Staedler: Climate Smart San Jose misses the value of trees

The biannual update of the Climate Smart San Jose Plan took place at the meeting of the San Jose City Council on May 18.

As I was working at my desk that afternoon, I tuned in to the council meeting and heard Kerrie Romanow, the director of the environmental service, make a definitive statement that led me to stop and follow the meeting.

“The ROI for planting trees is not there,” Romanov said as he answered a question from Mayor Liccardo about the value of planting trees in terms of carbon sequestration. She stated that a tree-planting initiative is not reaching the level of Climate Smart San Jose. She also stated that trees are very expensive to maintain.

Your feeling, and ultimately this city policy, defies common sense; Trees are vital in urban areas. Just google “Importance of Trees in Urban Areas” and you will see a variety of web pages that name the importance of this topic. One that caught my eye was the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. According to their website:

“It is clear that we are becoming a more urbanized nation. Because of these growth patterns, urban forests are more important than ever – they are the trees on our doorsteps. They are dynamic ecosystems that bring significant benefits to people and wildlife. Urban forests help to filter air and water, control rainwater, save energy and offer animals a habitat and shade. They give the urban design beauty, shape and structure. By reducing noise and providing recreational spaces, urban forests strengthen social cohesion, promote community regeneration and increase the economic value of our communities. “

Our City Forest, a pre-eminent San Jose nonprofit, has been advocating for the “power of trees” since 1994. Their slogan “Change our city, tree by tree” shows a deep commitment to the value of trees in our city. They even run Tree Amigo classes to educate the public and give residents the opportunity to volunteer with their teams.

Let’s get back to basics and do smart things like planting trees and acknowledge their importance in the Climate Smart San Jose document. This argument also includes an equity component. Councilor Carrasco raised this during the Council discussion. She was spot on with her questions and comments on the matter.

The San Jose Department of Transportation has a new website showing the environmental benefits of street trees. It allows you to click on a single tree and provides details about the tree such as: B. Scientific tree name, altitude, carbon storage, carbon sequestration (lb / year) etc. This is great information for our community to understand the benefits of trees.

Hopefully we will stop looking at trees in terms of ROI, but rather a cherished city resource that needs to be protected and expanded. The cost of doing nothing is too high to maintain this mindset.

A well-known Chinese proverb goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. ”It has never been truer than it is today.

San José Spotlight columnist Bob Staedler is a principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose-based land use and development consultancy. His columns appear on the first Monday of every month. Contact Bob at [email protected] or follow @BobStaedler on Twitter.

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