Resident’s Plea to City Planning Dir. Charles Bryant: “Save Some of the Trees … That is all I am Asking”

August 30, 2012
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Below is a letter sent today to Emeryville Planning Director Charles Bryant from Adrian McGilly, who lives with his wife (Emeryville Mayor Jennifer West) and two daughters at Doyle Street Co-housing. McGilly, West, and their neighbor Judy Timmel appeared on KTVU news last night to protest the city’s plan to cut down 33 mature street trees to make room for an apartment/retail development, including a park, on Stanford between Hollis and Doyle streets. These residents are asking the city to preserve some of the trees. Mayor West, who is not allowed to vote on any aspect of the development, known as “Parkside”, because she lives a block away, has noted previously in her blog, “I find it surprising that the park could not be designed to incorporate and enhance the mature trees that are already on the site. When I look at the project, I see that some of the trees … might have been retained with careful planning. If the developer and architect don’t value the trees … at least the city council should …”

For a previous Secret News story on the planned tree cutting at Parkside, click here.

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To see last night’s KTVU newscast, click here.

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33 of these trees will be removed to make way for a park, a parking lot, and an apartment/retail building.

Subject: Your comments on KTVU

Mr. Bryant,

Thank you for taking the time to talk to KTVU about the tree issue. You defended the plan to remove the mature trees on the grounds that “it will be a big improvement” and “in the end there will probably be more trees than there were before.”

It’s not just about the number of trees. It’s about letting trees GROW here and add majesty (and shade, and oxygen, and property value) to our neighborhoods.

The park can easily accommodate some of the trees without compromising the goals of the project. For example, trees 2 thru 11 are all on the list of good-to-moderate suitability for preservation. Four of those are in the ‘good’ category. Some of those could and should stay. To me, it is extremely short-sighted to remove these mature trees just to satisfy some design aesthetic about straight rows and uninterrupted spaces. It’s a park! Let it reflect nature! Let it lack symmetry and linearity. The dogs won’t mind. People won’t get lost in the park if the trees don’t all line up.

I find that the city has been very ‘hands-off’ about these trees. The staff report includes an arborist report from Hortscience that says it was performed “for Archstone”. Why is the developer allowed to hire the arborist to determine the fate of trees that are on city property?! And where is the report from the city’s own arborist? It certainly gives the appearance of the wolves guarding the henhouse.

Why was this report even commissioned? At whose behest? As Mayor West pointed out to you the other day, the report is woefully inadequate, even by the arborist’s own standards as stated in the introduction. (It didn’t meet the city’s own Urban Forestry Ordinance (UFO) standards by a long shot, and although the city is exempt from the UFO, shouldn’t the city at least make an effort to abide by it, if only to set a good example?) It didn’t provide an appraised value of the trees, nor did it provide “guidelines for tree preservation during the design, construction and maintenance phases of development” despite claiming it will do so right on page 4. It just says that despite 31 of the trees having good-to-moderate suitability for preservation, based on the design, the trees all have to go. No explanation as to why, or what measures might be taken to mitigate. What is the point of that? Why was that report deemed acceptable?  It just looks like a symbolic gesture by Archstone to justify the destruction of the trees. We all know that working around those trees is an added cost and inconvenience to Archstone. That’s why you don’t let Archstone hire the arborist.

I urge you to look at the design again and try to find a way to save some of trees 2 through 11 in the park section. That is all I am asking.

Have you ever walked or driven down some of the streets in Piedmont or North Berkeley where there is a gorgeous canopy of tall trees forming a majestic arch over the street?  Or walked in Golden Gate Park where tall trees provide shade and an escape from urban monotony?  When I’m in such places, I think to myself, “Wow, the people living here 40 years ago really cared about this place. They were really thinking ahead. They were really doing a big favor to future generations of residents and property owners by providing a veritable forest right here in the city.” And I am grateful and in awe of those forward-looking people.

Do you not share that sentiment? Do you not want to be held in awe 20 years hence for protecting the investment your predecessors made in these trees some 20 years ago?

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you in person. Feel free to call me anytime. I work just 3 minutes away from City Hall.

Adrian McGilly

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One Response to Resident’s Plea to City Planning Dir. Charles Bryant: “Save Some of the Trees … That is all I am Asking”

  1. Shirley Enomoto on August 31, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Thank you Adrian for your letter to Charlie Bryant concerning the trees. It has been the systematic policy of this town to remove mature trees and plant new ones (usually saplings) and ignore the Urban Forestry Ordinance (UFO). Brian Donahue can attest to this, having fought city hall for at least the last 15 years, which had prompted me to look up “UFO.” The city removed the trees on 65th street for the Glashaus development and would have removed all the cherry trees on 62nd street, adjacent to Dutro Park where I live, had it not been for Brian. There are other locations that I cannot recall right now.

    I found your statement about park goers possibly getting lost without aligned trees amusing. By the way, if new projects are required to provide park space, where are the parks for Wareham’s two most recent projects on Hollis Street? Is an outdoor terrace on the second or higher floor which is not accessible to wheelchairs considered a park? I consider a park to mean green grass and trees, where children and adults can roll around in the grass, not concrete and potted plants. And speaking of Wareham, where are the truck delivery bays for his building on the east side of Hollis between Powell and 59th?

    shirley enomoto

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