City Willing to Trade 20-Year-Old Trees for Temporary Parking

October 15, 2012

Council Member Jac Asher has put on the agenda for the next City Council meeting (Oct. 16th) a discussion of whether the city should change the design of the Parkside park to include some or all of the existing trees. Council Member Asher’s willingness to do this shows her commitment to transparent government. It shows that she wants the freedom to cast her votes on the basis of complete information, not partial information cherry-picked by city staff. It shows that she values the right of Emeryville’s residents to receive proper notification (i.e. signs posted on the trees) when the city is contemplating the removal of its trees.

Her actions have already yielded results. In response, Charles Bryant, Planning Director for the City of Emeryville, has issued a staff report which finally reveals the real motivation behind the removal of these trees. It has nothing to do with landscape design. It has nothing to do with drip lines and root damage and berms and “maintaining open spaces in the park.” Here is what the report says: “Most of these trees will need to be removed to accommodate the temporary PRC parking lot during construction of their permanent lot at the eastern end of the site. This is because the construction staging area on the northern edge of the western portion of the site, as discussed above, will require the parking lot to be shifted to the south, where the trees are currently located.”

So it’s about construction equipment and temporary parking for PRC, the medical facility across the road. It is clear that that THOSE are the real reasons Archstone proposed removing the trees from the get go, and it is clear that the Planning Division did everything it could legally do to quietly help Archstone get what it wanted. These people would sacrifice a dozen trees that have been growing on this land for 20 years, just for some temporary parking! And then they would hide this fact from the public and from the City Council.  It’s shameful. Someone in the line of command should face some serious consequences over this.

Now that the City Council has more complete information, it has an opportunity to make an INFORMED decision on the approval of the park design. I urge the City Council to pass a motion to reconsider, and then do the following:

a) Properly consider ways to incorporate some or all of the existing trees along Stanford and Hollis into the park design.

b) Require that the city put notices on any trees it plans to remove from the site

c ) Give residents time and a forum at which to weigh in on the matter before finalizing their decision

The good news is that according to city staff, Archstone is about six months away from being ready to chop down these trees, so it would seem there is still time to review the current design without holding up construction plans. If the city decides to change the design, there may be expenses associated with that process. That will no doubt be a sticking point for some council members. I don’t know how much we’re talking about but if it allows the city to retain some valuable trees and compels the city to operate in a more transparent manner going forward it may well be worth the cost.

(The author is the husband of Emeryville Mayor Jennifer West. They live at Doyle Street co-housing. Mayor West had to abstain from voting on the tree cutting because she lives a block from the site.)

(To comment, or to view the comments of others, click on the headline to go to the story page and then scroll to the bottom).

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2 Responses to City Willing to Trade 20-Year-Old Trees for Temporary Parking

  1. Richard Ambro on October 15, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I will be at the CC Meeting to voice my support of saving the trees, and the rest of Adrian McGilly’s proposals

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

  2. Brian Donahue on October 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Thanks to Mr. McGilly and The Secret News for a another great story! Excellent sleuthing!
    It is my belief that now we know where the breakdown occurred with these street trees (the city staff), we should not make the developer or any other business (PRC) pay for this mistake. Clearly the City of Emeryville is at fault here and any extra costs associated with changed construction plans should be not be paid by the businesses. It is we the taxpayers that should absorb these extra costs and it should serve as a painful reminder for the citizens and the media to always be vigilant and hold public servants accountable.

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