I’m outraged,” he said. “But we are moving ahead. Everybody listens and is respectful, and that’s worth a lot.”

Written by: Levi Goldstein — city@theaggie.org

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