Death of a Redwood: By PETER SCHORER

Tuesday August 17, 2004

Last week I arrived at 2812 Hillegass to see a beautiful redwood tree had been cut, ground into sawdust, and loaded onto a truck. I and two neighbors were the only persons there apart from the workmen. My guess is that the tree was at least 40 years old. How is it that we have an ordinance in this town that prohibits cutting of live oaks, but doesn’t prohibit the cutting of redwood trees? I know of several other cases of cutting of old redwoods. 

More disturbing is that no laws protect us from city government pork barrel practices of destroying mature healthy trees and replacing them with saplings just to grant contracts to favored companies. Why are they clear cutting 98 trees at the Berkeley Marina for a bicycle path without bothering to consider alternatives that go around the trees? 

The marina clear cut is a make work project that will waste public funds clear cutting dozens of mature healthy trees and replacing them with pathetic saplings. The city manager loves these projects because it allows them to use public funds to enrich favored private companies that profit from urban redesign work. With all the serious economic problems our city faces why does the city waste money removing mature healthy trees? In July the Berkeley City Council approved almost $300,000 in tree removal contracts to one company without any discussion. I estimate $100,000 of that money is being spent removing mature healthy trees, and the contract is overly generous in the amount being paid for removal of those trees that need to be removed. Not only that, but in the event the contractor does shoddy work the city should be able to terminate the contract before spending $300,000. Why didn’t anyone on council ask about that? 

Fortunately, this November we have a chance to vote for Measure S and rein in wasteful spending on make-work projects like the Marina clear-cut. Measure S will make it more difficult to remove mature, healthy public trees, will allow a Board to raise private funds so we can plant more trees and create parks without raising taxes, and will prevent pork barrel spending by requiring proposed tree care contracts to be reviewed by a tree board to prevent wasteful spending. I urge people to vote for Measure S, the Berkeley Public Tree Act, in order to stop pork barrel tree removal schemes that allow companies to line their pockets with our tax dollars while removing perfectly healthy public trees. 


Peter Schorer is a Berkeley resident.›