Flash: Grove’s Last Tree Falls; University Says ‘No Deal’

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday September 09, 2008 - 06:32:00 PM

The last tree occupied by Berkeley tree-sitters before their surrender Tuesday afternoon was itself gone by 5:18 p.m. 

While the crowd along Piedmont Avenue had swelled to several hundred by the time the last tree-sitter descended, it was mostly students who were left when the redwood came down, and many applauded as the last section of the once towering tree was hauled off by a massive crane. 

A contract arborist, armed with a chainsaw, had worked his way down from the top, lopping the trunk off in four sections. 

A few minutes earlier UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria Harrison had said that with the elimination of the trees, the way would be clear for the transformation of the grove site into an ordinary construction site. 

Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom also claimed that tree-sitters supporters erred in reporting that the university had made concessions to end the treeesit. 

Earlier in the day, supporters had said Brostrom had agreed to start a process to create more community involvement in university land use decisions. 

Brostrom said the university’s existing policies seek community involvement, and that officials are always seeking new and creative ways of involving the community. 

“There was no quid pro quo,” said university spokesperson Dan Mogulof. 

Shortly after the press conference, supporters released a statement from the treesitters giving their take on the agreement: 

"The treesitters agreed to come down voluntarily, and University representatives agreed that they would make a public statement that the University will create new ways for the community to be involved in land use decisions going forward. What form precisely that will take is yet to be determined. 

“It is up to the community to ensure that the format is substantial, and that the community is involved in the beginning, brainstorm phases and on an ongoing basis with land use." 

The university has now upped its estimate of the cost of handling the tree-sitters and their allies to $1.5 million, twice the $750,000 figure cited by Mogulof just the day before. 

Mogulof said the new figure came from revised calculations, and that none of the money was diverted from academic or research funds. 

Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour completed the quartet of officials who briefed reporters in the stadium’s Hall of Fame room. 

Harrison said approximately 45 university police were on hand for the final day of the tree-sit, along with a scaffolding crew of 20 to 25 workers, 10 tree removal contract workers, City of Berkeley firefighters and paramedics and crane operators. The cherry picker lifts were operated by university athletic department staff. 

Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya said that in addition to the arrests of the four tree-sitters, who range in age between 18 and 27, police arrested five spectators. 

The tree-sitters were Michael Schuck, 26, known first as tree-sitter Fresh and later as Shem. He was charged with a variety of charges including trespass, lodging in trees, violation of court orders and for five warrants totaling $22,000. 

Armando Resendez, Mando, is 20. He faced similar charges, though not the warrant violations. Ernesto Trevino, or Droog, is the youngest tree-sitter at 18. His charges are similar to those lodged against Schuck, as were those filed against the last treesitter to descend, Raul Colocho, 27, otherwise known as Huck or Huckleberry. He may face one additional charge. 

All of the tree-sitters were taken to the Santa Rita Jail, though Celaya said that each would be eligible for release on bail. 

The five spectators arrested include two who were charged with misdemeanor battery on a peace officer.