Broadway trees get reprieve

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The trees on upper Broadway were temporarily spared Monday night as the City Council asked for more information from city staff before making a decision on cutting down the 17 mature oaks between East Napa and Patten Streets.

Several property owners had asked for the trees to be removed due to the costs of sidewalk repair and sewer line intrusion from tree roots. City staff recommended their removal.

‏However, precise information about the dimension of the problem was not included in the staff report. Former Mayor Larry Barnett pointed out that the council had received no information about costs to date for repairs, number of repairs, number of injury claims made or payments for injuries paid by its insurance provider. Lacking such information, he said, meant that the “council did not have the information it needs to make an informed decision about how to proceed.”

‏Resident Fred Allebach spoke against the removal of the trees, noting that they were “part of the Commons and should be valued and protected.” His sentiments were joined by Kelso Barnett (no relation to Larry Barnett) who added his support for retaining the trees, which he noted were planted when he was about seven years old.

The leader of Sonoma’s birding community Tom Russert, who had previously in the meeting received recognition during a proclamation about April 15 being Arbor Day, spoke about the role of the trees as habitat.

‏Katherine Seveneau, a local realtor who leases an building on Broadway, expressed concern about the cost of the sidewalk repairs and risk of future damage. She said she liked the idea of the city covering the cost of sidewalk repairs.

Her comments were echoed by John Powers, who noted he had been cited by the city for trimming a branch off the tree. He said he had spoken against the tree-planting project when it was first approved in 1993.

‏The council, none of whom were in office when the trees were planted or who did not reside in Sonoma focused their concerns on safety. A visibly confused Madolyn Agrimonti, however, said the community members who originated the idea “should be ashamed” for causing the present problem, and initially made a motion to approve the removal. She called Mr. Powers “a hero.”

‏That effort was sidelined by a motion made by Rachel Hundley, who felt the council needed more detailed information before making any decision. Though Public Works Director Dan Tagasuki made some references to tree size, he offered no specific information or inventory of the individual trees, only saying they would “get large and create more problems.”

‏Hundley suggested that removal of only certain trees might make sense, but that until “we know more, we should not take any action.” Laurie Gallian also addressed her concerns about safety, and Mayor Cook offered no opinion but supported the motion made by Hundley which ultimately passed unanimously.

Gary Edwards recused himself from the agenda item due to the proximity of property he owns to the applications at question.

‏The cost of the tree planting in 1993 was $300,000 and was raised by the community over a period of years. No estimate was forthcoming from staff as to the cost of a removal and replanting plan, nor a precise timetable.

No funds are currently allocated for any replacement plan, and CalTrans approval would be required before any plan could be implemented. Audience comments indicated that a replacement plan might cost the city upwards of half-a-million dollars, or more but Tagasuki said an estimate at this time was not possible.

‏Ultimately, staff will return with a plan to inventory all the trees on Broadway between Napa Street and Patten Street, determine size and impacts of the trees on adjacent areas, and
‏additional information vital to making a determination about the future. So for now, the trees remain.

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA