353 trees in SLO on the chopping block

June 16, 2017

Allan Cooper


Although discussion about the egregious removal of mature trees to make way for development in San Luis Obispo has recently been centered on 55 trees at 71 Palomar Avenue, it is important for the public to understand that the city has approved 75 tree removals from the Imel Ranch project and 223 tree removals from the San Luis Ranch project.

This totals 353 native and non-native trees for only three projects, two of which involve riparian corridors. According to the EIR’s drafted to describe the impact of these tree removals, these trees provide habitat for special status avian species and autumnal/winter aggregation sites for monarch butterflies.

In most instances, good planning and good design would have saved these trees and their valuable habitats. However, the city has been complicit in allowing poorly-sited apartment complexes, such as 71 Palomar, and poorly-laid-out subdivisions, such as the Avila, Imel and San Luis Ranch projects, to be approved on a fast-track basis presumably because of the urgent need for more housing.

What this city lacks are developers, planners and architects who have the will to address climate change by building within and near these urban forests while at the same time protecting them.

For example, the Dutch architect Raimond de Hullu has designed affordable, detached and clustered tree-like houses designed to be located within urban forests.

The Japanese architect Hiroshi Nakamura has designed and built an encampment of low-cost “teepees” pitched in a wooded grove.

And an American architect Bill Yudchitz created a tiny, affordable, self-sustaining, multi-level home also hidden in the woods.

Of course, the simpler solution is to site all new development some distance away from these urban forests or to cut back on the proposed housing densities. In either case, the preservation of urban forests and tree habitat does not inevitably lead to increasing the cost of development. It simply requires a little more design creativity.

Don’t you think San Luis Obispo deserves better designed developments?


Seriously all the cliche “conservative” vs. “liberal” arguments here are annoying. This is pretty straightforward for anyone that grew up in this area and cares about it.. I prefer property rights, but I also prefer people who will build around trees. Is it really THAT hard to have SOME kind of respect for the life around you?