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Petaluma council seeks details of Highway 101 tree removal

Petaluma City Council members agreed Monday to send a toned-down letter to regional transportation leaders asking for more information about hundreds of trees that have been cut down to make way for Highway 101 construction.

On the docket was a strongly worded draft letter from the city's tree committee expressing frustration with a lack of firm numbers from the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Caltrans about how many trees have been felled and how many are still planned for removal.

Also unclear, the tree committee said, is how many will be replaced, when, where and how they will be paid for.

The SCTA has estimated about 700 to 900 would need to be removed as Highway 101 is widened through town and the interchanges reconfigured. But a city survey counted 2,050 oaks, redwoods, eucalyptus, poplar and other trees within city limits.

Some trees will be replaced on a 1-to-1 basis, the SCTA has said, but others won't be for space reasons or because some of those removed didn't cause a negative "visual impact."

But it was revealed during the meeting Monday that the letter council members received in their agenda packets was in error. The letter should have been addressed to south county Supervisor David Rabbitt and Councilman Mike Harris, who represent Petaluma's interests on the SCTA, rather than the SCTA executive director.

The letter was perceived by some as being confrontational.

Former Councilwoman Tiffany Renee urged the council to be "careful and gracious" in collaborating with other cities that are also dealing with denuded construction zones. She said Santa Rosa volunteered to allow $3 million in landscape funds to be used to help Petaluma 101 projects that needed matching local funds to proceed.

Councilman Mike Healy suggested an alternate letter with more conciliatory phrasing to be sent to Rabbitt and Harris, with a copy to the transportation agency director.

The council voted 5-1, with Teresa Barrett voting against it and Mayor David Glass absent. Barrett urged a vote for the original letter but her motion died without a second.

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