About Our Name

We call ourselves “The Tree Next Door” because we have found that people are most concerned about the tree next door to them that is marked to be cut down, not a tree on the other side of town which they never see. Because community concern tends to be strongest at the neighborhood level, it's important to have advocates all over the city who speak up for the trees where they live.

fall tree through window

latest news flash

 

"Stay-At-Home" Executive Order Allows Developers to Spread Covid-19

Do Atlanta's city leaders care more about development than the lives of its residents?  It certainly seems so.

An article in Curbed Atlanta today points out that no limits are being placed on construction at this time due to the intentional insertion of one comma in Section 6(c) of Mayor Bottoms’ original “Stay at Home” order, giving “developers the green light to keep construction projects moving.” In the original order issued just this past Monday, only public works construction projects were allowed; now ALL construction projects are allowed.

ALL construction is "essential"? Really?

As noted by Curbed Atlanta, even Mike Durham, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Georgia (AGC), acknowledges that there are constriction activities which require workers to be closer than six feet to each other. But City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane doesn’t seem to care, telling Curbed Atlanta: “In the City of Atlanta, construction is one of the essential businesses exempt from the Mayor’s ‘Stay at Home’ Executive Order of March 23, 2020; therefore, construction within the corporate city limits may continue.”

While it may make sense for some public works construction projects to continue (provided workers adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines), do all construction projects constitute an essential service at this time? The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certainly don’t think so; they have issued a joint statement for what is considered essential tree work and it includes only tree work that mitigates hazardous situations, threats to infrastructure, and invasive/injurious pests. Even tree planting is not considered an essential service, much less tree removal for construction purposes.

City Hall is closed to the public now, which means permitting and inspections have been delayed, but according to Curbed Atlanta, “the city is now accepting private, third-party inspections of projects, as long as they’re reviewed and cleared by city officials." Seriously? How is it that employees of third-party entities are less likely to catch and spread Covid-19 than our own city employees? 

By giving the green light to all construction projects, Atlanta’s city leaders are putting construction workers and the entire community of Atlanta at greater risk of Covid-19 infections. Mayor Bottom’s “Stay at Home” order has shuttered many businesses and sent most employees home, yet developers are allowed to continue business-as-usual with all construction projects, including new home construction, home additions, outdoor kitchens, and back yard swimming pools.

Our City leaders need to step up and do the right thing: eliminate the comma that gives developers carte blanche to do whatever they wish while other business owners must abide by the rules. If there are any essential non-public works construction projects, the "Stay at Home" order must list those projects.  Otherwise, the "Stay at Home" order is a travesty that says our City leaders care more about development in Atlanta than the lives of the people who live here.

To contact our City leaders, please click here:

   

First Draft of Tree Ordinance Released

The Department of City Planning has uploaded the first draft of the new Tree Protection Ordinance. We are still in the process of reviewing it, but wanted to make everyone aware of the document as soon as possible. This document has also been posted to the Urban Ecology Framework site.

   

Tree Removal Trends (thru 4th Qtr 2019)

2019 4th Quarter Report* Confirms a Clear Trend:
More Trees Removed as DDH or Illegally Destroyed

There has been a 10% increase in total tree loss in the first two quarters of FY 2020 (3rd & 4th quarters 2019) compared to FY 2019 due to a greater number of trees being permitted as DDH (dead, dying or hazardous) or destroyed illegally. 

(Click on the picture below for an expanded view.)

number of permitted trees - by type

DDH Tree Permits Are Up 30%

2,461 trees were permitted as DDH (dead, dying or hazardous) in the 4th quarter of 2019, which is nearly identical to the number of trees permitted as DDH in the third quarter of 2019 (2,462).  However, these two numbers represent a 30% increase in the rate of DDH tree removal compared to FY 2019. This increase is due both to a 26% increase in DDH tree permit requests over the first two quarters of 2020 and a greater DDH tree approval rate: from 81% in FY 2019 to 84% in the first half of FY 2020.  

If DDH permitting continues at this same rate for the next two quarters, we will have lost 9,846 DDH trees by the end of FY 2000 as compared to 7,579 DDH trees in FY 2019.

