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?


Excuse me moderator. Why was my comment removed?


When Mr. Cooper speaks of all the dead trees in California, he forgot to leave out some very important facts. Drought has killed trees which is cyclical. Beetles have killed millions of pine trees which makes up the vast majority of these dead trees. Historically, fire usually due to a lightening strike would start a fire that would burn until there was nothing left to burn. All those pine trees along with their beetles would be dead. The cones from many pines only produce new trees when a fire causes enough heat to open the cones and spit out the seeds (serotanous cones). Due to fire suppression efforts, we have interrupted the cycle and the result is all the dead pines. The Palomar argument is nothing short of a joke. Cooper speaks of this project as “poorly sited” when the project is slated for an R-4 lot which is high density. Cooper, where were you and all the crazy neighbors when the zoning was being debated. Oh that’s right. You were having trees cut down to build your own homes. Gotta love you NIMBYs.


How about all those old growth OAK TREES that were completely obliterated at every public school campus to make way for solar-shaded parking? Or school expansion projects? Did you raise a stink about those, Mr. Cooper?

Jon Tatro

Teepees? Treehouses? This guy is a nut.


Add several zeros to that number


Actually development creates trees. Go back 50years or so and look at aerial maps of areas in the county that have been developed. 50 years ago there were very few trees as compared to today. Once again a picture will show that trees flourished as development came to the area. This by no means that there should not be something in place to prevent clear cutting of trees. But everyone needs to give a little and take a little. But as we see more and more everyday everyone just wants their own way and are unwilling to negotiate fairly.


Gee, Mother Nature must have been a failure till developers arrived on the scene. Amazing ignorance but slotypical.


No not really/ Some development just supplemented mother nature. Go take a look at the photos. Most new houses require that a tree be planted upon final approval and then landscaping adds more trees. In my neighborhood was an average of 10 new trees planted at every new home site. Mother nature does take its course and guess what, eventually trees get old and die. You just can’t save everything even though it would be nice. Although it is nice to see that we are not blaming Busch for all of this and some thin Al Gore is saving the world while making his fortune.


But everyone needs to give a little and take a little. But as we see more and more everyday everyone just wants their own way and are unwilling to negotiate fairly.

Next we’re going to see marches at City Hall, Tree Lives Matter!!!

Everything is a concern now days, these projects have more review and over site than probably anywhere else on the planet, I believe these developers have to plant 2 trees for every one taken and put up a bond to make sure they get watered and maintained and replaced if they don’t make it:)


Agreed! And then they wonder why the cost of housing is so high. Maybe they should go to a Ron White, the comedian, show and have hime explain to them why you can’t fix stupid.



I appreciate your historical perspective. But the U.S. Forest Service recently reported that 102 million trees have died across the State of California since 2010, including 62 million dead trees in 2016 alone. And if you are willing to link this to climate change, historical perspective can no longer be our guide. Jon Tatro apparently believes that my examples are a little too “far out” but he apparently doesn’t understand the critical role mature trees play in carbon sequestration or in providing suitable habitat for endangered species. Or, worse yet, he doesn’t care. Many of the comments this article seems to be eliciting reflect a cavalier attitude about climate change and its impact on the survival of our species. Fine. Enjoy your brief time on earth and let your progeny somehow fend for themselves.


Can you tell why all of the ice melted hundreds and thousands of years ago? Was it from the SUV’s. I have been around when soil samples were taken for vineyards north of the Paso Robles Airport and about 3′ down you would run into beach sand, shells and the odor of the ocean and that was around an elevation of 900′. Mother Nature is doing her thing and yes we may be a contributor to it but by no means are we ever going to conquer mother nature. But then if you tax and fee everything imaginable some think that will be the cure all.



You’re correct. 125,000 years ago the earth was as warm as it is today. But scientists have determined that we have gone beyond the “tipping point” where it will become progressively hotter than it was 125,000 years ago. This is the result of what is called a “feedback loop”. These positive feedback mechanisms will dramatically accelerate climate change. What happens next is the release of methane hydrate from melting permafrost. This is predicted to unleash a major extinction event. The carbon cycle feedbacks will result in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest followed by extreme desertification. An increase of five or six degrees on this planet will lead to uninhabitability of the tropics and subtropics. There will be extreme water and food shortages leading to mass migration of billions of people and, needless to say, extreme political instability. So you might want “mother nature” to do her thing, but there are others, like myself, who would find this unacceptable. And by the way, I have “no skin in this game” as I’m 72 years old and will die happily without seeing how all of this plays out. But perhaps you might be concerned about your children.

mary margaret

This is unacceptable and San Luis Obispo unfortunately does not have even one environmental advocate on the City Council. We do have all Democrats on the City Council and frankly I’m sadly disappointed at the direction they are taking us. They obviously do not care about trees, wildlife, air quality, water, traffic, quality of life, infrastructure or longtime residents. We will not be voting for any of them the next time around. Thank you Chamber of Commerce and Democratic Central Committee for endorsing them and tricking us.


Hey, they ALL ran as enviros! Suppose they were greenwashing to fool the underinformed electorate?


They are just trees. We have what seems to be hundreds of thousands or more trees in the county. We’ll survive.


Well Mark, one set of trees houses one of the best heron rookeries in the region, and the herons will not survive. Another houses Monarch butterflies who are nearing extinction precisely because their habitats are being destroyed, so they will not survive. Another is a prominent vulture roost, and without vultures you can expect a lot more putrifying flesh breeding blowflies that can lay maggots on your kin that will eat them alive. Another is a riparian corridor home to songbirds who are locally threatened because of loss of their habitats. So, you may survive, but isn’t the world bigger than you? Very selfish.


A rather myopic approach to sustainability…wouldn’t you say?


Typical California development of rural areas consists of three main ingredients:




The preferred method employed in many places in the world is: