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City responds to tree removal concerns

Deputy Community Services Director Dave Roger responded to concerns about tree removal along Foothill Boulevard with a presentation during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Residents, especially near the area of Foothill and Mountain Avenue, have been in an uproar in recent days over trees taken out as part of the yearlong Foothill Boulevard improvement project.

Residents have said that the trees taken out provided a natural barrier between their backyards and the busy east-west thoroughfare. 

Mr. Roger said that much of the vegetation taken out included dead plant material, trees up against walls that could potentially break them and trees that covered wires attached to power lines.

A challenge, he said, was trying to take out what he called “volunteer trees”—meaning trees that sprout up on their own around planted trees—around the red ironbark eucalyptus trees that will be kept.

Native landscaping will go in, including 16 tecate cypress trees, which can reach up to 25 feet tall, 16 Dr. Hurd manzanita trees and an assortment of toyons. Mr. Roger noted that the city could plant trees that grow faster, such as the Ray Hartman ceanothus, to provide a quicker screen. But the downside is they start to decline after 10 years, he added.

A remedy for that would be to plant some California coffeeberry trees in front. “So hopefully when the ceanothus starts to go, the other one will have already replaced it, giving it some height,” he said.

Other non-native trees, such as jacarandas, strawberry trees and chinese pistaches could also be put in, he said.

Mr. Roger and City Manager Tara Schultz both noted that other items aside from vegetation had also been removed from the area.

“I probably saw three or four areas where people had been, because their clothes were there, bedding was there, food was there,” he said. “There were people who were staying hidden back there.”

Ms. Schultz told the council that a blanket permit is in the works for residents to extend the height of their walls if they wish to do so.

The city notice sent out last week to impacted residents said the city contractor “will begin removing seedling trees and shrubs. The Eucalyptus trees will remain, along with a few Coast Live Oak and California Pepper trees.”

Pamela Casey Nagler, who lives in the neighborhood, spoke during public comment.

“I think it is fair to say that very, very few of us realized the magnitude of shrubs, vines, trees that would be removed as a result of this project,” she said. “Some of the areas along the stretch were completely denuded.”

She said she talked with city staff about this issue and understood why some of the trees had to be removed, including Shamel ash trees that had roots damaging sewer lines and upending fences.

“That said, since so much more vegetation was removed than anyone had anticipated,” she said. “At present five gallon shrubs and 15 gallon trees are scheduled, but I am wondering if there are some bigger specimens that could be selected for specific locations along this particular stretch of highway?”

Another concern, she said, were the exposed fences and walls, some of which have differing heights. The foothill project, she said, should include fixing those fences and walls, particularly the mismatched cinder block walls immediately east of Mountain Avenue.

Neighbors along 12th Street and Baughman Avenue have a meeting scheduled next week with city staff to walk through the impacted area and to discuss possible solutions.