Quick recap of last night’s Fernside trees meeting from scribbled notes and memory. There is a very thorough staff report (good job, Laurie), which I will see if I can get a PDF of from the city and post here. There was also a presentation which will be on the city website soon, and I will make sure to link it when it is.
There was a pretty good attendance, and everybody seemed engaged, concerned, and wanting to save for the trees, including staff. About a 100 written protests were received.
Basically, the reason for the proposed removals is street resurfacing and sewer work, and the reason for the work, the way I understand it, is that the city planned it thinking it was eligible for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka stimulus) money. However, it turned out the money is not coming right away, but the street, as a high-traffic street (19,000 cars per day), has had its soft sides worn out by garbage trucks and parked cars, changing the curve of the pavement and creating ponding issues, and so needs to be done one way or another. In case you didn’t know it, the middle of Fernside is built with harder materials because there was a trolley line at one time (still buried underneath); the sides, however, built with bay mud, have sunk with time, exaggerating the curve and receiving more runoff than the drains can handle.
The project is two part: 1) From Thompson Street to High Street, where the pavement needs to be dug out 2 feet and totally replaced thanks to the sinking, along with concurrent sewer work, and 2) resurfacing and putting a slurry seal from High Street all the way to Tilden Way.
The 13 trees are noticed because it is POSSIBLE they will get hurt during the construction, with the sewer work obviously being the more disruptive one. However, the good news is that staff recommends a long list of arborist-suggested measures to take in order to preserve the trees. The other good news is that the side that would be most disrupted because of the sewer work (east) has the fewer trees posted (4).
Here are some of the suggestions that staff made, and wanted feedback on from residents, in order to save the trees:
• Move the curbs a foot into the street, to allow more growing space
• Decrease sidewalk width to 3 feet (same reason)
• Remove some pavement around the base of trees to allow air and water penetration
• Build new curb around old curb where the old curb serves to prop the tree
• Shave some of the surface roots, though an arborist recommends this only be done minimally to avoid instability and infection
• Install French drain alongside planting strip, to divert lawn water that atracting roots to the surface
Some additional suggestions proposed by people at the meeting:
• Reduce the crown of trees that are leaning, in a way that would distribute the weight more evenly
• Reduce the height of the pavement in the middle of the street (the crown) so curbs can be moved even further in (2 ft)
• Educate residents on lawn watering/promote drought resistant yards
• Use the opportunity of opening up the street to put utilities underground
• Create a street improvement/lighting district, similar to the Bay Street where residents pay for tree care not provided by the city
So what next?
Matt Naclerio said that now that this meeting is over, the city will open the sidewalk around some of the trees (I think he said five of them) to examine the roots and find out what could be done around them. If a tree moves more than a 1/4 inch in the process, it would signal instability and would have to be taken out. If PW decides the tree has to go, they’ll notify everybody on the list of interested citizens; the decision can then be appealed to the City Council (new appeal fee of $250 + up to $500 T&M would apply). Speakers asked that comment period on the trees be kept open and that newly determined trees be reposted, but Matt Naclerio didn’t explicitly promise that would happen. Which means, if you are not on the city’s list for this issue, you likely won’t hear about the developments. So call right now and ask to be added.
A note about the cost of the project (according to Matt, not the Alameda Journal): $1 million is budgeted for the street work, and $800,000 for the sewer. The money will come from a number of sources, including CMA funds, Waste Management or “recycling money” (something to do with recycling your old asphalt), and Prop 1B money. (The question I wonder about is, what strings are attached to each of these, but that’s a reflection for another post.) The cost of moving the curb one foot in is $75,000; this is money the city says it doesn’t yet have; however, it does seem a drop in the bucket in the overall budget and could have the most positive effect on several levels—reducing street width, increasing plant strip for future plantings, and retaining the trees that are spilling out of their spaces.
A second note on tree replacement/new trees selections: The two species mentioned were the silver linden, Kentucky coffee tree, and London Plane, or sycamore. The residents like sycamores, the arborist recommends the linden, and the Master Tree plan—all of the above. Whatever the species, everyone agrees that Fernside needs large trees because of its width, heavy usage, and proximity to an entry point.
And a third, picky note on the Alameda Journal fact-checking: While I’m glad they covered the issue, both in a front page article and an editorial, they got the gist of the story right, but too many facts wrong! The trees marked for removal are sycamores, camphor and liquidambar, not maples, carobs and gingkos! And no bulbouts are proposed—the idea was for the entire curb to be moved in, or so Matt Naclerio made clear. Plus, they estimated the cost at “up to $1 million” when it’s actually closer to two. Well, details…
I’ll be keeping an eye on this and posting updates and links as they become available, so check back often.