Burlingame to formalize tree policy

Amid the lingering battle over “Tom,” the century-old eucalyptus that has encroached onto Easton Drive, the City Council will begin formalizing a tree management policy when it convenes tonight, in an effort to avoid future debates over individual trees.

The council is set to review the city’s “Urban Forest Management Plan,” a 47-page draft city officials hope will be completed and approved at an Aug. 20 meeting.

“The city has a variety of documents to manage the urban forest inthe community and what we are trying to do is pull it all into one document,” City Manager Jim Nantell said. “The more controversial aspects of this issue are still to be resolved.”

Those controversial aspects include selecting a tree species for replacing century-old trees and drafting criteria for tree removal and replacement, especially for healthy trees such as “Tom” with at least another 30 years to live.

The large tree was slated for removal by the city because its roots intrude into Easton Drive, but residents have rallied to save it.

On Wednesday, city staff presented the Traffic, Safety and Parking Commission with potential criteria for tree removal. Victor James, chairman of the commission, said once a master plan is completed, decisions on individual trees should be made at city staff’s discretion.

The process of completing a master plan will eventually lead to a final decision on “Tom,” which was tabled by Mayor Terry Nagel after the May 21 meeting.

Nagel failed to win support at that meeting for turning Easton Drive into a one-way street to save the tree.

The council will meet with the Beautification Commission for a special joint session at 6 p.m. today at City Hall, where one of the topics to be discussed is the establishment of a nonprofit organization that would qualify for grants to go toward tree projects.

The Beautification Commission also will host a town-hall meeting at 7 p.m. June 28 at First Presbyterian Church on Easton Drive to discuss a list of tree species to replace removed trees.

Nantell said that though a tree such as “Tom” would have been taken down long ago in other cities, locals’ passion for trees contributes to the city’s unique identity. The city has been recognized as a “Tree City USA” for 28 straight years, the longest streak in county history.

bfoley@examiner.com


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