Frequently Asked Questions

What is the grant?

Poway was awarded a hazardous mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Congress approved the disaster relief and recovery funds following the devastating 2018 northern California wildfires. 

How much is the grant and is there a cost to the City?

Poway received $1.4 million for this grant project, which was contingent on the City making a 25 percent match. During the application process the Poway City Council approved an appropriation of $500,000 toward the project. The project budget is $1.9 million, which includes the $1.4 million grant and the City’s $500,000 match.

What does the project cover?

The City’s mitigation efforts will focus on the strategic removal of hazardous trees along the right of way of two major evacuation routes (Espola and Twin Peaks Roads), as well as an open space area of Green Valley, just west of Espola Road. In addition to removing hazardous trees, the FEMA grant covers the preliminary steps including a comprehensive tree inventory and ensuring compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and regulatory agencies.

Why did the City apply?

During a wildfire, accessible evacuation routes are critical for both getting residents out of harm’s way and giving emergency responders a safe passageway into the affected area. 

Wildfire is a significant hazard in the Poway area, with major fires impacting residents in 2003 and 2007. Deadly wildfires in California have underscored the importance of maintaining safe routes in the event of an evacuation. Along the project area for this grant, there are more than 1,000 structures and close to 3,300 residents. The Twin Peaks and Espola Road corridors provide critical north/south and east/west access for other high-risk neighborhoods.

How many people travel these roads (Espola, Twin Peaks)?

SANDAG statistics from 2015 show that heavily traveled Twin Peaks and Espola Roads see average daily traffic counts in the range of 26,000 to 46,000 and 15,000 to 22,000 vehicles, respectively.

How many trees will be removed?

We anticipate the FEMA grant project will cover removing approximately 1,500 trees, but the removal cost per tree may vary by tree size and location. The arborist’s assessment inventoried more than 6,400 trees and more than 2,500 were identified as hazardous.  

What is considered a hazardous tree?

A tree is defined as hazardous if a tree has been identified to have overhead spacing issues, or is dead, dying, declining, poorly structure or poses defensible space concerns.

How will the City decide which trees will be removed?

Certified arborists will conduct an on-the-ground assessment to identify vulnerable and high-risk trees based on industry standards such as spacing, health, and age. Trees meeting the criteria will be tagged and identified in a database. Once assessment is complete the City will determine which trees will be removed. 

When can the City begin removing hazardous trees?

Although the inventory/assessment phase is complete, the project is in the second phase (environmental permitting and securing regulatory compliance). The city is expected to begin the bidding process in early 2022, with tree removal beginning in summer 2023 (dependent on finishing the permit process). The City will likely wait until July to begin tree removal to avoid nesting season, which is between March and June. 

Will this project take care of everything?

With an estimated 13,000 trees in the areas covered by this grant, there is a chance that the number of trees meeting the criteria for removal may exceed the funding available. Once the assessment is complete and a priority list is developed, the information will remain in our inventory database. If the FEMA grant doesn’t cover the cost of removing all hazardous trees at this time, the City will start with the highest priority and work through that list. Any remaining trees identified for removal will remain marked for removal as funding is identified.

If some of these trees are within Landscape Maintenance Districts (LMDs), isn’t there funding available in those districts?

Both the Twin Peaks and Espola Road areas identified for the FEMA grant are within LMDs. Assessments in those districts have remained the same for 20+ years, while costs to provide basic maintenance has increased dramatically. These districts are not able to budget additional funds beyond basic maintenance. As part of one-time funding received by the FEMA grant, project areas within the LMDs will be funded by FEMA and the City’s 25 percent match for the project, which is funded from the General Fund Reserve. 

Are all of the trees on city-maintained land?

All trees are on city-maintained land, including those in a prescriptive easement on the north side of Twin Peaks Road (portion of LMD 83-1). The City will be reaching out to those property owners within the prescriptive easement regarding the disposition of impacted trees.

Are the eucalyptus trees that appear to lean toward the road on Twin Peaks included on the hazardous tree list?

It depends. In many cases trees grow at an angle because they are competing for sunlight. Our assessment by certified arborists documented which trees are stable (they may be growing at an angle out of competition for sunlight) and which trees are designated as hazardous. As this grant is focused on removing hazardous trees, that’s what our priority will be.

Will tree stumps be removed as well or left behind? And what will the city do with the bark, leaves, branches, etc., from the trees?

Hazardous trees taken out along Espola and Twin Peaks Road will be fully removed (no tree stump left behind). However, the City expects that tree stumps will be left in place for trees removed in the Green Valley open space to keep root systems in place to prevent erosion. The city will be recycling as much of the cut trees as possible by creating mulch and salvaging wood for other uses.

Will removing tree affected our Tree City USA status?

Our Tree City USA status will not be affected because most of the trees that will be taken down are not native species and by removing unhealthy trees we are enhancing the overall urban forest by allowing our native species to thrive even more.

Will removing trees in the Green Valley Open Space mean that the city will be developing that land or adding in new hiking trails?

There are no plans to develop this designated open space nor develop more trails.

Will the City save water by removing trees?

We don’t have an answer for that yet. Many of the trees removed along Twin Peaks and Espola Roads will be replaced as part of a future Landscape Maintenance District master plan. The goal is to rejuvenate and revegetate these areas. And while this could lead to water savings by nature of the landscape design, it’s too early to have a more specific answer.

What if native trees are identified for removal? Will the City be required to replace them?

The city’s hazardous tree removal project seeks to remove trees for the purposes of fuel load reductions. The majority of trees proposed to be removed are eucalyptus, which are invasive. The goal is to protect and retain native and heritage trees (e.g., Coast Live Oak, Canyon Live Oak, Englemann Oak, California Sycamore), unless their removal is absolutely necessary. If removal is required, replacement will be on a one-for-one basis with a tree of the same size and species, in accordance with Poway Municipal Code 12.32.130.