Petaluma sticking up for its trees

  • 1/11/2013: B1:

    PC: Trees are removed from the Highway 101 and Petaluma Boulevard North interchange for the rebuilding project in Petaluma, on Thursday, January 10, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Petaluma is sticking up for its trees.

The removal of hundreds of oaks, redwoods and eucalyptus trees as part of the ongoing Highway 101 construction is creating what some say is a stark landscape through much of Petaluma.

A city honored as a Tree City USA every year of the first decade of this century for its protection of urban greenery isn't taking the mass removal lightly.

At Monday's meeting, the City Council will discuss sending a missive to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority asking for an accounting of the number of trees already removed, what still remains to be cut down and detailed plans for replacing them.

Specific information from the SCTA about the number of trees cut down has been scarce and at times contradictory. Petaluma first sought an accounting of felled trees in 2011 and a commitment from Caltrans and the SCTA to replace them all.

Councilman Mike Harris, who sits on the tree committee and is the council's liaison to the SCTA, said the city would like to be informed about the agency's replanting plans.

"There is important 101 work going on and that's understandable," he said. "We just want to be kept in the loop in terms of the tree loss and timing elements about when they will be replaced."

Environmental documents related to the construction projects estimate from 700 to 900 trees in Petaluma have been or will be removed for widening and safety zones near the roadway.

But Petaluma's own survey shows about 2,050 trees along 101 within city limits.

Caltrans said it will replace trees whose removal causes a "visual impact" on a 1-for-1 ratio "when feasible." But its policy is tied to the county tree ordinance, which recognizes oak trees for one-to-one replacement, but not redwoods or nonnative species like eucalyptus trees.

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