Later this year 17 trees will be removed from along San Leandro Creek under Alameda County's latest plan. That's down from 46 originally and 25 in the last proposal. An additional 15 trees will be pruned under the plan.
The news came during a community meeting Wednesday night sponsored by County Supervisor Wilma Chan, with participation from the Alameda County Public Works Agency and Flood Control District. Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Vice Mayor Michael Gregory and Councilmembers Jim Prola and Diana Souza joined about a dozen community members to hear an update on the county's plans.
The county first unveiled the tree removal plans in April 2010, and was surprised by strong opposition from residents living near the creek. The number of trees slated for removal has since been dropped from 46 to 32 to 25, and now to 17.
The county came up with the latest reduced number by raising the threshold for what it considers a hazardous tree. At the meeting, Chan said the change struck middle ground between safety and the local community's desire to see all the trees remain standing.
"It seemed like an acceptable risk," Chan said. "It's a good compromise."
The project must now get environmental clearance, and is expected to go out to bid this summer.
Alameda County Public Works Director Daniel Woldesenbet said the project team will likely submit a negative declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act given that the project has been scaled back.
CEQA requires planners to submit documentation of a project's intended environmental impacts. A negative declaration is submitted when it is believed the project will have no significant impact on the environment.
The work will be completed at three sites along the creek, near cul-de-sacs on Cary Drive, Huff Avenue and St. Mary's Avenue. Crews plan to begin first at Cary Drive in August, before the school year starts (the site is near Bancroft Middle School). Eight trees will be removed from the area.
Four trees will be removed from Huff Avenue and five from St Mary's Avenue. The county hopes to finish work at all three sites before winter.
Gary Molitor, who lives on St. Mary's Avenue and has been a vocal critic of the plan, said he approved of the latest change. However, he said, he still believes the underlying motive for the project is not safety, but rather to remove eucalyptus trees in favor of native species.
"I am happy with the outcome," Molitor said, "but I'm not happy with the underlying dogma, or reasoning, for doing this."
The county has said encouraging native vegetation was a secondary motive for the project. Once the trees, most of which are non-native eucalyptus, are removed, crews will repopulate the creek banks with native trees and other vegetation.