Monthly Archives: April 2009

Be there tonight!

Just a reminder that the public hearing on the Fernside trees is tonight, 7:30, at City Hall. The meeting is listed on the website only as “public hearing,” and no documents are available in advance for the public to review. The meeting is listed on the city’s website front page calendar as “Public Hearing”; clicking on the expanded calendar link at the bottom will bring you here (scroll all the way down to view the expanded listing and to read the letter PW sent to residents). The official explanation for the lack of staff report is that staff is swamped.

At any rate, do attend if you can to learn more about what work is being proposed and to advocate for keeping these large trees. There are many ways in which the trees could be saved, and one of them is widening of the sidewalks into the street to allow the trees to grow. Planting strips along Fernside should be made wider in general, with the goal of maintaining a large tree population along this signature route. Luckily, that’s one of the streets that has enough width to allow such sidewalk expansion, which is a way better use of the space than the latest fussy, maze-like narrowing of the lanes south of Encinal.

Check previous posts for more info.


Fernside trees public meeting set for April 30

The public meeting for the proposed Fernside tree removals is set for April 30th. This is the notice. More about the trees here, here, and here.

I spoke with Laurie Kozisek, the staff person working on the case, this morning and she told me she has hundreds! of people interested in the issue. There were no preliminary documents available to the public as of our conversation, but there might be later. Whatever documents the city plans to present at the meeting, it is important that the public is able to see those in advance. Springing a stack of technical reports on interested people at the time of the meeting will hardly help what’s apparently becoming a “high profile” case.

More to come, I’m sure.

Monterey pines at Franklin park

A visitor to the blog wrote to ask what’s going on with two Monterey pines at Franklin Park, surrounded by yellow tape. The other day I made sure I did not forget my camera at home, and went to take some pictures and a better look at the trees. Both are huge trees in the western portion of the park. For identification purposes I’m calling them the San Antonio pine and the Morton pine, after the streets they are closer to.

So the Morton pine is this one, and this is the notice on it.

The arborist report is right here.

The San Antonio pine is this one, and this is the notice.
The report on that one is here.

Looking from the outside with a lay eye, I have to admit that the Morton tree looks pretty close to dead. There is for sure some green growth on it still, but mostly it’s dry and brown. I regretfully agree that it has outlived its useful life, as the report says. If somebody thinks otherwise, I’m listening, but I just think it’s done. The only reason the park people may not want to remove it is to save themselves the cost for a few more years, and use the money to plant more trees right now.

The San Antonio tree is a different matter. The tree looks pretty healthy still, with the exception of a nasty cavity you can see up close right here.
While I understand the concern about the tree and just snapping in half at the cavity spot in the next big gust of wind, I also know that arborists generally err on the side of caution for obvious liability reasons, and in this case that just might mean that the tree could be okay, especially if treated for the carpenter worms that might still be in it. Yes, I saw the drawing of what the cavity may look like on the inside but I’m also wondering how someone determines that without an x-ray or some such technology. By feeling around? 36 inches deep? Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I would explore options for saving the tree (filling the cavity? bracing?) and give it a year or two to see how it does before going for the axe.

In a nutshell, I think a second opinion on that San Antonio pine is warranted. I’m going to ask John McDonald about that, and I’m hoping others will ask as well. I definitely do not want to endanger anyone playing or resting in the vicinity of this tree if it is indeed dangerous, but I don’t want expensive removals done on a single report either, especially since there is so little money to go around, and so much planting and other tree maintenance to be done.

John McDonald’s email is The arborist who provided the reports is Steve Batchelder, at (510) 787-3075,

Waiting for Laurie

It looks like what was written on the notices for the Fernside trees is not the whole story. Remember, it was curb and ponding issues that were noted as reasons for possible removal; however, in the replies that he has sent to various protest letters Matt Naclerio now mentions moving the sewer main to the middle of the street as an additional (and possibly the main) reason for most of the removals. Did somebody write the notice in a hurry? Because they also forgot to check the box for tree replacement in case a tree does get removed. Anyway, I’ve asked for the documentation relating to this project to see what exactly is being pondered here, and the ball is now in Laurie Kozisek’s court, the project manager for this project.

