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Why I hate my heritage tree

Original post made by Heritage tree woes, Country Fair, on Oct 12, 2015

Don’t get me wrong, I love trees. In the right place. This humongous ash (28 inch diameter trunk), a Raywood Ash which is a species imported from Australia in the 1950s (thus not having to do with the heritage of this area at all), has taken over my front yard in Pleasanton, taking the sewer line and driveway with it, as well as the lawn in these drought years. As I write this, one-quarter of my driveway is being jackhammered up, since several panels had been lifted by roots of this tree that exceed 4 inches in diameter. Before purchasing our house in 1994, the builder in the 80s had planted these large invasive-rooted trees without regard to how close they were to the sidewalk or driveway (3 feet and 8 feet, respectively in this case), or to the sewer line (about 8 feet). In fact, the foundation of my house is about 25 feet away, and yet I’ve found roots 4 inches in diameter within several feet of it. So I thought it was a reasonable request of the City of Pleasanton to “allow” us to remove our own tree, in order to protect the value of our property. You guessed it – they said no. The primary reason for denial appeared to be that as they had sent various people to walk by our house (that’s a little creepy right there), it was the collective opinion of all those nonowners of the property that the tree added great value to our property, and OMG it was so healthy! Since our home is not currently for sale, I’m trying to figure that one out, as well as understand why they think that we as homeowners have less of an interest in our property value as they do. After this driveway repair is done, we are into damage repair costs of approximately $18K. The city knows that, and I guess they don’t have any reasonable sense of what $18K can mean if put towards something other than root damage repair. Perhaps they are a little jaded from overexposure to wealth that the Pleasanton community has afforded them. I’m wondering what the Heritage tree ordinance will actually do to property values, as the aging tree population causes more root damage – will it become a liability when homeowners go to sell their homes? Perhaps having a heritage tree is a disclosure that is required – like a right-of-way easement – since the property affected by the tree takes away value from the property, and alters its use. Maybe there are tax credits out there that are available to those whose property is encumbered by a heritage tree? And watch where the city continues to plant Raywood Ash trees - and check out what the city of Lodi did about the problem these trees create. Are your tax dollars being spent wisely, and with long term vision?

Comments (46)

Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Oct 12, 2015 at 3:58 pm

"So I thought it was a reasonable request of the City of Pleasanton to "allow" us to remove our own tree, in order to protect the value of our property. You guessed it – they said no. The primary reason for denial appeared to be that as they had sent various people to walk by our house (that's a little creepy right there), it was the collective opinion of all those non owners of the property that the tree added great value to our property, and OMG it was so healthy!"

Seems that you should have a good case for removing the tree if what you say is true. Heritage trees don't have an absolute right to exist if they are causing major property damage:
..........................
Generally, the Ordinance allows the Director to permit the removal for the following reasons:

(1) The tree is dead, dying or diseased, and good forestry practices cannot be undertaken to preserve the tree;
or

(2) The tree is in such a dangerous or hazardous condition as to threaten or endanger the safety of people, structures, property, or other Heritage Trees.
.......................

You can also appeal the decision to the Heritage Tree Board of Appeals. ( Web Link )


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 12, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Agree "Damon". We did appeal - that's when they sent the hearing board members to walk by and decide the tree was too lovely to remove. I had receipts showing the cost to replace the sewer, receipts showing numerous times I had roots cleared from the sewer (it's the only tree, so....), and the estimate to repair my driveway. I also brought up the potential problem of the tree being three feet from the sidewalk, under which gas lines run. They don't consider the tree a hazard with all that evidence - they did say it was a "tough decision" oh please... Just found out my UPS driver had a healthy redwood removed with less damage, because it was near their gas line, so not sure what exactly is going on here. Wondering if I can alert PGE to the potential problem - I have all of the written and audio correspondence with the city, so it's on them if the gas lines are disrupted, but it shouldn't have to come to that.


Posted by Get the Facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Get the Facts is a registered user.

I had a friend with five heritage trees in his backyard when he bought his house. They allowed him to take out three, but he had to leave two. One day he woke up to a large branch from one of the remaining trees having fallen onto the ground during the night. He put the branch in the back of his truck, and drove down to the city and showed them the branch. He told them, "Can I remove the trees now, or am I going to be suing you when a branch falls on one of my kids?" He was then allowed to remove the trees.

Htw, I would contact PG&E, that is a great idea. If they want it removed, the city would be hard-pressed to deny it. Or if you have a lawyer friend, threaten to sue. The city doesn't want to be sued.


Posted by oldtimer
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Oct 12, 2015 at 6:47 pm

The easiest way in Pleasanton to remove a heritage tree is to say it needs to be taken down to develop new houses. The city has no problem in allowing property owners to cut down (many) native oak trees (not just heritage but also native) that get in the way of developing new homes. However, if you are a homeowner with a single non-native heritage tree, removal will not be allowed. Your best bet is to hope for a huge storm and the tree falling into the street (and not onto your house). Or maybe hope the tree raises the sidewalk and you file a trip and fall lawsuit against the city, and negotiate removal of the tree.

