“Parkside” Developer Will Cut Trees in Violation of City Ordinance, Resident Says

August 30, 2012
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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.

Below is a follow-up article by Adrian McGilly to a letter he sent yesterday to City Planning Director Charles Bryant. The letter, which was printed in The Secret News, asks the City to save some of the mature trees on the future site of an apartment/retail development – that also includes a park – on Stanford between Doyle and Hollis streets. The plan is to cut down 33 mature trees. McGilly is joined in his plea by his wife, Emeryville Mayor Jennifer West, who could not vote on any aspect of the new development because she lives a block away.

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I got a response from Mr. Bryant. He assured me that the park design went through all the proper public noticing and hearing processes, that everyone had ample opportunity to weigh in on the fate of these trees, that not very many people did, and that now it’s too late because wheels have been set in motion. It was a very thorough, detailed and respectful response and I am grateful to Mr. Bryant for his time and attention.

But that’s not the end of the story.

There is an Urban Forestry Ordinance (UFO) in this city that includes provisions that protect trees on city property from various threats. For example, one of those provisions is that anyone wanting to remove a city tree must apply for a permit, and the city must post a notice ON THE TREE stating that the tree is slated for removal, giving citizens a chance to weigh in. Obviously, if those signs had been posted on the trees, more people would have taken notice, and more people would have spoken up. That provision was put in the UFO precisely to draw extra attention to the potential destruction of trees, so that more citizens are aware of the threat.

But that was never done. Here’s why:

The city is exempt from the UFO provisions. In other words if the city wants to cut down its own trees, it can do it without having to follow the UFO provisions. And the City claims that in this case it is the City that is cutting down its own trees, so it can do what it wants.

But that’s where the city is making a mistake. This claim would not stand up in court. Here’s why:

It is true that the city is exempt from its own UFO. But it is NOT the City that is cutting down the trees. It is Archstone, the developer. The City is saying to Archstone “If you want to build your building, you need to build this park”.  Archstone is voluntarily saying yes to this offer. The city is not forcing them to build the park, it is simply saying “If you want to build you building, we want a park in return.” So in the eyes of the law, it is Archstone that is cutting down the trees, and Archstone is NOT exempt from the UFO. Therefore the process that has been followed has been in violation of the UFO and the destruction of the trees must not proceed until Archstone comes into compliance with the UFO. I have run this legal analysis by several lawyers and they all agree.

If the City had wanted to legally sidestep the UFO, it would have had to explicitly grant Archstone an exemption from the UFO, and that would have had to go to the City Council for a vote. That never happened.

I have brought this point up with Mayor West who agreed to bring it to the attention of the City Attorney. I am hopeful that together they will come to the conclusion that there is enough doubt as to the legality of the tree removal to warrant putting a halt to it until the city council has an opportunity to review the matter.

Adrian McGilly
(McGilly, West, and their two daughters live at Doyle Street Co-housing.)

To comment on this story, or to read the comments of others, click on the headline to go to the story page, then scroll to the bottom.

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2 Responses to “Parkside” Developer Will Cut Trees in Violation of City Ordinance, Resident Says

  1. Richard Ambro on August 30, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    If the UFO is administered like the no demolition of old houses ordinance, then the trees will be gone. We have several old houses that could be saved by caring restoration, just as old trees could be saved by simple redesign or care during construction… I know builders don’t like to worry about trees, but they could if told that the trees must stay. “water under the bridge” is a lazy man’s way of dealing with the issue. Who in the City Council (the Mayor?) could issue a “stay” or “pardon” in this case of arborial execution?

    Greefu developers get just about anything they want in this city, and it has to stop!!! Same for old houses said to be about to fall down, when there are many cases of seemingly lost causes rebuilt and restored rather than demolish them for PROFIT!!! I am thinking of the threatened demolition of the house at 1268 Ocean Ave, now held up be the need to cut down a perfectly healthy tree. Why must everything old and nice be expendable for the sake of convenience and profit?

    Where is our Landmarks Board? Where is our Urban Forest Board?

    What we do have is the Planning Commission (appointed),an appointed Planning Department, and great influence from developers.

    Shame..Shame,…Shame!

    Richard D. Ambro, Ph.D.
    1264 64th St.

    • Sarah Harper on September 2, 2012 at 2:26 am

      Go Richard!!! It’s all so true!

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