Trees are a way of thinking.
Trees are survivors.
Trees are giants.
Trees are ancient.
Trees are records.
Trees are wild, even in the city.
Trees are a way of thinking.
Trees are survivors.
Trees are giants.
Trees are ancient.
Trees are records.
Trees are wild, even in the city.
Atlanta’s 2021 Comprehensive Development Plan
I wish I could tell you that I understood exactly how the housing ideas in the proposed CDP and in Amir Farokhi’s suggested zoning changes might affect our overall tree canopy. I really can’t. Not at the moment.
As I understand it, the next draft of the CDP will be released on September 13, and then the entire document will be up for adoption by the City Council in October. As for Amir’s proposals, as he said himself at the IPNA meeting, they face an uncertain future in an election year.
In any case, Kronberg Urbanists + Architects is one group that has accepted the challenge of answering this broad question:
If all the people who are expected to move to Atlanta in the next decades actually show up (will they?), where we gonna put them all?Continue reading Random Tree-Related Stuff That Interests Me and Might Interest You, Too
… the candidate who is most persuasive in arguing that he or she will ensure that Atlanta works as well as it can for everybody who lives here.
Rich, poor, and in-between.
Older and younger folks.
Black, White, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, American Indian, and multiracial individuals.
Property owners as well as people whose few possessions fit into a plastic bag with room to spare.
Political independents, Democrats, and Republicans.
Those whose families have been here for generations, and those who got here last week.
From Buckhead (geez, take a deep breath and calm down, Buckhead) to Mozley Park.
Tree lovers, tree skeptics, and the many people who rarely if ever think about our trees.
The city needs to work. Departments and offices should meet and exceed minimal thresholds for effectiveness and efficiency. Problems, especially basic problems, should be addressed in a timely manner: police officers or firefighters showing up when they’re summoned, trash and recycling picked up on schedule, streets promptly repaired, and so on.Continue reading Our Endorsement for Mayor Is …
I’ve been living in Freedom Park for 20 years.
That’s to say, not a day goes by when I’m not walking somewhere in the park, throwing a ball for our dog, pruning some trees, removing invasive plants, planning a new tree planting, or supervising a project to plant and maintain trees.
Poplar Circle? There are trees in that section now 50 to 60 feet tall that Tree Watch and Trees Atlanta planted together. The playground is surrounded by our trees. The memorial grove tucked behind the playground some of us boldly created on an ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission model. The serpentine paths leading down to and up from Austin Avenue are shaded by trees we planted in the past two decades. Ditto the other side of Highland. Ditto trees all the way along the Freedom Park Trail into Candler Park.
Every tree of ours has a unique personal history. I can tell you the life story of the American linden near the MARTA parking lot. The Harold Saether memorial white oak. The katsura planted by the late Oreon Mann. I’ve watched our longleaf pine since it was knee-high to a baby. You get the point.
Those are my bona fides. And now I’m here to tell you that I am VERY excited about the Master Plan for Freedom Park. Years ago I began discussing with members of Freedom Park Conservancy some ideas for additional tree plantings and projects in the park. They told me, “Sounds great! We’re going to be working on a master plan soon, so let’s make sure that’s considered.” Now here we are, making excellent progress toward the next level of excellence for a park created in significant part by the hard work of people in this neighborhood.Continue reading Freedom Park Master Plan
|25||Mr. Ryan W.||Jun 16, 2021|
|24||Ms. Betty T.||Jun 15, 2021|
|23||Mr. Christopher A.||Jun 15, 2021|
|22||Mr. Matt C.||Jun 09, 2021|
|21||Mrs. Annick H.||Jun 09, 2021|
|20||Mr. D. R. F.||Jun 07, 2021|
|19||Ms. Lynn K.||Jun 03, 2021|
|18||Ms. Aaron S.||May 28, 2021|
|17||Ms. Chris M.||May 23, 2021|
|16||Mr. D. R. F.||May 22, 2021|
|15||Ms. eileen b.||May 22, 2021|
|14||Ms. Honora F.||May 21, 2021|
|13||Ms. Mollie F.||May 20, 2021|
|12||Ms. Angela C.||May 20, 2021|
|11||Ms. Jane B.||May 20, 2021|
|10||Ms. Ken T.||May 20, 2021|
|9||Mr. Richard W.||May 19, 2021|
|8||Mr. Keith B.||May 19, 2021|
|7||Ms. Judy C.||May 19, 2021|
|6||Mr. Ward B.||May 19, 2021|
|5||Mr. Bo B.||May 19, 2021|
|4||Ms. Cathy B.||May 19, 2021|
|3||Mr. George L.||May 19, 2021|
|2||Ms. Pat W.||May 18, 2021|
|1||Mr. Jim A.||May 18, 2021|
Last month, the Atlanta Department of City Planning delivered a newly revised Tree Protection Ordinance (TPO) to the City Council. The Community Development/Human Services Committee, chaired by Matt Westmoreland, has the initial oversight and responsibility for the proposed TPO.