Developers have the power, not the residents.


Posted by Reaident
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 12, 2015 at 6:58 pm

I had a tree that the previous owners had foolishly planted in the side yard, too close to the house and the fence. The city tried to tell me that I could not remove it. I waited for one branch to fall onto my gate and fence then had my lawyer write to the city and tell them that they had to repair and repaint the entire fence. They paid and then allowed me to remove the tree.


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 12, 2015 at 7:16 pm

"Get the Facts" A lawyer friend actually offered, and did, attend the hearing. He is also a neighbor, which he spoke up as. Several neighbors came in support of my appeal - none spoke against it. They were all appalled that I was cut off from my 10 minutes allotted to speak, because someone on the hearing board got confused, or was in a hurry, and thought I only got 3 minutes to defend my position. Ugly, ugly, ugly. How can Pleasanton treat its citizens like this? It's appalling, and downright depressing. No respect.

And "oldtimer" - It's not fun to have to feel like you do, but I share your feelings. Unfortunately, I've heard that if the tree raises the sidewalk(which it's starting to do), umm, that's my problem/expense too.

I hate that everything has to end up in court. Why can't we just treat each other with a little respect and empathy... The only good thing that's come out of this is that I realized how awesome my neighbors really are.


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 12, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Thanks for the input "Resident". I'll keep that in mind for any damage that occurs down the road. Anything that happens from now on out regarding the tree wouldn't happen if I'd been allowed to remove it back in April when I requested to do so.


Posted by Wow
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Crazy! We opted for the don't ask/don't tell approach several years ago when our oversized sycamore with chronic powdery mildew disease had us worried it would fall over and take out our front room. A neighbor mentioned heritage trees but we didn't look into it until we were done with the chainsaw..oops!

Of course you can't do that now - knowing what you know, but it might be food for thought for other homeowners with destructive trees...

City should have to pay for ensuing damages if they forbid removal, IMO.


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 12, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Well "Wow" - you obviously did the "right" thing. I was extremely naïve to think the city would honor my following the rules, when the rules were set up to intrude on my property ownership. Duh. I use the term "I", because my husband was standing there with chainsaw in hand, when I told him there was a more ethical, civil way - ha! Lesson learned, the hard way. From now on - I see nothing, I know nothing..


Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 12, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Had a tree issue several years ago. Tried to do the "right thing" and get all my permits, etc. By the time I finished the job with arborist, other consultants, permits, and the job itself, it was several thousand dollars. Three years later the issue had grown back, this time we took matters into our own hands, and chopped the trees ourselves. Ge got caught and fined by the authorities, and the fine was a few hundred bucks, way less than permits, arborists and consultants...


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 12, 2015 at 11:06 pm

I called a couple of the arborists on the approved list the city provided me with. The first wanted $2200 to try to persuade the city to give me a permit - but no guarantee. The second told me he charges $180/hr to "study" the situation, starting with tree identification, and a report would require about 6 hours - wasn't clear what would be in the report. Both seemed very aware of the situation I presented to them -they must love being on the city's list. Sorry you got caught Jack, but sounds like it was well worth it. The city told me (in all seriousness) that they check google earth to see if trees are missing - unbelievable. They must have certain properties they're watching - I'm sure I'm on their list. Maybe they'll dispatch some drones to keep tabs.


Posted by Redwoods
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 1:34 am

I think our neighbors are in a similar situation. With the drought, aging tree population and the over planting by many owners (some previous) The heritage tree ordinance needs to be revised to suit this while keeping the spirit of the law. The law should serve us, not caused undue hardship. Trees have a life cycle. New more suitable and well placed trees can be planted.

As the city uses more reclaimed water in the parks is the city going to take out the damaged dieing redwoods in yards next to the parks that can't tolerate this water or are they going to require home owners to live with dead trees? What is the fine for taking out a heritage tree? $2200 to assess a trees health?! I have relatives that have orchards further north in California. Bet they'll get a good laugh at this one. Seems like sellers with problematic heritage trees should disclose this when selling. What a nightmare! Anyway, I'd check the gas line as others have suggested..


Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 13, 2015 at 9:06 am

If you don't want to know the answer, don't ask the question.
Sometimes you have to look out for yourself and family first. To hell with what the city thinks. The city has a lot of anal people who are decision makers. If these trees are a threat to safety or will cause property damage, you have every right to get rid of them. The city does not have a leg to stand on.


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 13, 2015 at 9:27 am

Thanks Bill - I'm quickly evolving to your point of view. As I've been reading what others wrote, I'm realizing that "following the rules" when the rules are just wrong, is allowing the city to tread on me, my neighbors, and embolden them to tread on others. Trust me - roots don't recognize property lines. I just spoke with a well-known Pleasanton concrete contractor about the statement by the city employee (yes we pay this person) that she's "never seen foundation damage from trees", so it must not be a concern. He just shook his head in disbelief.

And yes "Redwoods" - trees do have a life cycle. Sometimes it's an imposed one, because the tree outgrew it's usefulness.


