SLO workers, committee battle over crooked tree

October 30, 2014

caltreeCity workers say a downtown San Luis Obispo tree should be cut down because it is damaging the sidewalk and creating safety and drainage issues, but an often-ignored city committee insists that the tree must stay. [KSBY]

San Luis Obispo employees, including the city arborist and public works inspector argue that a crooked-growing tree is causing problems on Higuera Street. City staff recommended cutting the tree, fixing the sidewalk and planting a new one.

That option would cost around $25,000 and could be completed in a week, public works inspector Kyle Rowland said.

But, the San Luis Obispo Tree Committee has rejected the idea. The committee recommended instead that the city build a sidewalk around the tree, which would take the place of two existing curbside parking spots.

Such a project would cost upwards of $45,000 and would not begin until next July.

The tree committee’s recommendation has also upset the business in front of which the crooked tree stands.

“I don’t think that is the best idea,” said Domenick Fountain, a supervisor at the Cal Poly Downtown Store.

Fountain said the project would block the display in the Cal Poly store windows, in addition to costing extra and taking away parking.

If public works staff were to remove the tree, it must first meet ADA requirements and gain the approval of the tree committee and city council.

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Trees are not forever. Especially these Ficus trees. The city and many other municipalities have had priors with this species of Ficus. Several others along this stretch of Higuera over many years have succumbed. Old, established Ficus do not take well to ANY root pruning or root damage. They generally will begin a path of steady decline after receiving such treatment that can ultimately lead to structural failure of the root crown. One must look beyond the emotional connection and be realistic and tap into known characteristics of this tree type. The risk of root damage and alteration of the existing conditions around this specimen during the construction of the newly proposed infrastructure is huge and very likely. After spending such a large amount of money, it’s going to look pretty irresponsible if this tree declines or fails and the City ends up having to replace it with a specimen as proposed by staff.

Regarding the cost of removal being $25k. The actual tree and stump removal is likely a small fraction of that total cost with the greatest burden falling on the replacement of infrastructure to ADA and UBC codes. Curbs, gutters, and sidewalk are not cheap.

If public works staff were to remove the tree, it must first meet ADA requirements and gain the approval of the tree committee and city council.


Really? To remove a tree it takes a plan and a committee and city council approval?

Is there any wonder why our government grows year after year after year at a rate that far exceeds our population growth rate?

Why don’t we now form a special committee to hire an investigator to investigate whether the original committee is in cahoots with the city council to bypass ADA requirements? Maybe we can throw in an EIR or do some greenhouse gas testing on what would happen if we lost that tree. Then, next year they can point to how they don’t have enough in their budget and we can double the size of their budget.

Sound like a good plan? Over a tree?

SLO city staff has typical engineering attitude – SCORCH THE EARTH!

SLO city staff is not any different than city of Bakersfield’s or city of Fresno’s staff, they just get paid much better with much better benefits. You are not special.

Crooked tree, it should say crooked staff. The City has had so many employees charged with crimes during the past few years that it is obvious to even the casual observer that the City has an recruitment / hiring defect. However, as long as lower level staff keep getting arrested for misconduct and revealed for theft of City assets and getting a little on the side upper level management looks good. Also, we will continue to have inept decision making practices.

Any of you even looked at the tree? It’s a beautiful tree, and an asset to downtown. Here’s what’s actually happening. Cal Poly Downtown and the Chamber want all the big trees to go away. This hatred of the downtown forest is all on the Chamber’s web page — if you poke around enough you can even find their PowerPoint on the subject. The city arborist’s boss, Katie Lichtig, works for the Chamber and gives them what they want. Therefore the tree is a “problem” and needs to go away. Enter the Tree Committee, unpaid volunteer residents who act as a check on the stupid staff Lichtig’s staff are up to, who look at the tree, determine the truth, and offer an alternative. They are not the problem — the Chamber-controlled city hall is the problem. As for the cost, what about $25,000 to remove a tree? The Tree Committee’s solution is not just a tree solution. SLO’s downtown plan calls for widening sidewalks into the parking area — it’s already been done a number of places. This idea is buying into part of that plan, which like it or not, is at least a plan, which is better than just going around doing what the Chamber wants done this particular day of the week.

Sorry for the typo, that should be “stupid stuff” not “stupid staff.”