On Wednesday night, the Associated Students Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting the university’s “phased removal of high-risk” eucalyptus trees on campus, following the destruction of property in Isla Vista and on campus last winter when several trees fell down during a storm.
The resolution, written by On-Campus Senators Austin Foreman and Emma Swanson and sponsored by fourth-year political science major Marc Vukcevich and the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board (EAB), was put forward after Vukcevich spoke at a Senate meeting last quarter about the dangers that eucalyptus trees can present.
Vukcevich said he spoke to the Senate during Fall Quarter 2019 about a eucalyptus tree that fell in his hometown and killed a woman several years ago, and about another tree that fell during his freshman year, nearly damaging the Santa Rosa Residence Hall.
“I [also] lived in [San Rafael Residence Hall] my second year and I saw one of these trees that was always leaning just outside of my window, and I was like, ‘This tree’s gonna fall one day,’” Vukcevich said.
“And then, junior year, it fell right on I.V. Foot Patrol. So this is an issue that I’ve been talking about with my friends for a while, but I decided to finally do something about it, mostly because of the amount of trees that did fall last year,” he added.
Foreman and Vukcevich met with Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Garry MacPherson at the end of fall quarter to discuss the tree removal, which is currently underway.
Foreman said the university had already removed 31 eucalyptus trees over winter break that were considered “high-risk, or near population centers,” including several near Santa Rosa Residence Hall.
According to Foreman, MacPherson said that removing high-risk trees is much less expensive than fixing damage done to property once trees have fallen.
Foreman said he was told that it cost approximately $750,000 last winter to repair properties that were damaged by fallen trees, whereas it would cost approximately $250,000 to remove all high-risk trees on campus.
Foreman added that MacPherson expressed strong support for the resolution and said MacPherson told him that “something like this resolution is really needed to show the entirety of the administration that this is an issue that the students value and would like to see taken care of.”
The language of the resolution notes that in addition to eucalyptus trees “[posing] a danger to public safety,” the trees are not native to the area and “do not support any ecological environments native to Santa Barbara.”
Additionally, the resolution stipulates that the UCSB administration should focus its tree-removal efforts on “areas that have a higher likelihood to cause loss of life or damage to infrastructure in the case of tree failure — namely major walkways, major bikeways, and lived-in buildings (on campus as well as in the vicinity of Isla Vista).”
The next priority should be areas where tree roots have damaged road or bike infrastructure, the resolution added.
Foreman emphasized that the support for tree removal is contingent on the trees being replaced at a one-to-one ratio with trees that are native and support local wildlife, like the birds who typically nest in the eucalyptus trees. The trees must be planted “at or adjacent to the immediate locations where trees were removed,” according to the resolution.
Foreman credited the EAB for those stipulations and said the board had helped with ensuring the resolution was environmentally friendly.
The Ocean Road Housing project, which was recently revived after being put on pause after “mounting public pressure,” as the Nexus reported in 2009, faced criticism for the fact that the proposal included plans to remove the eucalyptus trees that stretched along Ocean Road. In addition to opposition to the trees themselves being removed, students expressed concern about the loss of separation between the university and Isla Vista on Ocean Road that the trees historically have created.
When asked about a connection between the resolution and the Ocean Road Housing Project, Vukcevich said he hadn’t read the documents yet and declined to comment. Foreman said that while a number of the trees that would be removed for the housing project were ones that were considered high risk, he wasn’t sure how that would correspond to the project and said removing them “to prevent any incidents” was ideal.
Arturo Martinez Rivera contributed reporting.
A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the January 9 edition of the Daily Nexus.