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Fight for an old redwood tree divides San Francisco neighborhood

Here in the Redwood Empire with our abundance of trees, it might be hard to understand the emotional attachment to one tree tearing a neighborhood apart but that's what happening in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood.

Longtime resident Meri Jaye, 96, is hoping to gain landmark status for a backyard redwood tree she planted in the 1960s in memory of her husband and two children who died in a plane crash.

"It's a giant, beautiful and healthy redwood tree in the heart of the city," Jaye told the Peninsula Press.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares her point of view.

Neighbors and tree experts disagree over the tree's status. The San Francisco Urban Forestry Council has delayed their decision on the giant tree twice already.

Neighbors maintain the towering tree blocks scenic views and can pose a safety hazard.

Two local neighborhood groups, the Monteclair Terrace Association and the Lombard Hill Improvement Association, have come together in strong opposition against the designation.

“When we moved into our home we had a great view through our kitchen of where my grandmother lived, and the whole area is covered by that tree now,” Christina Zimbardo told the news website.

Another neighbor, Heidi Bioski, expressed concern about the tree during a teary-eyed testimony to the Urban Forestry Council in December.

"The branches are huge and if the branches were to fall on my child is that worth it? Is that worth anything? I don't know why we would look to preserve a tree over a child,” Bioski said.

Tree experts disagree over the hazards of the old tree. Arborist Roy Leggit believes the tree possesses as much of a threat as any healthy tree of similar size.

"The idea that the branches could fall at any moment, I think that is completely an exaggeration. There is nothing like that going on with this tree,” Leggitt said.

Currently, only 18 individual trees and five groves of trees have been granted landmark status in San Francisco.

The final hearing on the tree is set for San Francisco City Hall on March 24.

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