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    Commentary: UC is shortening the tree-cutting schedule to stifle community concerns

    Albany resident Bill Dann wrote a commentary on the latest dispute between Albany and UC-Berkeley on the tree-cutting plan at the Gill Tract:

    “The UC spokesperson who stood up at the 1/22 city council meeting to defend the university’s rush to clear cut the 317 pine trees (180 next week and the remainder soon after) admitted that the university is shortening the schedule to stifle any community concerns.

    First, as the Albany City Attorney Robert Zweben pointed out, the University claims an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that cannot be challenged for 30 days, by  which time the first 180 trees will already have been clear cut.  Once the first 180 are gone, then the remainder must follow (due to wind exposure).

    If UC were to comply with CEQA, then they must plant 317 native trees to replace the clear cut Monterey pines.  Obviously, UC is preparing this plot of land for development–new trees would only get in the way.

    Secondly, by his own admission the UC spokesperson confirmed the obvious: UC must cut the first 180 trees down next week to shortcut a pending delay one week or so later in deference to the Cooper’s Hawks nesting schedule.  No cutting would be allowed during the nesting season, so UC must act fast now.

    Thirdly, the purported safety of the community, by which UC claims an exempton from CEQA, is a bogus misuse of the CEQA exemption.  It ain’t safety but timing that UC is concerned with: cut the trees next week before Albany can challenge the CEQA exemption, and get the clear cutting done before the hawks begin nesting.

    Then, we must smile at our swaggering arborist “experts” giving testimony at the city council meeting.  Where have these responsible arborists been over the last 20 years?  Not a single pine limb trimmed.  Not a single pine tree thinned out to allow the others to grow stronger.  And this in a property in plain view across the street from the City Hall.   One outspoken so-called expert hadn’t even taken the time to strut the  20 or 30 steps required to actually look at the Gill Tract trees; yet, he was certain they must all be cut down immediately, sight unseen.

    The Gill Tract trees must be an embarrassment to the professional tree people who committed tree negligence on University property.  Albany shouldn’t suffer the loss of a gem of an urban forest to cover up arborist negligence per se.

    The stand of trees is an urban landmark.  The trees are confined behind tall fences, locked gates, and in the view of security cameras.  As the Mayor offered, let’s slow down this rush to clear cut ,and review the matter taking community concerns into account. “

     Click here to read related commentaries on the tree-cutting controversy.

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