By James Taylor

DAVIS (CBS13) – A local hospital says it’s trying to help save the environment by cutting down hundreds of trees. In place of the trees, the hospital wants to install solar panels. But that plan is causing controversy.

“Those are oak trees over there and these are zelkova trees over there,” said Alan Hirsch, a Davis resident.

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Hirsch is trying to save the trees from being cut down.

“It makes me cry to think about the loss of these trees. Trees take years and decades to grow,” he said.

More than 200 mature trees that shade the Sutter Davis Hospital parking lot are now at risk of being chopped down. It’s all in an effort by Sutter to go green by installing solar panels that could power more than 20 percent of the hospital’s energy needs. But they say that to make room for the 11 new rows of photo-voltaic carports, the trees must be removed.

“It’s definitely come as a surprise to people,” said Colin Walsh, chair of the Davis Tree Commission.

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Walsh says the first phase of the removal was approved by city staff without any public discussion or debate.

“I’m getting emails and phone calls from people who are upset about it. It’s a tough thing because there are specific benefits to both, solar panels are a part of dealing with climate change,” said Walsh.

Sutter Davis hospital would not answer our questions about the project. But in a statement to CBS13 they say:

“We are committed to green initiatives and designs that support the environment. The solar panel project plays an important role in these efforts.”

They say eliminating the trees will also save more than 15,000 gallons of water a year. But those fighting the proposal now want the city to step in and stop the loss.

“We are going to appeal to the city council to save the trees and also change the city law so this could never happen again in our town,” said Hirsch. “This is not the Davis way,” he added.

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If the trees are removed, Sutter would have to pay more than $100,000 in tree-mitigation fees or pay hundreds of new trees somewhere else.