http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/04/10/let-the-sun-shine


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Perspective - April 10, 2009

Let the sun shine

Danville should be sympathetic toward residents who want to remove trees on their property. Too often people plant landscaping with an eye toward short-term aesthetics rather than long-term consequences. Then subsequent property owners are stuck with the results of the bad planning.

Trees in Danville are "protected" due to their size or species. Trees that measure 36 inches in diameter or taller than 4-1/2 feet are considered heritage trees and they are protected. The species list includes 13 varieties, including coast redwoods and six types of oak. When property owners want to remove trees that are protected, they must apply to the town for permission.

Danville's tree ordinance states several things to consider when issuing tree removal permits. One criterion is "The necessity to remove the tree(s) to allow for the reasonable use, enjoyment or development of the property."

In 2008 the Town of Danville received 42 formal requests for tree removals. Of those, two were denied, two were withdrawn, and 38 were approved, mostly for reasons having to do with "health and safety." If a tree is diseased or a threat to safety, it is a priority for the town to OK its removal, according to the Planning Department.

Last week at the Planning Commission, a couple appealed the Planning Department's decision denying them permission to remove a redwood tree growing in their neighbor's yard and blocking their sunlight. The neighbors were on hand to say that they have no problem with removing the tree. The couple has been living in their home on Gatetree Court for 16 years and the tree was planted 10 years before that. The Planning Commission members voted unanimously not to let them remove the tree.

The commissioners said they sympathized with the couple and their lack of sunlight but felt there was not enough reason to overturn the rule. Although afterward they directed staff to talk to the Town Council about rethinking the ordinance and advised the couple that they had 10 days to file an appeal to the council.

At the same meeting, the Planning Commission OK'd plans to develop the 15-acre Weber Property, which will necessitate the removal of 97 trees, 26 of them protected species. It is hard to understand why the commission recognized the necessity of removing the Weber Property trees to build 22 houses, but did not let the couple remove one redwood tree so they could enjoy a sunny yard rather than a shaded one. The neighborhood has many redwood trees and would still have an attractive wooded appearance if the one tree in question were removed.

This quest for sunlight has not been cheap for the Danville couple. Tree removal is costly but until they could even take that step, they had to pay the Planning Department a $105 processing fee to request a permit. Now that their request and their appeal to the Planning Commission have both been denied, the couple must pay another $210 to appeal that decision to the Town Council. We hope the council allows sunlight into their yard.

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