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Tree trimming causes turmoil: Neighbor says Burlingame trees were ‘decimated,’ while other thinks it’s an overreaction
September 05, 2014, 05:00 AM By Angela Swartz Daily Journal

Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Diedre Shaw says trees were severely trimmed behind her Burlingame home.

Diedre Shaw

Some Burlingame residents are up in arms about seven to 12 oak trees that were significantly trimmed down in the Ray Park neighborhood.

The trees, which were on either private or city-owned property, were removed from Mills Canyon between Valdivia Way and Toledo Court on Aug. 21 per a permit taken out by a Burlingame resident. Diedre Shaw, a resident of Valdivia Way for 14 years, said she returned from vacation in New York and discovered the trees behind her house were stumps.

“I’m just devastated,” she said. “There was no notice about trees being cut down. I came back and burst into tears. … They were so big and gorgeous; they were the reason I bought the house. … It’s incompetence on top of incompetence in the city of trees, and then they (city officials) tell me the ordinances aren’t clear. The bottom line is they allowed 12 oak trees to be cut down.”

Because of the issue, the city has contracted with two independent arborists to evaluate the condition of the trees and is in the process of investigating the matter, said Parks and Recreation Director Margaret Glomstad. The arborists will confirm exactly how many trees were affected, she said.

“Once the evaluation of the trees and investigation are completed, the city will be assessing their options,” Glomstad wrote in an email.

The trees were not removed but topped, over-thinned and improperly pruned beyond acceptable International Society of Arboriculture standards, said Bob Disco, park supervisor and city arborist, in an email. The investigators will look into if any remedial work needs to be done to improve the trees’ survival, he said.

The trees were very poorly cut, Mayor Michael Brownrigg acknowledged.

“I believe they were terribly, terribly butchered,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure out where the boundaries are. For sure, we will make sure this doesn’t happen again. If there is a weakness in the application process, we absolutely will fix that.”

Rosalyn Yu, the neighbor who took out the permit to have the trees thinned and cleaned, moved into the house in 2013 and said the underbrush, huge bushes and leaves were a fire hazard and she did want to help with her view. She notes she also had pine and eucalyptus trees trimmed. She contends this is all on city-owned property, but the city is still looking into if this was the case, as some of the trees could have been in a 10-foot easement behind Shaw’s home that is her property.

“I don’t feel the trees were trimmed excessively,” she said. “In the past, our neighbors had done the same to the same type of trees. I’m very sorry that they’re upset and if it’s changed their view. … We have little kids so we just wanted to clean it up basically. … I’m very sad this has become such an issue. It’s starting to feel very accusatory.”

She notes the arborist did sign off on the permit.

Conversly, Bill Sexton, who moved to the neighborhood in 1949, said he wants accountability and for this not to happen again. He described the trimmed trees behind his property as, “naked, barren 20 foot stumps” and a “decimation.”

“We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to make our backyards exceptional,” he said. “How it helps the people live on the other side of the property was for a view. Two San Francisco arborist says the trees were more than 50 years old. These are sacred. ... They (the neighbors who trimmed the trees) never had a view.”

He noted there were bird nests in the parts of the trees that were cut. Birds are coming back looking for their nests, he said. This led 5-year-old Isabella, who lives in one of the properties bordering where the trees were cut to write a letter with hand-drawn pictures to Brownrigg about her concern for the birds.

“Most of the birdies’ nests went down,” she said. “I saw a bobcat scratching the tree.”

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105



Tags: trees, property, trimmed,

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