Park Street Trees petition

When the public found out about the Park Street Tree Removal credit: Eve Pearlman/Alameda Patch

Alameda is a city with character defined by our urban landscape. While changes in that landscape occur all the time, Alamedans have a right to a voice in the process that determines the path of those alterations.

What happened on Park Street on Thursday and Friday was jarring; the heart of our civic business district was clear cut, without any public notice. Given the city’s history with tree removal, the concerns about Park Street cannot be unexpected. The lack of public notice is unacceptable.

While we understand that the City Council does not implement projects, you do oversee the execution of city policies. This includes stated goals for transparency, public involvement and meaningful notification for public projects. These were ignored in the actions on Thursday and Friday and now the council must act to correct this.

We the undersigned are asking the City Council to immediately take action on the following items:

  1. Commit to planting 20% mature trees: It may be true that the trees on Park Street needed to removed, however it is a City decision to replace them with scrawny twigs that will take years to grow to a meaningful size. The trees in the previous phase are still small and inconsequential nearly 5 years after planting. Other projects have planted large trees and our downtown shouldn’t wait a decade for the benefits of this project
  2. Commit to a public planning policy: This project highlights poor consistency in planning project and policies in Alameda. The council needs to adopt a mandatory policy of public input at the beginning and end of all planning processes. The Sunshine Ordinance was a good first step, now it’s time to take the next one.
  3. Accountability: The community concerns were easily foreseeable and Public Works has a history of proposing draconian actions for mature trees based on engineering assumptions, only to find non-invasive solutions when pushed by the community. It is unclear on whether the clear cutting of downtown was required. What is clear is that the public was cut out of the conversation. The way in which this occurred is unacceptable.
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30 comments for “Park Street Trees petition

  1. Fay Joyce
    October 26, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I was shocked and horrified when doing business yesterday on Park St. I’m extremely disappointed in the lack of public communication informing Alamedans of this plan prior to it taking place. So much downtown charm has been chopped out — the sadness I felt reminded me of the Lorax in a Dr. Seuss story.

  2. Georgina Mathewson
    October 26, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I agree with Fay Joyce. One point I would like to make about the choice of the new trees, The Ginko is lovely however when the Autumn arrives and all the leaves are on the ground they are very slippery when walked on. I do hope that this small detail is taken into consideration. Seek advice from a aboriculturalist.

  3. Caryn Hoadley
    October 26, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    I’m in agreement with both Georgina and Fay. And as today is my son’s 4th birthday, I am saddened to think how old he may be by the time the newly planted trees on Park Street are mature. It truly is a ‘Lorax’ moment.

    As a follow-up to Georgina’s comment about the gingko, I hope Alameda’s Council will strongly reconsider planting this species. While it is a beautiful tree, it is impossible to determine when the trees are young which ones will bear fruit and which ones won’t once they have matured. What is the problem with gingko fruit, you ask? Well, they smell like dog poop! Can you imagine what our shopping district will be like if, every time the trees bear fruit, all passersby are assaulted by the smell of dog poop?

    How utterly unappetizing for residents as well as shop owners and employees!

  4. Courtney
    October 26, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    At this point, I am even more interested in a petition to recall our city council members. What a disaster they have been. Before they make any more decisions we’ll have to live with for the next 30 years, let’s oust them and start with a fresh batch who has better ideas and actually serve the people rather than their own and special interests.

    • Joanne
      October 27, 2011 at 8:38 am

      Courtney, I am with you 100%. We still have the Cowan land swap and clearcutting of the MIF to face.

    • Michelle Hubbell
      November 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

      I’m on board with that. Leadership and oversight is non-existant. Just a few examples, in no particular order: the Zack drowning, Fire and Police employment contracts, the Park St tress, Mif/Cowan land boondoggle, to name a few. Yet, just wait until they cry for more of our tax dollars.