Meanwhile, I’m linking to Christopher Buckley’s letter, which pretty much covered all the issues. Some of these points have been raised by others too, I just think Chris left nothing out and went into more detail about possible solutions than I could think of. And I agree that all this noticing seems rather premature, with both lack of reports and lack of funding, for all I know.

On a similar note but on a different side of the island, two huge Monterey pines in Franklin Park look like they are on their way out. There’s yellow caution tape around them, and and notices and reports taped to the trunks. I’ll be finding out more and will post what I learn as soon as I learn it. Yesterday, there was a picnic going on right inside one of the yellow tape enclosures, and the people I chatted with seemed disturbed by the removal prospect. More to come.

¡No pasarán! the ivy

Got your trowel? Clippers? Seed bombs? A bandana and flashlight? Then join the underground, literally.

We shall know each other by the dirty fingernails. Viva la resistance!

Fernside, the follow up

Letters protesting the Fernside removals have apparently been coming into Public Works, and we now have more details straight from Matt Naclerio:

“The Public Works Department is currently in the design phase of a project to replace the existing sewer main located under the easterly sidewalk and relocating it to the street. Many of the trees that are posted are possible candidates for tree removal due to this sewer work. In addition, some trees on the west side are posted because of pavement subsidence and isolated flooding problems. Public Works will do all we can to preserve these trees and will be working closely with an arborist to advise on pruning the tree roots so they can remain. However, if the size of roots are too large, it will not be possible to prune the roots and keep the tree. In this instance the tree would be removed and a replacement tree planted close by. We post all candidate trees prior to knowing which trees, if any, will be removed so that any protests can be resolved prior to going to construction. […] Nonetheless, the Public Works Department is committed to retaining any tree that safely can remain.”

And Michele Ellson at the Island has posed the question about the removals to Deputy City Manager Lisa Goldman, who pretty much says the same thing but adds an interesting note about funding. I’m intrigued by the refusal of the state to use money (I assume that was stimulus money) on “historic tree corridors”. I need to poke a little to find out what that means.

For now, it looks like the trees are getting a reprieve (lack of money can be a good thing sometimes). That doesn’t mean the issue should fade. You still have five more days to get your protest letter in (deadline is Monday, April 13), which will ensure you will be contacted to attend the public meeting on the matter.

Meanwhile, if the project is indeed on hold due to lack of funds, the scary notices should probably be removed after Monday the 13th, and re-posted again when the project becomes financially viable so that people will not feel 6 months from now that something has been sneaked past them unnoticed.

I’ll be posting updates on this as they come.

You’d be a fool to do it

Happy April everyone! (I know, I’m 3 days late.)

I was going to post this the other day but I really didn’t want anyone to think it was a joke because it’s really not. It’s a very serious matter. I’m talking about the fact—more common than you think—that some residents deliberately destroy the street trees near their homes. The reasons vary, but here are a few common ones: “It drops things”, “It’s too close to my car” or “It messes with the lawn.” Guess what folks: Damaging a tree, for these reasons or any other, is illegal. It’s the same as burning a park bench, putting graffiti on a wall, or breaking a store window. Your neighbors can report you (and should). A police report could be filed. You can be prosecuted. The DA could get involved. You’ll go to court. The judge will fine you. You’ll pay for the removal if the tree, and for a tree replacement. You’ll hate your neighbors. They’ll hate you back. You may have to move.

Don’t do it!

If you have a problem with your tree, call the city. Call them multiple times. Spend a couple hours on the phone if you have to. That may be a royal pain sometimes, but it sure beats getting yourself hauled to the courthouse. And neighbors not speaking to you.

Get yourself educated—about the law, and how to prevent tree problems (for example: don’t overwater your lawn, this attracts surface roots onto it). Consider the tree your friend. Take care of it, and it will take care of you. You can sit under it and drink ice tea with your neighbors. You can decorate it with ribbons for Christmas. You can lean out your window in the morning and listen to the birds sing. You can’t “love trees” but “hate this one.” You gotta love yours.

Got it? Be nice. I’ll be writing more about the law—and how it is enforced—later.