FY 2020 - 4th Qtr (2020 - 2st Qtr) Arborist Division Report Summary

2020 2nd Quarter Report Shows Initial Impact of COVID-19 on Tree Cutting

COVID-19 had a significant impact in the number of trees cut during the 2nd quarter of 2020 and the reasons for removal.

Overall, tree cutting dropped by 20% compared to the previous quarter, with a 32% drop among trees being cut for construction related purposes (plan reviews). This decline offset the increases in tree cutting that occurred the first two quarters of FY 2020, ending the fiscal year of 2020 with approximately the same number of trees being cut this fiscal year (15,991) as last (15,935).

However, there has been a marked shift this year in the type of tree cuttings taking place in FY 2020 that became even more pronounced during the last quarter of FY 2020. 

  • It is becoming FAR easier to take trees down as dead, dying, or hazardous (DDH). Over the past three years the denial rate for DDH permit requests has been around 20%. In FY 2020, the DDH denial rate steadily dropped to 14% before plummeting to less than 2% in the 4th quarter. Sixty-one percent of all removed trees (excluding illegally cut trees with unknown sizes) were taken down as DDH, which means they were not required to be replaced nor recompensed.
  • People were even more likely to go ahead and cut without a permit during the 2nd quarter of 2020.  With the Arborist Division office closed due to COVID-19 and the police being slower to respond to crimes they did not involve physical assault, perhaps illegal tree cutters felt there was less risk of being caught. Thus, even though the number of both healthy and DDH trees cut dropped in the 2nd quarter, illegally cut trees climbed by 4%. Fifteen percent of all healthy (non-DDH) trees removed were cut illegally, up from 12% the previous quarter. (This percent increases to 18% if the 45 illegally-cut trees in which a trunk diameter could not be determined are included.)
  • Trees cut for construction-related purposes decreased from 38% to 33% of all trees cut. This is a significant drop from prior years, in which almost 50% of trees were cut for construction-related purposes.

Even though 20% fewer trees were cut during 4th quarter FY 2020, there was a 7% increase in net loss of trees due to much lower tree replanting. Only 30% of all removed trees were replanted, down from 47% the quarter before. And because replanted trees were also smaller -- 2.8” DBH as opposed to 3.3” DBH the last two quarters -- and destroyed trees were larger -- 18.5" DBH compared to 17.8” DBH the previous quarter – tree trunk inches replaced fell from 9% to 5%.

Reporting Period: April 1, 2020 - June 30, 2020
Data Source: DCP Reporting, FY 2020 - Q4 Report*
Note: This table does not include 45 trees removed illegally with DBH unknown (i.e. cut down to the stump or grinded)

 2020 fy 4th qtr

  *Includes trees on private property only, which are managed by the Arborist Division.  Does not include trees on public property, which are managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

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