Emeryville City Staff Deliberately Misled City Council on Arborist Report

October 1, 2012




Open letter to City Council says staff instructed “Parkside” developer to delete portions of arborist’s report

City Council Members:

Attached is the Staff Report you all received prior to voting to authorize the removal of 33 mature trees along Stanford.  It includes the arborist report commissioned by Archstone and produced by Hortscience Inc., which recommends the destruction of those trees. As you know, I find it sad and misguided that mature trees will be destroyed on a site that is being turned into a public park. I find this decision so repulsive that I have spent a lot of time trying to understand how it happened. I want to share with you some of my findings.

As Mayor Jennifer West recently pointed out in her blog, before sending that arborist report to you, the city staff directed Archstone to remove two important sections from the arborist report. Those sections were entitled:

“Guidelines for tree preservation during the design, construction and maintenance phases of development”


“The appraised value of the trees.”

I find it very disturbing that the city’s planning department would instruct a private developer to change their report in a way that draws attention away from tree preservation measures before sending that report to City Council. I find it disturbing for these reasons:

1.       It shows a blatant disregard for transparency.

2.       It shows a complete disregard for the City Council’s right to make final decisions based on complete information.

3.       Given that working around the trees is surely more expensive for Archstone than cutting them all down, it raises disturbing questions as to why the city staff would do such a thing.

The same questions arise out of the city’s decision not to post signs on the trees alerting citizens to the proposed tree removal. Last year, the city did post signs on a handful of city trees just outside city hall prior to their removal, even though the city wasn’t required to do so under the Urban Forestry Ordinance. So why didn’t it do that for these 33 trees?

You were deliberately misled by city staff, and citizens were deliberately deprived of a standard notification process for no good reason. All of this helped spare a private developer the expense and inconvenience of working around mature trees in the construction of a public park. There is something very fishy about all of this.  I request that you look into the matter and please get back to me. Thank you.

Adrian McGilly

If you wish to share your opinion on this (or any other) matter with the City Council, email the Council at City_Council@ci.emeryville.ca.us and/or  call  (510) 596-4376 and leave a message. Also, you can submit your comment below. If you write a letter to the Council and would like it published in The Secret News, please email tschroth@yahoo.com.

(The author is the husband of Emeryville Mayor Jennifer West. They live at Doyle Street co-housing.)

(If you want to comment on this story, or read the comments of others, please click on the headline to go to the story page, then scroll to the bottom.)

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7 Responses to Emeryville City Staff Deliberately Misled City Council on Arborist Report

  1. Jackie Daniels on October 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    I too find it repulsive that they can omit what they want, do what they want and get away with it. When is the city going to grow some b__lls and start doing something about it? They do what they want and no one says a word. I guess it’s true, MONEY TALKS and BULLS**T WALKS. People need to start a petition and when they get the signatures (which they will), the project should be cancelled until the developer and city come up with a better one.
    Jackie Daniels

  2. Kenneth Chen on October 2, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Wow. That’s all I can say. I just read this and wrote the City Council an email demanding an explanation. If this is true, someone needs to be held accountable. Thank goodness there are some honest people in this city.

  3. marianela on October 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    If anyone walks by the site with the 33 trees, it is very clear that it would be very easy to leave all the trees at the edge of the sidewalk standing while the park is built. Did you know that most trees take 25 years to fully mature. Until then, most trees only produce enough oxygen for themselves. So when we cut mature trees, we are reducing our own oxygen supply.

  4. Marc Albert on October 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm


    As someone who has defended your actions in the past, I must say that I am extremely disappointed in you. Extremely.

  5. Brian Donahue on October 3, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Hello Kenneth-

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for caring about our town. It is only through people like you that positive change can come about. I hope you are registered to vote and do so in Emeryville elections.

    You should know that the city council majority — Nora Davis, Kurt Brinkman and Ruth Atkin — always make sure they put positive information in their campaign re-election literature about how much they care about Emeryville’s street trees, but their actual voting record shows just the opposite. These three council members have consistently voted against saving our trees. They voted against promoting the planting of the proper number of trees at the Pulte project on 65th Street, and the Target project at the East Bay Bridge Mall, just to name two.

    Ms. Davis, in particular, would not move to require the developer of the East Bay Bridge Mall to plant the contractually agreed upon number of trees. The Environmental Impact Report for the mall said there would be 25 percent tree coverage in the parking lots, yet Ms. Davis allowed the developer to provide a mere 2 percent. The developer in question cited only his desire to save money as reason to request that the 25 percent number be forgiven.

    The cutting down of the trees in association with the Parkside project you mention is but the latest for these three council members.

    As an Emeryville resident, you should not look to them to represent your interests. They look after the interests of the developers in town.

    I do thank you for your letter.

    Brian Donahue
    30-year Emeryville resident

  6. John Doe on October 3, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    If you want to hold someone accountable, maybe you should hold the residents accountable for not showing up to council meetings, and for voting people like Brinkman in.
    You only have yourselves to blame, how many city meetings have all the complainers in this thread attended?
    With the exception on Brian Donahue, I’m willing to bet it’s none.

    • Brian Donahue on October 4, 2012 at 3:14 am

      I don’t think you should be so hard on your fellow citizens. It’s true government works best when there are concerned citizens actively watching but people also have lives. People should have a reasonable expectation that there need not be a constantly vigil by everyone against the whole thing going to hell. We deserve such a government. The most important thing these busy citizens with lives should do is be skeptical about campaign literature (especially from those seeking re-election), attend meetings when they can but most importantly, vote.

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