Protect Heritage Trees in Kelowna’s North End Neighbourhood

Protect Heritage Trees in Kelowna’s North End Neighbourhood

1,131 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!

Why this petition matters

Started by Ashley Lubyk

This petition prioritises the role of mature trees in the livability of our city and communicates our shared concern for the rapid loss of large trees from private land due to development pressures, especially in Kelowna’s downtown and urban core areas.

The proposed development at 602-664 Central Ave., Kelowna (BC Housing’s Pleasantvale 2 – DP20-0182/DP20-0183/Z21-0085) will result in the removal of 23 (of 27) mature trees, including the majority of the significant and valuable 70+ year old heritage trees identified in an independent arborist report commissioned as part of the development project. A rationale for the removal of so many of the mature trees is not provided in the development plan, yet from our perspective – informed by discussions with neighbours, building professionals, arborists, and landscape architects – there are reasonable adjustments to the plan that would result in greater tree retention than the current plan identifies.  

Among others, these could include considerations for a car-sharing program to reduce parking allocation (as has been done with other developments in Kelowna) and/or underground parking spaces to reduce the ground surface area to be covered by asphalt, as well as possibilities for shifting the location of the courtyard play area, and retention of trees around housing site entrance ways. It is important to note that the current site plan drawings have not yet been approved by the Kelowna City Council, though it is likely to go to a public hearing in the latter part of April 2022, so time is of the essence.

We wholeheartedly support the creation of affordable and senior housing in our city, which is the aim of this development, and we are asking the developers to adjust the site plan to retain a larger portion of the largest, most significant trees on the site; we are urging Kelowna’s Mayor and Council to do the same.  

The trees located on this site are significant not just for their age but also their diversity. The trees here include Horse Chestnut, Beech, Maple, Oak and Fir, and trees of this grandeur are exceedingly rare in downtown and more urban areas. Forest canopy coverage is a mere 12.4% in our downtown communities, well below the 20% canopy target for ‘core areas’ established in Kelowna’s recently released 2040 Official Community Plan[i]. Of course, the trees on this site are not just trees; they are the homes and playground to many of our area’s animals (including racoons and squirrels), and they provide sanctuary to hundreds of birds of all types and sizes - hummingbirds, owls, osprey, Cooper’s Hawks, Great Blue Heron, ducks, Northern Flickers, to name a few. The trees also support the insects that live in the bark, food for our wild life. All of these things are critical parts of an ecosystem.

These heritage trees provide beauty and calm, and through photosynthesis, reduce the effects of air pollution, drought, and they mitigate the intense heat as the Okanagan struggles with climate change. The City’s own Sustainable Urban Forestry Strategy, states that trees provide a host of “social and economic benefits including energy savings, carbon storage, air quality improvement, extended pavement life, stormwater runoff reduction and aesthetic value.”[ii] But the benefits do not stop there. Research shows that trees also contribute to:

  • Improved water quality, noise abatement, and improved soils[iii]
  • Lower levels of illness and disease[iv]
  • Improved mental health and wellbeing[v]
  • Increased social bonding between neighbours[vi]
    Better health outcomes, especially among older adults, stay-at-home spouses, and individuals and families living with low incomes[vii]
  • Increased effectiveness in coping with major life issues for public housing residents compared to those surrounded by concrete[viii]
  • Decreased levels of graffiti, vandalism, and littering[ix]
  • Improved walkability[x]
  • Decreased lung-damaging particulate matter in the air[xi]
  • Reduced urban heat island effect[xii]

This last point about the urban heat island (UHI) effect is particularly important in urban centres, where average air temperatures can be up to 12°C higher compared to the surrounding countryside[xiii]. It is well documented that built surfaces such as roofs, parking lots and other impervious surfaces absorb large amounts of radiant heat from the sun. This excess heat limits the body’s ability to cool down during extreme heat events[xiv], like the 2021 ‘heat dome’ that severely affected our community (and communities around the world), resulting in 740 excess deaths in British Columbia alone.[xv] This is alarming and amounts to roughly half the number of deaths due to coronavirus in BC in the same year.[xvi] Extreme heat conditions can be especially dangerous for seniors in our communities (nearly 70% of heat-related deaths).[xvii] The tree canopy which absorbs heat and provides shade to our homes as well as access to large and well-shaded areas nearby our homes is particularly important for seniors and anyone whose bodies are less able to tolerate high degrees of heat.

Removing vegetation, especially large trees that cool through evapotranspiration (i.e. evaporation of water from surfaces and transpiration by plants), is cited as one of the major contributors to urban heat. It also has a direct impact on building energy use by requiring higher cooling/air conditioning loads.[xviii] According to the City of Kelowna’s Urban Tree page, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20-50 per cent in energy used for heating.”[xix] Savings this significant protect residents in at least three ways: 1) Buildings are more adaptive to a changing climate; 2) Buildings are more resilient and survivable in the event of a power outage; 3) Buildings require less energy, thus providing protection from rising energy costs.  

While the current site/landscape plans for the Pleasantvale 2 development show plenty of tree replacement—with BC Housing suggesting they will plant two young trees for each tree they remove—mature trees in our communities contribute disproportionately more benefit than younger trees. For example, “a large tree with a trunk diameter of 75cm (30”) can intercept 10 times more air pollution, can store up to 90 times more carbon and contributes up to 100 times more leaf area to the tree canopy than a 15cm (6”) diameter tree.”[xx] It is not simply the number of trees that matters but the size and quality of those trees that determines the benefit to the community, which is why the City’s Sustainable Urban Forest Strategy and Official Community Plan (OCP) set the goal of 20% canopy cover in urban core areas -  it is canopy coverage that matters!

