Kenneth Road Rehabilitation Project:
Removal of JacarandaTrees
x The City did not seek public input for this activity.
✔ To ensure full transparency associated with the scope of this project, city staff conducted various forms of outreach. At the beginning of this process, staff walked along the project route and went door-to-door to solicit directly affected residents’ input regarding the installation of new sidewalk. Subsequently, a notice was mailed to residents impacted by the entire Kenneth Road Rehabilitation Project (Kenneth between Alameda to Sonora), inviting interested parties to a community meeting about the upcoming project. In fact, it’s important to note that this original notice did not mention the removal of trees. This is because the intent was to design a project that did not impact trees by either meandering the new sidewalks around the trees and/or modifying existing slopes.
The community meeting was held on November 16, 2017 at the Balboa Elementary School Auditorium. It was at this meeting where the potential need for tree removal was discussed. This is the point in which Engineering and forestry staff had performed additional conceptual design and determined the potential impact to a number of trees.
Following the adoption of the plans and specifications, official notification letters were sent to directly affected residents whose homes fronted Kenneth Road, informing them of the proposed sidewalk installation and corresponding tree removals. Following the award of contract, and before the actual removal work commenced last week, an additional letter was sent to residents immediately affected to inform them of the upcoming scope of work, which explicitly included the removal of trees.
x The City had no legitimate reason to remove these trees and didn’t even consider saving them.
✔ The City considers its urban forest as one of its most valuable assets and only considers a tree for removal when the tree presents an immediate risk to public safety or its health has been so severely degraded that treatment is no longer a viable option.
During the planning process, which started in October 2017, Public Works staff inspected the project site, along with the City’s urban forester, to determine the impact that a new sidewalk installation would have on the existing street trees. The primary focus of this effort was centered upon the potential for saving as many trees as possible by either meandering the new sidewalks around the trees and/or modifying existing slopes, to the maximum extent possible, in an effort to pose the least impact on the existing trees’ root systems.
After careful consideration, it was ultimately determined that the specific trees removed were those that posed a public hazard due to their natural growth patterns. More specifically, these trees naturally have shallow root systems, and due to the need to excavate for the installation of curbs, gutters and sidewalks, the trees would suffer significant root loss from the lowering of the existing grade to curb level. While this action may not have immediately killed the trees in question, the extent of the root loss would lead to a destabilization of the mature trees, thereby leading to a significant public safety hazard due to the potential for uprooting and falling.
x The City has not completed the work and will be cutting more trees.
✔ The Kenneth Road Rehabilitation Project is still in progress; however, the portion of the project which included the removal of trees has been completed. To learn more about the scope of the project, view the staff report here.
x The City will not be replacing these trees.
✔ Although the City recognizes that new trees will not be an immediate replacement for the mature trees that were removed, there will be 37 new trees planted along the project location. These trees will come in the form of 24-inch boxes to ensure they are the largest available specimen that can practically be planted in the public right-of-way and will include a variety consisting of Jacaranda, Red Flowering Gum, Southern Live Oak, Coast Live Oak, Brisbane Box, Crape Myrtle, and Chinese Tallow.
Below is an image of a typical 24" box container Jacaranda tree.
x The City didn’t look at any other viable options for providing required ADA access without removing trees.
✔ City staff looked at a number of options for providing required ADA access without having to remove trees. As mentioned above, the intent was to design a project that did not impact trees by either meandering the new sidewalks around the trees and/or modifying existing slopes.
However, there are a number of requirements that the City must comply with when installing new sidewalks. Among these include the American’s with Disabilities Act requirement of a minimum 48” wide sidewalk, and grade requirements for the new sidewalks, which involve root removal both in mass and depth that would undermine the structural integrity/stability and health of the trees that were removed. In addition to these requirements, the City has a finite right-of-way to work within.
The project engineer’s and urban forester’s evaluations focused on what the project’s impacts would be on the individual trees under the best case scenario for hardscape configuration (meandering walkways, cut-aways in the new sidewalk, ramping, etc..), which is always a primary consideration. Despite these efforts, a number of trees along the entire stretch of Kenneth, between Sonora and Alameda, simply could not be saved after the required excavation.
When performing these evaluations, the following are some of the considerations taken into account:
About 90% of a tree’s root system, particularly in urban soils, exist within the top 24” of the soil surface.
The radius of the tree’s root system will naturally extend 1 to 3 times out past the edge of the tree’s canopy
Inclusive of the root system are buttress roots which provide the primary stability for the tree
For trees that have a natural lean or are located on slopes, both the compression side roots (those located under the structural weight of the tree) and tension side roots (those anchoring roots on the side away from the structural weight of the tree) play a vital role.
Street trees are further impacted by limited grow space for root development, particularly on the street/curb side of the trunk.
x City representatives sent an email stating that the response from this area was being observed as a test case for projects in other areas of the city in the future.
✔ Not true. The referenced email word-for-word stated: On a separate note, I genuinely understand your concern over the notification process. Only those residents directly impacted by the construction work appear to have been notified by the Public Works Department (I’ve attached the letter to residents which mentions tree removal and the vendor who would perform the work for your reference). While this is generally how notifications for public works projects have traditionally occurred, it goes without saying that indeed there was more that could have been done in attempting to engage a wider audience at an earlier stage of project planning.
Realistically, drawing a 300 or even 500 foot radius around the project site for public notification purposes would have resulted in a similar response by those who live immediately outside those boundaries (or simply just drive through Kenneth Road every day but live nowhere near the trees in question). This is where a large stationary sign that notifies passing patrons of a proposed project’s scope, with links to a website for additional information and community engagement opportunities, could have been implemented.
While I did not make mention of this in my original response, I’ve met with City staff and see this episode as a catalyst for considering such an implementation for future projects. If you have any additional questions about the next phases of this particular project, please let me know and I will connect you with the appropriate project manager for a detailed response. Thank you again.
To view the engineering plans and construction notes, please click here.