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Davis, California

Monday, June 10, 2024

City of Davis Tree Commission discusses infrastructure problems from overgrown trees

At a recent meeting, commissioners and community members spoke about issues caused by poor development planning


By HANNAH SCHRADER city@theaggie.org


On April 3, the city of Davis Tree Commission held a meeting and discussed problems arising from city trees exceeding expected sizes and damaging utilities.

Cathy Busby, a local homeowner and retired UC Davis professor, spoke about a city tree with roots that have grown to damage her sewer and break her utility lines.

“The water main is going to keep breaking as long as the tree keeps growing, and Halls [Busby’s utility person] told me this repair will last a day, a month, a week, a year,” Busby said. “There [are] going to be more water breaks.”

Busby then talked about the financial challenges that these repairs have imposed on her and the problems that will arise in the future if the tree keeps breaking her utility lines.

“The roots, as he described, are growing everywhere, and Halls is like, ‘Yes, your sewer is going to keep breaking, and yes, your water main is going to keep breaking as long as that tree is growing,’” Busby said. “So in the last six months I’ve spent — I’m on a fixed income, and I’m on a pension — but I’ve spent one and a half months of my income correcting the breakages that this tree has caused to my utilities. If this keeps happening, I’m going to have to sell the house. I cannot do this repeatedly.”

Busby then spoke about a possible solution to this tree problem, which cannot be implemented because the tree damaging her utility lines is a city-planted tree that can only be removed by the city.

“The only solution is to take out the tree,” Busby said. “If the tree had been planted on the other side of my driveway, it would be fine. There’s a private tree there on the plan you showed, so there’s a private tree there that is not a tallow [tree]. I’m a retired professor on a pension, and I can’t keep living there if I keep having to do this.”

The vice-chair of the Tree Commission, John Reuter, then spoke about how this is an ongoing issue.

“On the one hand, on the petition for requesting removal, there’s a statement that we are not authorized to remove a tree that’s healthy,” Reuter said. “On the other hand, we are constantly finding cases where trees are causing damage to people’s swimming pools or causing damage to sidewalks.”

Tree Commissioner Colin Walsh continued with the discussion on the origins of this ongoing issue.

“The city planted the tree right on top of the utilities, which is the city’s responsibility that the utilities were there in the first place,” Walsh said. “Then, to add insult to injury, the city put the cable boxes right on top of it, which is what I was trying to get to. It’s a rare situation anywhere in the country that the city is the one that was responsible for the cable coming in. So this problem really was of the city’s making.”

Walsh then spoke about homeowners’ disadvantaged position when trying to resolve these kinds of issues with the city council.

“When a developer comes in and gets to talk to the city council, they sure do get lots of time at the microphone, and the council and staff are more than happy to allow the developers to interrupt even sometimes,” Walsh said. “It’s unfortunate, and I think that [homeowners] deserve a lot of respect.”

Walsh concluded his statement by discussing the broader implications of this particular homeowners issue.

“We’re basically talking about trying to correct mistakes that the city made, but there are mistakes like that all over the city, and so we could be talking about eliminating all the trees in the city,” Walsh said. “So that’s just part of the problem. What do we do about mistakes that were made in the past?”

Written by: Hannah Schrader — city@theaggie.org



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