The City Council approved a plan Tuesday night to replant native trees to replace those cut down last fall in Bluebird Canyon because of potential hazards.
The decision diffused tension as 18 residents weighed in on the issue with opposing viewpoints.
When the Council ordered the removal of 11 towering Eucalyptus trees last October, due to public safety concerns, they stipulated that they be replaced with five to 11 trees using varieties other than the non-native species from Australia.
Arborist Craig dePfyffer, awarded a contract last March, subsequently devised a plan for replanting and for ongoing maintenance of the remaining trees in the neighborhood.
Staff gathered input from residents, including two neighborhood meetings, and dePyffer communicated with a number of concerned residents before 20-foot poles were erected Oct. 20 to mark the proposed locations of 13 replacement trees, including seven native live oaks and six California sycamores.
The poles sparked a flurry of feedback from residents, many of whom showed up Tuesday.
Only three of the 13 trees would be at the same location as the felled trees, Public Works Director Steve May pointed out. The remaining 10 were designated for other locations, resulting in five that intruded on views not previously blocked.
Resident Cathy Ackley, offering a case in point, said that one of the proposed trees “would have a major view impact from every room” in her house. She also noted that ever since a hazardous eucalyptus had been removed from the back yard, “the sunlight has been amazing,” and she wondered at the necessity of a replacement tree there.
Similarly, Pam Hagen said that despite being “emotionally attached” to the felled eucalyptus trees, she has since adjusted. “I see the view now,” she said, and since “we have lots of trees,” there’s no call for new ones.
“Please keep your commitment and put back those five to 11 trees,” countered resident Mace Morse, who said they chose to move into “a beautiful wooded neighborhood” and wanted to keep it that way.
Other concerns raised included the need to rake up under deciduous sycamores, the fear that planting more trees would just add fuel to any potential fire, the need to trim city-owned trees in the horseshoe area, and the prudence of replanting live oaks that might grow to obstruct the roadway.
Sue Kempf, who complained of view impact, agreed to a tree if the species was switched to a western redbud and moved to one side.
In voting unanimously to remove the four trees impacting views but moving forward with the other nine tree replacements, the Council seemed to satisfy most residents. Their vote also approved Kempf’s western redbud, directed staff to plant live oaks further from the road and to trim the city-owned trees.
In other business, the Council unanimously recommended the Arts Commission consider budgeting art-in-lieu funds, and to come up with design criteria, for public art pieces that could be included with renovations to beach access stairways at Oak and Mountain Streets.