With a holistic understanding of the many advantages mature trees provide to the residents they are building for and the communities their projects grow into, developers have the opportunity to create “instant canopies instead of the much lauded “instant landscapes” that take many decades to fully establish. Designing around healthy, already established, high value trees is the path to equity and maximum community benefit.  

Kelowna is facing tremendous development pressures. Given the strains on the lands and waters that provide for us and the increased threat of excess heat in our region, it behooves all of us living here to prioritize maximum retention of mature trees, as well as expand canopy coverage. We, the undersigned, most certainly support the essence of this development (affordable and senior housing), and we believe it can and must be done with the majestic elder trees prioritized on the site, especially the 10 identified by arborist Vera Mumby. These special trees are the elders of the tree canopy in this area, just as many residents of this proposed development will be the elders of the community. Communities work best when there is a mix of the old and the young, with trees as well as with people.

Our world is changing and so is our understanding of the tremendous value of trees in the urban environment. The paradigm that guided development in the past needs replacing with a more sensitive, holistic, and equitable approach to building. Together, we know that this development does not need to be a zero sum game; that the creation of affordable and senior housing does not need to come at the expense of the natural world, or the health and vibrancy of this neighbourhood. Stand with us in asking BC Housing/Society of Hope, and the city’s Mayor and Council, to adjust the site plan to retain a larger portion of the largest, most significant trees on the site. Doing so will not only help protect residents from the worst impacts of climate change, urban heat, and wildfire smoke, but ensure the neighbourhood remains a safe, healthy, and biologically diverse place for current and future residents, and the entire Kelowna community for decades to come.   


Kelowna Tree Protectors

Ashley Lubyk

Robin Metcalfe

Fatima Correia

[i] City of Kelowna. (2022). 2040 Official Community Plan. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from 
[ii] City of Kelowna. (2011). Sustainable Urban Forest Strategy. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from
[iii] Nowak, D.J., S.M. Stein, P.B. Randler, E.J. Greenfield, S.J. Comas, M.A. Carr, and R.J. Alig. 2010. Sustaining America's Urban Trees and Forests: A Forests on the Edge Report. U.S.D.A. Forest Service, General Technical Report NRS-62. Newtown Square, PA: Northern Research Station, 27 pp.
[iv] Mitchell, R., and F. Popham. 2008. Effect of Exposure to Natural Environment on Health Inequalities: An Observational Population Study. The Lancet 372: 1655-1660.
[v] Kaplan, R., and S. Kaplan. 1989. The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. New York, Cambridge University Press.
[vi] Westphal, L.M. 2003. Urban Greening and Social Benefits: A Study of Empowerment Outcomes. Journal of Arboriculture 29, 3:137-147.
[vii] Maas, J., R.A. Verheij, P.P. Groenewegen, S. de Vries, and P. Spreeuwenberg. 2006. Green Space, Urbanity, and Health: How Strong is the Relation? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 60:587–592.
[viii] Kuo, F.E. 2001. Coping with Poverty: Impacts of Environment and Attention in the Inner City. Environment and Behavior 33, 1:5-34.
[ix] Brunson, L. 1999. Resident Appropriation of Defensible Space in Public Housing: Implications for Safety and Community. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL.
[x] Takano, T., K. Nakamura, and M. Watanabe. 2002. Urban Residential Environments and Senior Citizens’ Longevity in Mega-City Areas: The Importance of Walkable Green Space. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 56, 12:913–916.
[xi] Street Tree Cost Benefit Analysis – Treeconomics (2018). Retrieved March 23, 2022, from
[xii] Bowler, D.E., L. Buyung-Ali, T.M. Knight, and A.S. Pullin. 2010. Urban Greening to Cool Towns and Cities: A Systematic Review of the Empirical Evidence. Landscape and Urban Planning 97, 3: 147-155.
[xiii] Oke, T. R. (1982). The energetic basis of the urban heat island. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 108(455), 1-24. doi:10.1002/qj.49710845502
[xiv] Laaidi, K., Zeghnoun, A., Dousset, B., Bretin, P., Vandentorren, S., Giraudet, E., & Beaudeau, P. (2012). The impact of heat islands on mortality in Paris during the August 2003 heat wave. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(2), 254.
[xv] Henderson, S.B., McLean, K.E., Lee, M., Kosatsky, T. (2021), Extreme heat events are public health emergencies, BC Medical Journal, 63(9), 366-367 
[xvi] The BC Ministry of Health reported 1,522 deaths due to Covid-19 in 2021; see Covid-19 BC App. BC.Thrive.Health. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2022, from
[xvii] Zussman, R. (2021, November 2). At least 595 people in B.C. died from summer heat wave, Coroners Service says. Global News. Retrieved March 25, 2022, from,deaths%20were%20reported%20among%20children 
[xviii] Akbari, H. (2002). Shade trees reduce building energy use and CO2 emissions from power plants. Environmental Pollution, 116(Suppl 1), S119-S126. doi:10.1016/S0269-7491(01)00264-0.
[xix] City of Kelowna. (2022). Urban Trees. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from: 
[xx] McPherson, E. G., Nowak, D. J., Rowntree, R. A., eds. 1994. Chicago’s Urban Forest Ecosystem: Results of the Chicago Urban Forest Climate Project. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-186. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 201 p.

1,131 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!