Tree and Shade subcommittee recommends City install an administrator and official committee

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As part of the Central Phoenix Greening the Hood effort, community members plant and water shade mesquite trees in a South Phoenix neighborhood Jan. 20, 2018. (Nicole Neri/DD)

The Urban Island/Tree and Shade Subcommittee recommended establishing a full-time tree administrator and an official tree and shade committee on Thursday as residents showed support for the tree and shade movement in Phoenix. 

Last year, City Council requested the subcommittee be formed to collect community input and give recommendations to the Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission of the City Council. The request came after pressure from residents who were frustrated that the city had not yet acted on the 2010 Phoenix Tree and Shade Master Plan to increase shade in the city to 25 percent by 2030. 

More than 20 concerned residents filled a city hall conference room to voice support for the subcommittee and frustration over the city’s delayed action to address the issue of urban heat in Phoenix. After community input and lively debate, which lengthened the meeting to more than two hours, the subcommittee voted to submit their recommendations to the City Council. 

Danielle Leoni, owner of The Breadfruit and Rum Bar restaurant on Pierce Street, said although people were frustrated when the city did not act on the 2010 master plan, the process has moved quickly since the subcommittee was formed. She said she was excited to see such a strong turnout at the meeting so that the issue can be thoroughly vetted by the public.

Attendees overwhelmingly supported the subcommittee’s recommendations, though some asked for stronger language to enforce violations of approved landscape plans and to penalize people for topping and removing existing trees. 

Aimee Esposito, executive director of the local nonprofit Trees Matter and member of the subcommittee, said the members have been working for over a year on the recommendations they presented Thursday.  

Before the meeting, Esposito said adding the tree administrator is the priority while the mandate section is more of a wish list. She said the position is important to moving the project forward and the key is having an infrastructure instead of just an idea to plant trees.

Sarah Porter, chair of the subcommittee, echoed the need for a tree administrator to oversee implementation of the master plan.

“You can’t just put in some sad little trees and let them die,” Porter said.  

Members of the subcommittee said they hope their recommendations were given soon enough that City Council will include the tree administrator position in the upcoming budget. 

Colin Tetreault, chairman of the Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission, said the subcommittee is an advisory board that doesn’t have any oversight over the city, but that it should not be overlooked. 

“I don’t think it would behoove the city to ignore this body,” Tetreault said. 

Abigail Tomich, a high school freshman, said she hopes the subcommittee’s recommendations make a difference but is skeptical because there was no follow through before. 

“It hasn’t happened in the past,” Tomich said. “We need more people to get in on it or to share their voices.” 

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