Letter to the Editor: Resident Questions Timing of Trimming Trees That Provide Shade


Editor’s Note: This was also sent to the members of the Burbank City Council.

Letter to the Editor:

I am writing you today to express a concern I have about the timing and scope of tree trimming that takes place around Burbank each year.

I realize this may sound like the beginning of a trivial email, but please bear with me.

Our city is lucky to have a wealth of arboreal diversity. Throughout the city, most blocks have different trees, taking a walk around town a little more enjoyable because of the varied tree species you’re likely to encounter.  True, some streets are better than others, but overall it’s one of the things I really enjoy about living in Burbank.

In the case of where my family and I live, we are lucky to have a massive (and very healthy) ash tree in front of our house along the parkway.  Burbank, like every other city, trims the trees that are on city property on planned intervals each year.  Neighborhoods are scheduled ahead of time and attention is given to trees that are growing to such degree that their branches may impede trash trucks, etc…. In the last 11 years that we have lived in Burbank, each time our street comes up on the trimming rotation is cause for anxiety because of how dramatically the contractor trims back trees in general and in specific “our” ash tree.

I certainly understand the need to perform this work.  Not only does it keep the trees from becoming overgrown and a hazard, it also keeps them healthy.  

What I do not understand is the timing.

Why is the city trimming trees back to a point where they no longer provide useable shade to the streets, sidewalks and homes at the start of what is the absolute hottest time of year?  Why is the work not being performed in the late summer or fall when the weather cools, the sun is less intense?  Performing this work now may be more cost-effective for the city budget, but it comes at a far higher cost to the residents.  Not only do we lose shade on the streets and sidewalks, many of us lose tree cover that helps block the intense morning or afternoon sun.  Additionally, the loss of shade within the city at a macro level wildly exacerbates the heat island effect which is already a major issue in the valley.  

Losing that tree cover forces residents to increase use of air conditioning to keep interior spaces cool.  It dries out our gardens faster and requires people to use more water to keep plants alive.  In both cases, residents are using more power and more water than they otherwise would need to if the schedule was shifted to accomplish this work at a time of the year when we aren’t experiencing seemingly endless days of 95º+ temperatures.  All in all, not helpful as we endure perpetual drought and energy shortages.

With regard to our tree, I spoke to the Forestry Services supervisor yesterday as soon as I saw notices along the street that Mariposa Tree Services would be trimming the trees today.  Juan was really helpful on the phone and told me to speak directly with the crew foreman this morning, which I did.  In both cases, I asked them to only trim what was necessary to keep the tree healthy and keep the street clear, but gently explained that in years past the tree had been trimmed back so much that it provided zero shade all summer.  They both understood and told me they would go easy.  Much to my extreme disappointment, I came home today as they were finishing up and the tree has been trimmed back to a point where it won’t really help us this summer.  We lost the ability to sit in the front of our house in the late afternoon with the tree making it shady and comfortable. 

Now it’s going to be another hot summer with no shade.  We’ll use more power to cool our house.  We’ll use more water to keep the plants alive.  Ultimately, living in our neighborhood won’t be as nice.

Looking up our street and down other streets in our area, it’s clear that hundreds of other Burbank residents are going to have the same problem this summer.

My hope is that there is a way for the Council and city staff to seriously examine the timing of future tree maintenance and find a way to schedule this work in a time and manner that does not negatively impact residents and does not put us in a position to use more power and more water to ease the strain of the ever-increasing summer temperatures.

Jeff Wright