Mayor, Staff Defend Bay Farm Trees

Photo by Dennis Evanosky

A work crew already removed the largest Monterey Pine from the grove at Harbor Bay Landing before anyone could stop them. City staffers said that because of the scope of the project, the property owner needed to inform the city.

The Alameda Sun received an urgent phone call Monday. The caller said that workers were taking down a small grove of trees at the Harbor Bay Landing Shopping Center. The Sun sent a photographer to catch the action. In the meantime the Sun’s phone rang again. This time Mayor Trish Spencer was on the line. She, too, had heard about the trees.

Spencer advised the city’s planning manager Andrew Thomas of the situation. Thomas said that cutting down trees on private property is not illegal. He said the only exception is the protected California live oak. He said, however, the scope of the tree-felling project at the shopping center required the city to have a closer look.

Spencer and Thomas arrived to learn that Harbor Bay Landing principal Ken Lui had hired a crew to fell not only three Monterey pines in the grove next to the United Parcel Service office, but to take down at least five other Monterey pines in the complex. Four of these trees were already gone, including a large tree in the grove.

Once Spencer and Thomas understood how many trees were involved, they asked for a meeting with Liu.

When Liu arrived, Spencer and Thomas pointedly quizzed him about the scope of the tree-felling project. Had Liu hired an arborist to supervise the project? He had not. Did Liu have any plans to replace the fallen trees? He did not. Thomas said that the city normally does not require the use of arborist or a plan. However, the number of trees involved and the lack of any plan to replace them required the city to step in.

"We’re issuing you a stop-work order," Spencer told Liu.

"You’re not to take down any more trees until you submit a plan to the city, and we approve that plan," Thomas added.

"I’m happy to work with you," Liu told Spencer.

Spencer advised Liu’s tenants near the grove in question to call her immediately if anyone took any more trees down. The work crew had already prepped the two other Monterey pines in the grove for felling. These and the other trees at Harbor Bay Landing will remain standing until the city approves Liu’s plan for taking trees down in the future and, perhaps, replacing them with younger trees.

Alameda County has much stricter standards for felling trees. The county requires that contractors hired to fell trees agree "in writing to perform all permitted work in accordance with county-approved International Society of Arboriculture standards and other applicable standards or guidelines."

The society views the removal of any tree as "a last resort" and recommends hiring an arborist before deciding on whether or not to remove any tree.

Contact Dennis Evanosky at editor@alamedasun.com.

Photo by Dennis Evanosky - Mayor Trish Spencer listens to Ken Lui, a principal of the Harbor Bay Landing Shopping Center, as he talks about the scope of tree removal at the center. Spencer and city staff members responded to a call from a resident with concerns about the trees.