While the basic principles and overall approach to tree protection are unchanged — Atlanta regards its trees as essential resources for safeguarding our health and promoting our welfare, so it regulates not just trees on public property but also many privately owned trees — there are in fact many changes in this proposal.
In some cases, the changes appear to be obvious improvements. In others, the new rules and procedures are quite technical and their potential impact, for good or bad, is uncertain.
Here is a preliminary attempt to capture just a portion of the content in the 64-page draft document.
> I am a homeowner with a dying tree in my yard. I think it may need to be taken down. Has the process changed?
No, the process is the same. If the tree is large enough to be subject to the ordinance, you need to apply for a permit to take down any dead, dying, or hazardous (DDH) tree. For most tree species, that means 6″ or wider in diameter at breast height (called DBH). For pines, it’s 12″ DBH or wider. Assuming you hire a tree service to assist you, the tree service itself can apply for a permit on your behalf. If you wish to request an inspection by a city arborist before you contact a service, the contact information and access to online system is available here.
As before, you will not be required to replant or pay any recompense for removing a DDH tree. One proposed change, however, is to allocate part of the Tree Trust Fund to assist low-income homeowners with the assessment and removal of DDH trees. In those cases, the city will replant.
> I am a homeowner with a tree in my yard that is perfectly healthy, but I just don’t like it! Can I remove it?
Yes, this proposal would make that newly possible in our city, subject to certain conditions. In every three-year period, you will be allowed to remove, without any requirement to replant, one so-called “non-priority” tree of any size or two trees with a combined DBH of 18” or less. However, to be eligible, your property must have a minimum number of trees growing on it (known as site density).
Priority versus non-priority trees — this is an innovation in the proposed ordinance. In brief, priority trees are those trees that are in good or better condition and meet certain size and species criteria. For example, suppose you have a healthy white oak or American beech growing in a spot of your backyard where you’d like to put in some tomato plants or begonias. If the oak tree is smaller than 18″ DBH (which is the same as 56.5″ in circumference), you can apply for a permit to cut the tree down. Three years later, you can pick another, similar tree and seek a permit to remove it, too, as long as the your property would continue to meet or exceed the threshold for density of trees.
> I’m building a home on my property. Are there new rules?
Yes, there is a new framework, and Tree Watch will have to wait on people with the requisite technical expertise to evaluate this complex feature of the proposal.
One innovation is to move arborist evaluation to the beginning of the plan review process. Moreover, pre-application conferences with the arborist will be encouraged to help owner understand preservation requirements and discuss options with the arborist. A second phase of the new procedure will involve reviewing and consolidating existing conceptual reviews to meet the needs of both the customer and city staff.
In another significant innovation, tree preservation will be uncoupled from zoning setbacks and based on lot sizes, with increasing preservation requirements for larger lots. The draft ordinance envisions two preservation options for single-family and duplex development:
> I’m a person who LOVES trees, and I want to see them preserved. Will this new ordinance help me do that?
Yes, there are improvements on that score. To take one example, the proposed TPO contains a new category of heritage trees. Trees can be nominated by a property owner or with his/her permission for special protection status based on their historical or cultural significance. Such heritage trees cannot be removed without authorization from the Tree Conservation Commission. In addition, the city will provide periodic inspections and arboricultural advice.
Candidates for heritage status must satisfy three or more of these criteria:
Over the next months, you will no doubt have the opportunity to read more about this new ordinance. Planning Commissioner Tim Keane is saying that his office’s proposal is a clear improvement over our existing ordinance, even if stakeholders such as tree activists, developers, and homeowners will find different elements of it objectionable.
As far as Inman Park Tree Watch is concerned, we would welcome an improvement in our regulations, in enforcement of the law, and in funding for basic governmental operations affecting our trees. The key point here is that there exists widespread support for maintaining a large and healthy tree canopy in the City of Atlanta. A good law can help, but it can’t do all the work. Government, industry, philanthropists, advocacy groups, neighborhoods, and individuals should all embrace the goal of ensuring that Atlanta remains the City in the Forest.
Here you see a scene from the 1960s.
