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Letter to the Editor: Plant New Trees Before Cutting Down Old Ones

"As the new trees flourish, the old trees can be taken out without as much damage to aesthetics, environment and soul."

Dear Editor:

I'm really disgusted with the awful decision to . I chanced upon the removal Friday morning, vaguely aware some trees were coming down, but...  Who on earth authorized this clearcutting disaster?

The street where I live has very few trees and, not surprisingly, sound bounces and echoes from one house to another. We're going to find that Park Street's trees did more than look pretty and clean the air. Leaves also baffle sound, effectively acting as noise abatement. Now they're gone, and I don't envy the folks who live and work there.

Alameda has a long-term street tree plan. There was community and expert involvement in creating it, but it's sadly evident that whoever authorized this tree removal didn't even get past page 9 of a 200-page document. Specifically, the plan on page 10 says "no to: 

• Wholesale tree felling
• Short-term, treeless streets
• False eveness plantings (I need to look that one up!)
• High risk trees
• Sidewalk and utility conflicts

The small trees planted on Park Street within the last few years are abused
and struggling due to vandalism. Why didn't the City give more care to
the existing mature trees to give the new trees time to grow? Thin out a few branches and dig holes to add MORE trees staggered with the old ones? Then, as the new trees flourish, the old trees can be taken out without as much
damage to aesthetics, environment and soul.

If anything, these martyred trees should be a wakeup call that this must not happen in other neighborhoods. We have long avenues of monoculture trees here, all planted at the same time. Visually it's a great, unifying effect... until they start to die off. Massive tree die-offs have happened all over the U.S. with Dutch Elm Disease; we've lost hundreds of Monterey cypress and pines in Golden Gate Park due to age and wind; we deal with Sudden Oak Death and pine beetle infestations; and who knows what unknown diseases and pests may arise in future? To help slow the spread of infestation, it's important to have a variety of trees rather than the admittedly gorgeous and impressive mass plantings.

We all know how disruptive liquidamber are to sidewalks; sycamores can live over 300 years but their trunks get very thick over time. City planners apparently must be urged to think forward to the expansion of trunks and roots that will make it necessary to eventually take large trees out.  Wouldn't it make sense to remove a few sycamores (or liquidambers as the case might be) at a
time in 5- or 10-year phases, and replace with strong, healthy trees
of different types?

I regret having been preoccupied with other aspects of life rather than paying attention to whatever announcements may have been made to the public. But the City government is supposed to be adhering to the community's tree plan, and MANY Alamedans are going to be watching closely to see that street trees, from this point on, are handled appropriately.

San Francisco has a citizens' organization called Friends of the Urban Forest. It seems that Alameda needs a similar group.

Sincerely,
Alana Dill

Find all stories related to the trees on Park Street here. Do you have an opinion about the trees or something else Alameda-related? Send it to eve@patch.com. 

