City Council Meeting: April 10, 2012

Agenda Item: 8-C  

To:                   Mayor and City Council 

From:              Karen Ginsberg, Department Director

Subject:          Urban Forest Task Force Member Qualifications and Criteria



Recommended Action

Staff recommends that City Council:

1)    Reconstitute an Urban Forest Task Force for seven years as an advisory body to support the implementation of the Urban Forest Master Plan;

2)    Approve criteria for the appointment of Task Force members;

3)    Authorize the City Clerk to publish the vacancies of the Task Force with a deadline for applications May 17, 2012.


Executive Summary

On December 13, 2011 Council adopted the Urban Forest Master Plan (Master Plan) as a guide for perpetuating and enhancing Santa Monica’s urban forest. Formulation of the Master Plan was spearheaded by a Council-appointed seven-member Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force which met regularly and provided invaluable input throughout the process. The Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force’s role formally concluded when Council adopted the Master Plan. 


The adopted Master Plan recommends that an urban forest advisory body be in place for the first seven years of the Master Plan to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the plan. Staff recommends that Council reconstitute an Urban Forest Task Force (Task Force) in an advisory role, approve the criteria for the appointment of Task Force members, and authorize the City Clerk to publish the vacancies of the Task Force. There is no immediate financial impact related to this policy decision.



This Master Plan establishes guiding principles, related goals and specific strategies to ensure community stewardship and best management practices for the care of the urban forest. A goal of the first guiding principle of the plan – The Urban Forest and Its Environment – is to enhance the understanding of the environmental benefits of the urban forest and to asses and report on the progress of these benefits. To achieve this goal, three strategies are outlined:

1.    Biennial reporting on performance related to tree planting, removal, trimming, emergency responses and vacancy counts.

2.    Seven-year reporting on performance to document areas, including but not limited to, energy savings, canopy coverage, wildlife activity, and ratios of deciduous to evergreen trees and native to exotic trees.

3.    Establishment of a public advisory body to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the Master Plan during the first seven years of the Master Plan. At seven years, the City’s trees would be re-inventoried, and upon completion of the inventory the Task Force would advise City staff on recommended changes to the goals and strategies of the Master Plan for consideration by the City Council.


Proposed Task Force Responsibilities

To help ensure a focused and effective advisory body, during its tenure the Task Force would advise staff in the following areas related to the urban forest:

Capital Projects

·         Provide input on proposed tree planting activities in City public improvement projects.

·         Provide input on tree planting on School District property.

Street Tree Species Selection

·         Provide input on street tree species designation adjacent to designated landmarks and within historic districts in conjunction with the Landmarks Commission.


·      Provide input on refinements to the Heritage Tree educational program.


·      Advocate and support funding initiatives including grant funding opportunities.

Report Evaluation

·         Evaluate biennial reports and the first seven-year report on achieving the stated environmental performance goals as specified in the Master Plan. At the completion of this first seven-year reporting cycle, the Task Force would advise staff on recommended changes to the Master Plan’s goals and strategies, including the appeals process, tree species designations, the public review process for tree removals, and tree relocations as part of City public improvement projects.


LUCE Implementation

·         Provide input on implementation of LUCE including input on zoning ordinance development and development requirements related to public trees.


During the development of the Master Plan, the subject of formulation of policies for private trees was discussed by the Master Plan Task Force as well as by members of the community, and it was suggested that these discussions continue with the new Task Force. However, because the role of the reconstituted Task Force would be to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the Master Plan, and the Master Plan is focused on public trees, staff does not recommend that policies regarding private trees be considered by this Task Force.


Proposed Task Force Composition

Staff proposes a seven member Task Force. Given that urban forestry expertise would be required for some of the issue areas that the Task Force would advise on, it is recommended that at least three members be current or past International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborists or have professional experience in urban forestry, landscaping, or horticulture.


To help the Task Force accomplish its objectives, staff also recommends that Council adopt the following eligibility criteria for Task Force membership:

·         Members should collectively have experience in interpreting and evaluating data-driven reports to measure the performance of a plan, program, or organization and the effectiveness of a goal or strategy; and demonstrated commitment to the Santa Monica environment and its urban forest.

·         Members should individually and collectively have demonstrated achievements in working in an advisory capacity, working effectively in a group-setting, and balancing competing priorities.

·         Members must be residents of the City of Santa Monica or persons who do business or are employed in the City of Santa Monica. Pursuant to Section 2.32.280 of the SMMC, no City employee may serve as a member of any legislative body all of whose members are appointed by the City Council.


Proposed Meeting Frequency and Term Lengths

Staff recommends that the Task Force meet on a bi-monthly schedule. Since the length of service of the proposed Task Force is seven years as outlined in the Master Plan, staff proposes that members serve an initial term of three years followed by two two-year terms. It is also proposed that Task Force members would not have term limits.


Upon Council approval of the proposed criteria, the City Clerk will publish the openings and staff will utilize its urban forest distribution list to announce the openings. Prospective board members would be asked to complete an application (Attachment A), to give staff and Council a complete understanding of how the applicant could contribute to the Task Force. Staff intends to review the applications and will submit recommendations to Council for consideration at a future Council meeting.


Financial Impacts & Budget Actions  

There is no immediate budget/financial impact related to this policy decision.


Prepared by: Carlos Collard, Senior Administrative Analyst





Forwarded to Council:







Karen Ginsberg

Director, Community and Cultural Services


Rod Gould

City Manager



Attachment A: Task Force Application