Category Archives: Uncategorized

A leaf kicker’s paradise

A friend who just got back from the midwest made me this lovely video of fall trees in Kirkwood, Missouri. Enjoy.


Pave paradise?-UPDATE

Taking a break from out regularly scheduled programming (trees) to talk about dirt paths for a change. The one I have in mind is the dirt (grass, sand, mud) foot path along the beach in the back of Bayview Drive. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s because it’s one of our little secrets here in Alameda, and if I’ve now alerted you to it, please go back to sleep and forget I mentioned it.

Seriously, though, somebody wants to pave that path!

This path is one of the very last unpaved spots we have here in Alameda, where a person can go and stroll leisurely along the water behind the homes on Bayview Drive, listening to the birds and the bugs and the wind in the grass without getting run over by a jogger or a bicyclist, as you very well can on the paved Shoreline path. (There are joggers and bicyclist using the dirt path for sure, they just can’t speed because it’s narrow and it isn’t asphalt; people yield. I even used to take a stroller there, when the weather was dry.) When I wrote an ode to dirt sometime ago, I have to admit that I very much had this hidden little spot in mind. I’ve watched that path gently transform over the course of a year, the grass coming in and retreating with the seasons, the mud becoming caked dirt, sand, then mud again, the driftwood and rock “ramps” kids have built to get closer to the water’s edge, and the flowers and drought resistant plants that have crept all the way from the homeowners backyards onto the sloping side, making it really pretty and serene. It’s an alive path! The thought of putting that, or even part of it, under concrete makes me sick! Not everything needs to be paved!

Here’s what I know about this paving idea, and I hope to learn more in the very near future:

Bike Alameda wants it to become part of the bike network, and it may even be proposed as such on the Bike Master Plan, though I’m pretty sure the orange line on this PDF is Bayview Drive, the street.

• The neighbors want to keep it just as it is, no paving (citing increased traffic in back of their homes, safety, etc.)

• Bird watchers are with the neighbors.

• I will be devastated if they pave that path.

• There is a meeting on June 23 to talk about it, but where, what time, and with whom is a mystery at this point. It’s a Bicycle Task Force meeting, at 7:30 PM, Alameda City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue, Room 360. Here is the staff report. The Bayview path is mentioned on page 2, as connection between Shoreline Drive and bicycle bridge.

• City planner Barry Bergman is the person working on this.

In addition, the path

is supposedly a link on the Bay Trail, and so there would be this kind of pressure to widen it, pave it, and make it “accessible” (it already is, just not to many people at a time!). Actually, it’s listed as an off-street facility on the report, not as part of the Bay Trail.

• is under BCDC‘s jurisdiction, so this agency will likely have a say (would like to find out more on that)

• is not the only route for bicycles to connect from Shoreline’s paved beach path to the other side near High Street where the paved bike path continues. Bayview Drive is a perfectly safe, residential street on which to ride your bike a short distance, and even has speed bumps so cars are not able to speed there. It’s what you turn on now when you come to the end of Shoreline and you want to keep going east (that is, if you don’t want to go on the dirt path)

I will update some of this info as I learn more but wanted to just give the heads up.

250,176 and counting

San Jose is yet another city that does not immediately evoke the idea of “lush” or “verdant,” for me anyway. I think of it more as big, diverse, and pragmatic as a Silicon Valley capital, and rather dusty from what I’ve seen driving through. Nevertheless, it’s a city of some quarter million trees, or one for every 4 inhabitants, and I heard that it’s working towards a one-to-one ratio (increasing the number of trees, that is, not getting rid of residents). Who is responsible for this worthy goal? Why, a non-profit tree group of course, called Our City Forest, that has been working closely with the City of San Jose for over 15 years. I happened to be there last Saturday for a job fair, learning more about the group and listening to what some of the attendees, many from San Jose themselves, had to say. (Two themes that stuck out: “The air in San Jose is so dirty, I had to do something about it,” and “People really take their trees for granted until they are gone, and then it’s too late.”) But guess what? OCF does not wait until it’s too late: Their rather small staff and 4,000 (!) unpaid volunteers plant anywhere for just a few to up to 40 trees on public rights of way EVERY SINGLE SATURDAY! The group, which receives funding through grants and gets recruits through the AmeriCorps service program among others, owns not one or two but a fleet (!) of vehicles, including watering trucks (it’s the heart of the valley after all) as well as several nurseries, and helps homeowners comply with the San Jose’s strict tree ordinances.

San Jose has an extensive Municipal Code section dealing with trees, residents’ responsibilities towards trees, tree removal permits, and enforcement. For starters, San Jose homeowners are required to have a tree fronting their property (3 trees per corner property and 2 trees per mid-block property, as space allows, and in their deed it needs to state whether the property complies with the requirement or not). The trees are to be planted, watered, mulched and even pruned (with a permit) by the responsible homeowner. It is a city that clearly takes its urban forest seriously (It has an official City Arborist position for god’s sake!). I haven’t read the entire code in detail, but the two things I gleaned from it so far are that 1) it places a lot of responsibility for the adjacent street tree on the individual homeowner, and 2) provides excellent incentives and resources for residents to assume this responsibility, OCF being its prime educator and assistant in this task.

I will leave you with couple links to browse at your leisure. I have to say I really enjoy the look of the OCF’s website, and the programs they offer are definitely worth learning about to see what could be applied here on our fair island. Like the Sacramento Tree Foundation I wrote about here, OCF too has an alliance with PG&E to reduce energy consumption through strategically planted trees.

Our City Forest website
San Jose Tree ordinances, Chapters 13-28 and 13-32

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.

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.

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.