Ademala October 24, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Well said, Alana! I'm going to the Planning meeting tonight and City Council tomorrow to voice the demand for change following this disastrous action.
John Knox White October 24, 2011 at 02:41 PM
Good one Alana, I agree completely. It's clear that staff seriously dropped the ball on this one. They need to make sure and plant mature trees (yes, they will cost more) as they move forward. Park Street and its businesses will benefit from it.
Eric Strimling October 24, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Well said, and I agree that greater tree diversity is a good idea.
Alana Dill October 24, 2011 at 07:44 PM
I'm not an arborist but I've read more than once that young saplings establish better than mature trees. Mature trees have spend more time in pots, may be rootbound, and are much more expensive. So mature trees may not get planted, but if we leave some mature trees in place and give the young ones time to establish, we keep the character alive. BTW I really love ginkos but their fallen leaves are rain-slippery; crunchy bits aside, the evergreen figgy things (that's the botanical name?! :-D ) we had in place don't create much leaf litter and it's easy to sweep up what they do drop.
amy k October 24, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Alana, thanks fot speaking for the trees. I didn't know about the.tree removal until this morning. I was driving down Park Street and had the sense something was different and not quits right. It took me minute to realize all the beautiful trees that line Park were gone. I was saddened and a bit sick to my stomache as I thought "what could they possibly have been thinking?"
a94501er October 24, 2011 at 11:29 PM
John, "staff" dropped the ball ... ok, what about the council that approved dropping the ball to start with? This is one of the drawbacks of having a "volunteer" city council. You get what you pay for. In our case, we get folks who use the council position as leverage for their consulting/legal gigs ... or alternatively, try to use as it a stepping stone to go elsewhere. Just like our dear friend Bonta who appears to be campaigning 24x7 for the Assembly seat. I've had to unfriend him, too many platitude filled updates and very little governing.
Michael October 24, 2011 at 11:34 PM
This is PR disaster for City Hall. It is one of those stories that both hits people in the gut and spreads fast. It will only confirm in the minds of many that the leadership is inept and out of touch. The treeless wasteland will serve as a monument to poor decision making for years to come.
Jeff Mark October 25, 2011 at 02:00 AM
This is an extraordinary letter, thank you so much. The lack of notification and community involvement seems glaring. I live a block from Park St., and I got all sorts of notices from Public Works about painting a curb on the corner red; I don't recall anything about this. And clearly there were other ways of approaching the whole "streetscape" project, beyond the question of the horrible PR. And shame on the Park St. Business Assoc. for not being more vocal about this; what was their involvement? Did they support it or oppose it? This will really mess up the "feel" of the street fairs and the July 4th parade and all their other events, which will then likely be less profitable.
Jan Watten October 25, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Thank you for your well written letter! I couldn't agree more. It is a shame and I am outraged by this senseless act.
a94501er October 25, 2011 at 04:37 AM
Agreed. Would be great payback if we LOST Livermore Labs as a result.
a94501er October 25, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Re: PSBA, Ratto lives in Hayward ... why would he care?
Brian October 25, 2011 at 05:16 AM
We do need to form a group before they get out on the point with their chainsaws, there are some fine trees out there and a little woodland at the old campground, When I turned onto Park Street off Encinal west bound I was shocked, it seems so empty I nearly had an accident. It looks so generic and stale now and the Starbucks tree was the best of the bunch. We have fools running this City from a developers view point, we need to kick them out. Park Street has lost a great deal of charm and appeal with this city planning fiasco.
Brenda Gardner October 25, 2011 at 01:09 PM
I knew that the city was planning to "beautify" the street, but I had no idea that meant taking down the most beautiful tree on the street. That tree in front of Starbuck's was a meeting place for many people who wanted to shade themselves during a hot day. This town now looks like any other town. The trees were what made the city beautiful. I've lived in Alameda for many years and I believe this to be one of the most covert things the city has done. A "Master Tree Plan" sounds like something that The Joker would say out of A Batman Movie. The November 28th planning board meeting is a little too late for the neighbors who are now mourning the loss of the trees.
Cat October 25, 2011 at 02:47 PM
The head of Park Street Business Association said nothing about this murder spree at last weeks PSBA monthly mixer. As usual, he was the center to attention and portrayed his usual "I'm the best in town and everybody respects me" persona, never once mentioning what was to happen the next day. I guess the business owners and their opinions don't count except for paying his over-the-top salary.
Tim October 30, 2011 at 06:05 PM
I like the idea of phasing in new trees. If it isn't feasible or good design to plant trees in between the old ones (keeping in mind new paving, irrigation, features such as benches, etc) then perhaps cutting down and replacing every other tree so we still have some mature ones while the new ones are growing in? This could be an interesting phased approach. It would cost a fortune (think about the cost to remodel a home versus nuilding a mew one) and most likely inhibit design options, but you'd have happier Alamedans - at least until people started complaining about the cost and design issues... I do appreciate the author proposing a solution rather than just complaining or using this issue for their political rants. Thanks
Pam November 02, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Everyone concerned must attend the City Hall Meeting on Nov. 9 @ 6:30 pm at City Hall! Maybe we all missed a big chance to save the trees on Park St. But let's not miss out on an opportunity to save the dozens of other trees (including the beauties on Central) from annhilation!
Pam November 02, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Yes! But let's not miss the November 9 @ 6:30 meeting. More are slated for destruction.

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