When customers arrived at Maggie’s Coffee House in El Cerrito Tuesday morning, they were surprised to see a regular customer standing his ground between a tree and three men, one of whom was carrying a chainsaw.
“Never again,” the customer, known to regulars as Perry, yelled over the whirr of the chainsaw. “You will never cut down another tree in El Cerrito without express permission. I suggest you take your saws, safety helmets and paychecks and go home!”
Maggie’s is a quiet coffee shop that offers people in west Contra Costa County an alternative to the dreary conformity of Starbucks. The small café is tucked into the bottom floor of the Del Norte Center, a mixed-use building that has precious few features to distinguish it from the uniformity of other five-story stucco complexes that are popping up along San Pablo Avenue.
One of the complex’s most pleasant attributes was the pear trees that lined the walkway in front of the ground-floor businesses. That’s why Perry, thought by regulars to be a college professor, was so upset to see a crew of arborists cut down one tree and then move toward the next. He leapt up from his morning coffee and pastry and rushed outside to stand his ground between a tree and the crew of arborists who apparently spoke little English.
Once the crew relented and climbed aboard their truck to wait patiently for the situation to somehow resolve, Perry used his cell phone to call local newspapers, the Berkeley chapter of Green Peace and Earth First. But ultimately Perry’s noble effort failed and the dozen or so pear trees were cut down.
“They had to go,” said MG Properties project manager Frank Boudway. “We have to remove anything that creates a life and safety issue, and the trees’ roots were causing the concrete walkways to buckle.”
Boudway said they looked at possibly enlarging the planter area, but the tree roots were simply too large. But the good news, Boudway said, is that the trees will be replaced by a smaller variety of tree that doesn’t have such troublesome roots.
“We’re waiting for the city of El Cerrito to let us know what types of trees we can put in there,” he said.