  5. DHL
    October 27, 2011 at 7:29 am

    The Stumps of Park Street, a photo essay:

  6. tamara
    October 27, 2011 at 8:32 am

    was part of the outcry for the first clearcutting of park street. I’m dismayed and concerned that business interest in visible signage is being seen as more significant to sales tax than the pleasure of a small town feel. We don’t want an urban mall like emeryville!

  7. joel
    October 27, 2011 at 9:12 am

    It is time to stop crying and take action recall that mayor city council and send back in Oakland that pompous City Manager which have no control of anything {did you know they actually celebrated His departure from Oakland with real Champagne} .
    Time for accountability , no one can blame any past administration for the Present crisis in Alameda

  8. Whistleblower
    October 27, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    According to a journalist, Park St. Properties said they did not request cutting down the trees (contrary to a flier posted at the former Starbucks tree). They expressed surprise the trees were cut down when they were, especially before the Holiday seasons, and describe the street as looking as if it were “raped”.

    Throughout the city, sidewalks are typically replaced without cutting down trees; why were they required to be cut down for this project? Was it to increase the design freedom of the city planners? That would be silly since throughout Alameda, the planning department requires homeowners and business owners to design around beautiful or historic aspects of their property; why would the city be exempt from its own planning processes. Yes, non Oak trees may be cut down by homeowners, but these weren’t a private person’s trees; these were everyone’s trees in the most important/valuable/public area of Alameda.

    If one or more City operations persons performed these acts without asking permission of the City Council, I ask this person(s) be fired. If the City Council approved these actions, I would seek the recall of these members. Yes, the City Council is legally allowed to make these sorts of decisions but they must also face the consequences of their decisions.

    It’s also ridiculous that I feel compelled to use a pseudonym because I fear retaliation from the City Council which has been proven time and again to harass and terminate those who threaten their own interests.

  9. Allison
    October 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Thank you for starting this petition.

  10. Laura
    October 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you for starting this petition. I am an Alameda resident and almost every time I see this block of Park Street now, my eyes tear up. I am trying to let as many people as possible know about this petition. Whoever is responsible for this should have to face appropriate consequences; what is “appropriate” would depend on the facts of how it was allowed to happen.

  11. Alexis
    October 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    It is so sad to drive down Park now. Looks terrible. The City has taken away all the charm and personality of the downtown.

  12. DJ
    October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I am angry — at the stupid act of cutting down trees that provided us shade, oxygen, birds, and a pleasant environment and then at the outrageous proposal to replace our trees with little popsickle sticks and parking kiosks [is that a euphamism for some new design cutie?]! Since we’re here now, though, I want the majority [not 20%] of replacement trees to be mature [i.e., shade producing] and evergreen to cut down the time required to restore what we had. I also want to know who authorized the decimation of our trees. We need mature trees in our town, as does all this world, not ‘modernization’ or ‘efficiency’ or ‘upgrading.’ I am angry!

  13. Rich R
    October 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

    While I could understand wanting to replace the trees, this was not at all the way to go about it. Replacing every other tree, letting the new ones mature, then replacing the rest would have been swallowable.
    What galls me the most was the first city reaction left on some of the stumps. ‘The trees are incongruous with an urban environment’ misses the point of living in Alameda. Perhaps we need another petition to change the name of Park Street to Street Street.

    I guess the best thing that could happen is that the tress are replaced with mature trees and not the lame saplings that grace the other end of the street.

    • October 29, 2011 at 11:17 am

      I think the sign about “incongruous with an urban environment” was a clever and effective protest statement, not an actual City statement. That said, I think you outline what would have been a much better way forward.

  14. Lillian Gorman
    October 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    It is sad that our city planners had to take down these beautiful mature tree. Park street has lost the old downtown chrarm that these trees had made it look so special.
    It will take many years to replace what those trees have provided for us ( shade, climate control and clean air).
    It’s too late…….