Illegal Tree Cutting Reaches Record Proportions: Over 1 in 10 Non-DDH Trees Now Cut Illegally

224 trees were illegally destroyed in the 4th quarter of 2019, double the number that were illegally destroyed the quarter before (110 trees).  Overall, there has been an 11% increase in illegal tree destruction for the first half of FY 2020 compared to FY 2019.  5% of all trees (including DDH) and 11% of non-DDH trees were illegally destroyed in the 4th quarter of 2019.

Fewer Non-DDH permits Issued for Second Consecutive Quarter

1,745 healthy trees were permitted to be removed in the 4th quarter, nearly identical to the number of permitted healthy tree removals the previous quarter (1,747). Overall, permitted healthy trees in the first two quarters of FY 2020 (3rd & 4th quarters 2019) are down 10% compared to FY 2019, but the increase in DDH and illegally destroyed trees have resulted in a 10% increase in total tree loss.

(Click on the picture below for an expanded view.)

trees lost and replaced

Replanting is Up This Past Quarter

  • 98% of the permitted non-DDH trees were replanted compared to 87% the previous quarter and 81% the previous year.
  • However, only 8% of the total inches at breast height (DBH) were replaced, meaning we still had a 92% loss in tree trunk inches.

(Click on the picture below for an expanded view.)

inches lost and replaced

 

Implications for the Tree Ordinance Rewrite:

DDH Designations

DDH designations are a sore spot with many residents because often it appears that perfectly healthy trees are being declared as DDH by developer-hired arborists as a way to avoid replacement or recompense fees.  Although all trees permitted as DDH should be verified by a city arborist, we have examples of when they have not been.  The fact that DDH trees are not appealable is a loophole in the current Tree Ordinance that can be exploited.

Given that DDH trees are up 30% over the past six months, the standard of practice for evaluating DDH trees needs to be strengthened and Atlanta residents should have the right to appeal a DDH decision if the city arborist provides insufficient evidence as to why a tree is DDH.  A tree inspection report conducted by a developer-hired arborist should never be accepted at face value by the city arborist.

Illegal Tree Cutting

With illegal tree cutting going up each year and now doubling just this past quarter, it's time for the City to take immediate action to address the lack of meaningful penalties in the Tree Ordinance.  The law is being flaunted at this point, as evidenced by the recent removal of 12 healthy trees by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta after they were ordered by the Tree Commission to save them.  Also, trees are being destroyed illegally by ignoring tree save fencing or using improper construction practices to protect healthy trees.  With penalties for illegal tree destruction being only $500 for the first tree and $1000 for every tree after that (in addition to replacement/recompense fees), there is not enough incentive in the current Tree Ordinance to protect trees.

Quarterly Report Requirements

This most recent quarterly report (for the 4th quarter 2019) was published on February 1, but the City wouldn't release it even after repeated requests.  The Tree Next Door filed an ORR requesting the report on February 12 and the report was posted online February 14.  Last quarter, the report was available within a couple of weeks after the end of the 3rd quarter, but this quarter we had to wait six weeks for the report to be published.  The new Tree Ordinance needs to stipulate a publication date for the quarterly reports so that we don't encounter these type of delays.

Contact City Council

With the increase in DDH and illegal tree cutting, we are now losing over 1,450 trees every month, up from 1,300 in FY 2019.  Please contact your City Council representatives today and request that they take immediate action to better oversee the DDH-permitting process and to curtail the rapid escalation of illegal tree cutting. We can't wait until the new ordinance is written and implemented to take action when we are losing over 1,450 trees each month -- and the number keeps going up. 

*This analysis 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.

   

See a tree coming down? Click here for what to do!

And click here to contact your City Council representatives and the UEF Project Team about the Tree Ordinance Rewrite.

Need to Look Up a Permit?

Click here for instructions on how to look up a tree cuting permit in Accela, the City of Atlanta's online permitting database.  If you already know how to use Accela, click here to go straight to the database.

How Can You Help?

Join us in advocating for the trees in your neighborhood!
Please check out what volunteer needs we have and email us at info@treenextdoor.org for more information on how to get involved.

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