Monthly Archives: May 2009

Yes you can!

I stopped by this morning to check out a tree marked for removal on High Street. It’s not posted because it is one of those trees Public Works decides are “hazardous” and does not have to post, according to policy. (How do you know a tree is to be taken out?—There a pink line drawn across the trunk, at right about neck height. Pretty obvious, huh?) To be honest, I’m not sure why one tree would be labeled hazardous while another down the block in the same shape or worse is not, and I’m trying to find out the criteria, as well as what’s budgeted for this work as opposed to let’s say planting, but meanwhile, as I was checking it out, the resident walked out and we chatted a little. He said the city removed the tree next door 5 years ago, some flowers taking up the planting strip now. He said the city would not replace it. “Oh no, I said, maybe they would, if you call them and ask them.” “Really, he said, then maybe I will.” “Bye.” “Bye—thanks for letting me know.” I hope he follows through.

My point telling this is that yes you can cause a tree to be planted! You don’t need to suffer quietly as you look out on your treeless sidewalk, grumble that the city never does anything right (which it often doesn’t), or shrug your shoulders and declare it not your business. All you need to do is pick up the phone, call 749-5840, give them your address and say that you’d like a replacement tree (or two) in front of your property. Don’t forget to mention you’d water, weed, and take good care of the new tree.

Yes, it takes that kind of personal initiative, even it feels like that shouldn’t be “your business.” We all know that the budget is in shreds and dozens of city workers just got laid off, making the work of all departments that much harder, but the folks at Public Works will appreciate your active interest in making your street a better place, and just might help you do that. At any rate, they would rather plant a tree near a residence where the people care, as opposed to a place where nobody gives a hoot.

Should you decide—and you very well could, considering how good trees are for your property value—to pay for the street tree (or an extra tree) yourself, be sure it’s a species approved in the Master Tree Plan. Because cities receive pretty decent nursery discounts, you may get it cheaper by offering to pay for one of their trees than if you just go for it on your own.

Good luck. Let me know how it goes.

Trees briefs

There hasn’t been that much happening with trees to my knowledge lately, and I have been trying to stay away from the computer nursing a sore wrist, but these are some things worth noting:

• Five new trees in Krusi park—two Norfolk pines and three deciduous species, not sure what they are but two may be a Raywood Ash, two flowering pears (pyrus calleriana), and a Japanese “Bloodgood” maple. These are the culmination of almost two years of talks between Otis School shade committee and the Parks Department. We hope the park users will be gentle on the young trees and let them get to a ripe old age with dignity and most of their branches intact.

• Two new evergreens (cedars, cedrus deadora) at Jackson park, near San Jose Avenue. These replace two Monterey pines taken out about a year ago (huge stumps still there). The neighborhood group there had some say in the selection; thanks to our park people for following through.

• Several new trees on Broadway in previously empty spots—maples and chinese pistache for the most part. Thanks to Public Works for following up on the request to plant there. More are needed but it’s a great start.

• Young sycamores along Doolitle Drive (golf course side) have been fertilized and lightly pruned and look nice and pretty in their new spring greens. Lorax alert on that one, thank you very much.

• Lastly: All is quiet on Fernside—work around the trees has not begun and the documents from the last meeting are not yet online. Will continue to cover this as things happen (or not).

Keep an eye on your trees, call if they need care, and otherwise, enjoy your week.

Monterey pines down!

Yep, the Franklin park trees I wrote about here are coming down as we speak. I just drove by and saw the one on San Antonio all stripped of its branches, looking so naked and helpless. It makes me sad—I really can’t watch stuff like that. Do you feel that way too?!

I talked to the arborist about it last week—he was adamant there were carpenter worms in the tree. I hope he was right. I’m curious as to whether the cavity in that tree was really as big as he estimated. If you go by at the right moment, like when they chop down the trunk, will you look and let me know?

This reminds me that I need to follow up on trees promised to be planted in both Krusi and Jackson park—but aren’t yet. Now Franklin will need some replacements too. Maybe we should have a race among the different park neighborhoods to see who will get a tree replanted first.

A banner lovely as a tree

Love trees AND art? Check out the Urban Forest Project. And the one-of-a-kind bags made of the recycled banners. And the wave is coming to SF too, this summer. What’s a more natural alliance than art and nature? The second has always been an inspiration for the first, and now the first is helping regenerate the second.

In fact, what if we could create a similar project, right here in Alameda, using our unusual concentration of artistic talent to help sustain and grow our urban forest? Instead of banners though, I’d go for 3-D art. Something like the Pigs on Parade in Seattle. (I saw these in person; I petted them. Swine flu was not around then.)

But seriously, folks—this could be a wonderful, natural collaboration between the art and green community here (which probably overlaps considerably anyway), and could help raise enough to close the perennial gap between the tree needs and the tree budget!

What do you think? Maybe we can get a cool band for the unveiling of the artwork, too.

Thread open for sharing your thoughts.

The “What happened?”

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.