  15. R. Gail Batjoseph
    October 29, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    According to 10 business owners with whom we spoke, Park Street business were consulted and most opposed the plan, due both to the poor timing during the busy holiday season. According to one businessperson who wishes to remain anonymous, the paid president of the Park Street Business Association, long-time resident Rob Russo, pushed the plan through along with the owners of Pillow Park Plaza, who are facing foreclosure and want to “improve” the value of their property. PSBA member in opposition were kicked off the board. It may be timely to make a public information request and find out how the contracts were procured, and whether any of the city leaders, or members of the PSBA have financial interests in those contracts.

    • October 30, 2011 at 9:59 am

      One of the problems with this process has been that the plan itself was approved (in concept) back in 2003 and then never revisited. While it certainly had the support of PSBA, I think it’s a stretch to assign the motivations to Pillow Park having some kind of recent financial issues.

    • Alameda Vigilante
      October 31, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Gail: re:”long-time resident Rob Russo”. Actually, its Robb Ratto [no relation to other long-time Alameda Ratto families] & he doesn’t even live here anymore! Grew up here;lives in Hayward. I guess that’s why they have to pay him-he no longer has any “skin in the game”, as Russo would say. Our City problems can often be traced to decisions made by people who just work here, but do not live & pay property taxes here.
      Robb is also the one who dubbed Alameda “Kansas-by-the-Bay”. Yuk!

  16. wayne anderson
    October 30, 2011 at 8:27 am

    i am with courtney we have to REPLACE every one that was responsable
    for the tree removal we cannot accept the mere we are sorry that is really unacceptable
    just a recall of all people involved and make some kind of law so this can never happen again
    i am still shocked at the ugly sight

  17. Alameda Vigilante
    October 31, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I think if that looming storefront of Starbucks hadn’t been erected, it would never have encroached onto the tree in front of it. Next time, trim the building back, don’t cut the tree down.
    And:the word “Alameda” means “a grove of poplar trees”. Surely they would be hardy natives. Why not plant poplar trees, instead of what-crappy myrtles & stinky ginkys?

  18. Michelle Hubbell
    November 1, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Stunningly sad. I just came back from vacation and was shocked to see the Park St trees gone. What is going on in this town? I am seriously concerned that the people in city hall are completely clueless about what is important to the tax-paying citizens of Alameda.

    • Vic
      November 1, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Michelle — as far as I’m concerned, this is to be expected by a city that totally ignored dozens and dozens of city residents who self-organized to create a better theater solution and who stayed up until 2 am just to speak out. Any public body that ignores that cannot possibly represent the people.

  19. Michelle Hubbell
    November 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I just viewed the photo essay of the stumps left behind after the clear cutting by Public Works (an oxymoron if there ever was one). Hey, Public Works! Make sure you get the stumps sitting in City Hall while you are at it.

  20. Vic
    November 1, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    The City’s official statement is here:–Streetscape-Project

    And the meeting info is:

    WHAT: Community Meeting about Park Street
    WHEN: Wednesday, November 9th at 6:30 p.m.
    WHERE: Alameda City Hall Council Chamber
    2263 Santa Clara Avenue

    Of course, now that it’s too late, they come out and say sorry we’ll do better next time, and “we acknowledge that people were justifiably angry”, etc. Don’t blame me, I voted for DeHaan.

    • November 1, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks Vic for the info.

      Just for clarity, the Council was unanimous in its approval of this plan, DeHaan did not dissent, he voted for it. Twice.

  21. Laura Tucker
    November 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    What a very sad situation for Alameda. It’s very hard for us parents to teach our children to respect the environment and nature while having the horrible scars of Park Street to look at. We all need to voice our outrage during election time. I also agree that Gingkos are a silly choice due to slow maturity and the fruit and leaves that will create a hazard for pedestrians.

  22. Matt Ritts
    November 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I completely agree with Fay. I was picturing the very same Seuss story when I heard about this disgraceful act done by our “respected” city officials.

    The Streetscape statement sounds like a lot of bogus backpedaling. They are more concerned about commerce than they are of community. Those kiosks will be a beautiful addition to this gutted landscape, he said sarcastically. How disappointing and typical of a local governance. Shame on them.

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