By Roz Rogoff
And the trees are happyUploaded: Jun 14, 2012
I went to the Special City Council meeting on June 11th to observe the interviews of applicants for the Parks and Community Services Commission. I arrived a little early and a woman was trying to get into the City Hall. She asked if there was a Council meeting scheduled. I said it is a special meeting to interview candidates for the Parks Commission. She said she wanted to protest cutting down the trees. I didn't know what she was talking about.
Then I saw Bill Meine, who is on the Parks Commission, and he was all riled up. I thought he was coming for the interviews. His term isn't up, but four other Commissioners were reapplying. Bill was upset that he just found out the City is preparing to widen Bollinger Canyon Road and would be removing about 80 mature Sycamore trees and replacing them with, what he called "sticks."
I just arranged with Tree Wise to cut down a dying Pine tree in my back yard and replace it with a Chinese Pistache. I told bill that new trees look like sticks when they are first planted.
No, he said they would be putting in trees that are smaller and not as nice as the ones already there. The replacement trees included Chinese Pistache. I looked around the City Hall parking lot which is full of Chinese Pistache and decided I wanted a nicer tree in my backyard too.
So later that day I called Tree Wise and asked if they could plant a Maple tree instead. I grew up in the North East where Sugar Maples are plentiful. In fact if you want the best American made Maple syrup, check out Maine Maple Products. Sugar Maples don't grow well here so Darrell Wise of Tree Wise recommended a Sunset Maple. I looked it up on Google and the description and photos look fabulous.
I asked Bill "What kinds of trees are being removed and why are they taking them out?" Bill said they are 30 year old Sycamores and the City wants to widen Bollinger Canyon Road because of so many accidents since they added a sidewalk on the hill four years ago.
I recalled widening that part of Bollinger and putting in the sidewalk, but I didn't know anything about killing trees. Bill said he just found out about it a few days ago. He's on the Parks Commission and knows most of what is going on in San Ramon. I'm the "San Ramon Observer," and I try to know everything, and neither of us knew about this until a few weeks before the work is scheduled to start.
A group of about 20 people showed up 5:30 to speak in Public Comment at the Special Meeting. Mayor Clarkson asked them to come back at 7 pm because the interviews for Parks Commission were already scheduled and there wouldn't be time for everyone to speak before the meeting.
Bill Meine and his wife and I stayed for the interviews and the Council's vote on the Commission appointments. The protesters came back at 7 pm and each one spoke against taking out the Sycamore trees.
Most wanted better enforcement of speed limits and a barrier between the sidewalk and the road. Mayor Clarkson told the group that the Brown Act prohibits any discussion of this issue at that meeting because it isn't on the agenda, but he wanted to give them a chance to speak and for the Council to hear what they had to say.
Driving home I passed by the intersection of Bollinger and Alcosta. I turned East on Bollinger to see what everyone was talking about. There is a sign on the median at the foot of the hill and another at the top of the hill announcing a road widening project for June through August. This is how the homeowners found out about this project.
As I was driving up the hill the "sidewalk" seemed to jut out into the street. There's a rather flimsy metal fence along side to provide a little protection for pedestrians. I noticed that on the other side of the sidewalk there's a very nice, wide and secure paved walkway. I wondered why this scary sidewalk was put into the street when the inside walkway would be much safer.
Tuesday afternoon I phoned Bill Meine to tell him Item 8.3 in the Consent Calendar for Tuesday night's regular City Council meeting is to approve funding for this project. This meant the protesters had an agendized item to speak on instead of Public Comment. Because it was on the Agenda, the Council could address it, discuss it, and make changes if necessary.
The paved walkway on the other side of the sidewalk is on the property of Canyon Lakes Golf course. One speaker suggested taking it by eminent domain, but the Council felt that wouldn't work. I suggested reducing the width of the sidewalk from 8' to 4.5', which is the width of the sidewalk in front of my house. The Consultants working on the design of this project said the sidewalk is also a bike path so it should be 8' wide.
Perhaps the City could pay Canyon Lakes for an easement to use their paved path and remove that accident-prone sidewalk. Councilman Phil O'Loane said it would cost upwards of $5M to remove the sidewalk because it is used as a utility corridor for PG&E, Comcast, and AT&T.
One speaker demanded the project be canceled that night. That wasn't something the Council was willing to do, but Mayor Clarkson asked a lot of good questions about why it is being done the way it is and if less could be taken off the median and more could be taken off the sidewalk, so that most of the trees could be saved.
Staff is looking into this and will call an Arborist to see how many trees could be saved if 1.5' is taken off the median instead of 4'. Staff will also look into putting a 6" concrete barrier on the sidewalk to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
My tree work will be done next Friday. It will take a few years for my new Sunset Maple to provide the shade the old Pine tree did. Darrell Wise told me he would leave the stump. I shall ask him to make it smooth enough to sit on like the stump at the end of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.
"Well", said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, "well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Roz, sit down? sit down and rest".
And Roz did. And the tree was happy?
Many people love trees like the boy (now Roz) in Silverstein's story, but the boy demanded everything from the tree. Now it's time for "boys and girls" in San Ramon to give some space back to the trees on Bollinger, so they can live and grow and be happy.