It’s a helicopter spraying DDT — you remember the pesticide DDT, subject of Rachel Carson’s justly famous Silent Spring — above elm trees in an American city. Back then, the thought was that DDT would kill the beetles that were transporting the devastating Dutch elm disease from tree to tree.
With a little human ingenuity, it was thought, cities could rescue the American elm, that graceful tree which once shaded streets all over the United States.
A flying machine! A colorless, tasteless, almost odorless chemical synthesized in a laboratory! What amazing technologies!
What could go wrong? Continue reading Trust
WHAT IF local and national companies could buy carbon+ credits from tree projects (preservation projects and planting projects) in Atlanta, thereby investing private money efficiently and reliably into local projects that help keep Atlanta green, equitable, and livable? (Guess what, they could buy such credits, if we were willing to do the work to make it happen.)
What could be more mind-numbingly boring than reading a blog post about a local ordinance?
And yet here I am, asking you to do so, because the City of Atlanta is revising its tree protection ordinance, and that’s a big, big deal if you’re fond of drinking clean water, breathing clean air, and not being burned to a crisp every summer.
Anyone still reading? Okay, here’s what I’m going to try to do.
In 1977 — the year UGA lost to Pitt in the Sugar Bowl, Jimmy Carter became president, the L5P Community Pub opened for business, and Bobby Cox was hired to manage the Braves — Atlanta adopted a law regulating tree removals. It’s been revised several times since then. The principle of the tree protection ordinance (TPO) could not be simpler: most of Atlanta’s trees may be privately owned, but they’re also a public good like clean air. The basic mechanism to protect Atlanta’s trees is simple, too: require those who remove trees to seek approval from the city and then replant on site or, if that’s not possible, to pay into a fund that can provide money for replanting of trees elsewhere in the city.
In a sense, everything else about the ordinance is just details. The fundamental principle and mechanism have been in place for years. In a different sense, everything has changed since the TPO’s early days. Here are just a few of the things that are different today versus yesterday:
Atlanta has lost and continues to lose trees in the years since the ordinance was enacted. A 2001 report by American Forests, focusing on the center of the wider metropolitan area, found that heavy tree cover (>50% of land surface) had declined from 47.5% in 1974 to 26.4% in 1996. In 2012, two researchers found that over the five-year period they chose to study, Atlanta lost trees despite the ordinance. Georgia Tech’s tree canopy research indicates that as of 2014, about 48% of the city has tree canopy.
Is Atlanta’s existing TPO a dud, a failure, a travesty? Not at all. Despite everything, it’s done some great work for us. Without it, we would certainly be in much worse shape. But we do need a reset.
The city released its first draft of a rewritten ordinance in March. This work on the ordinance is being done within a broader planning process known as the Urban Ecology Framework (UEF), which is itself part of a still broader plan for Atlanta called the Atlanta City Design, completed in 2017.
I have served as a member of a UEF stakeholder committee. Our committee contributed ideas first to a kind of concept plan for future green spaces, green connections, and green policies in Atlanta. Then work on the ordinance began, in which our committee has been much less involved. The schedule for the rewrite continues until August, as you can see below.
The headline of my interim report to you on Draft TPO 1.0 is as follows: it’s a missed opportunity. The city and its consultant Biohabitats have made the ordinance even more complicated, without clear improvements that promise more scientific, more effective protection for our trees and tree canopy.
What follows is my attempt to summarize in part what has been offered to the public. Please know that it is imperfect and incomplete. Why? Partly because the process has been highly imperfect, with key changes mid-process within the city’s planning team; subpar communication and followup with the technical and advisory committees; and release of this draft version without any annotations or without redlining to reveal the proposed changes from the existing ordinance.
It’s also imperfect and incomplete because this is a highly technical, 50-page document, encompassing minutiae on tree valuation, tree density, preservation thresholds and incentives, reasons for removal, notifications and posting, appeals process, parking lot requirements, and much, much more. Frankly, some of it is beyond my competence to assess, and it’s far beyond my ability to summarize here.
In any case, here are some highlights.
NOT A BRAND-NEW ORDINANCE
Broadly speaking, this “new “ordinance amounts to a tweaking of our existing ordinance. The city has NOT started from scratch. Instead, it has simply altered the existing ordinance.
Note that other cities have taken a more holistic and thoroughgoing approach to improving protection of their trees and forests, by better incorporating current scientific knowledge and making better use of zoning. For example, in our nation’s capital, site designs for construction are required to achieve a certain score, varying by zoning district and calculated by the green elements selected and the area of the site they cover. A number of different green elements qualify for what’s called the Green Area Ratio including permeable surfaces, vegetated roofs, bioretention, and trees.