Posted by Copper
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 13, 2015 at 9:29 am

Drive a small copper nail into one of the the roots. It will kill the tree and you can get it removed. I did it and it worked fine.


Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 13, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Cut down the tree and take your chances, sounds like no one at the city will help you and no one cares about your property. You've tried the straight forward approach and it's gotten you no where.
Screw 'em - save your property!!


Posted by John
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 13, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Oh good heavens...." The city told me (in all seriousness) that they check google earth to see if trees are missing"
I don't even know what to say about this. This city has far more important things they SHOULD be doing than sitting around checking google earth for missing trees.
This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. This city is going to hell in a hand basket!!!


Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 13, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

June 11, 2011 I posted a blog on girdling.
Google "Mystery and Intrigue in the Muirwood neighborhood" to read the blog.

Girdling is cutting a two inch section all around on a trees trunk. This prevents nutrients from reaching and feeding the tree, which kills it.


Posted by Get the Facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Get the Facts is a registered user.

Why not just trim the heck out of the tree? It's your tree, trim it to complete ugliness, you can trim it any way you want. Then have the city come out and ask them if you can take out your (now) pathetic tree.

By the way, if you take matters into your own hands and take out the tree, I suggest you do it on a Saturday or holiday, when the city on not at work.


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 13, 2015 at 9:51 pm

So, Michael Austin, are you saying that there will be crime tape around my front yard if the tree dies? Oooohhh boy. Is it better to be an alive, but hated, heritage tree, or a diseased tree, forced to suffer by slow death due to the required root barrier treatment a city-listed certified arborist recommends to prevent further driveway damage? This is all so amazingly ridiculous. Thank you Ed, for your support. Copper - I've been told that one, as well as using diesel. The latter is probably not EPA-approved. But you have to admit John, it is pretty funny that a city employee admitted that. And "Get the Facts" - I was discussing that with our UPS delivery guy (the one who got a permit to remove a Redwood) - maybe we should take this down limb by limb, over a period of time. Then the Google footprint would just gradually disappear?


Posted by Gus
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 14, 2015 at 8:24 am

I am well acquainted with this tree and everything the homeowners have done
to get it removed. I was at the appeal meeting run by the City of Pleasanton.
It was discouraging, to say the least, to see how unprepared and unconcerned
the three person commission was. When they said they had done a "walk by," to see the tree, I was further discouraged. The tree looks fine. The damage it has caused is not in the pretty, green tree. It's the roots. It is my feeling their minds had been made up before the appeal mtg. True or not true, the decision they made was just plain wrong. The homeowners did lots of work getting ready for the meeting, not to mention the money they had already spent taking care of repairs. Citizens should not be put to such an expense. Knowledgeable people should sit on commissions!!! Arborists paid by the city should not be the only professional input for such matters. Contrary to thinking...."Money does not grow on trees."


Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 9:54 am

What committe declined the appeal? Who by name is on the committee, and how did they get selected for this committee?


Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 14, 2015 at 12:38 pm

The Heritage Tree committee is made up of two commissioners from planning and one commissioner from parks and recreation. Since these people are not trained professionals in Dendrology and are not licensed engineers specializing in foundations, I would first, get the value of the tree as is, and the cost of the damage that it has caused or will cause to the foundation of the house. Between these reports there should be sufficient evidence to declare the tree a nuisance in a court of law. Filing a lawsuit against the city may be the only path, since common sense is obviously not needed in order to qualify for a commissioners job.




Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 14, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Dumb question here, what if you cut down the tree tomorrow? What is the worst the city could do?


Posted by PPL
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 14, 2015 at 4:39 pm

I believe they can fine you the value of the tree (as appraised by an approved arborist), or $5000 if there isn't sufficient evidence to ascertain the value.


Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 14, 2015 at 4:46 pm

The trick is to by- pass the village idiots and cut down that tree on the weekend, grind out that stump, and re-landscape by Monday morning!!! Problem solved, what tree????


Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 4:46 pm

How does one become a commissioner? Appointed, volunteer, or elected?


Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Are these trees planted between the curb and the sidewalk )city property) or in the residents front yard?


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 14, 2015 at 6:09 pm

The tree is in my front yard, on my property. But 3 feet from the sidewalk. They pay the arborist (with all of our tax dollars) to value the tree, so wonder how that would work in my favor - probably not. Probably the same one the paid to come to the hearing, and testify as to tree health, and waffle on the question of how invasive these roots are. And "Map" - I was told they use Google Earth to prove there was a tree there. Our city government (of, by, and for the people?) is sooooo sick. The whole problem is that I politely asked permission, expecting to be treated fairly - otherwise, "Map", your plan would work.


Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

The city also uses Google, GPS to monitor the street sweepers.
As it turns out, the street sweepers drive down the street at 25 MPH in the regular lane of traffic, is not sweeping, is not vacuuming. Just driving by.
Google indicates that the sweeper did sweep and clean the street, when in fact he did not.


Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 15, 2015 at 7:43 am

This is a lesson for the rest of us. If ever I have this problem I'll cut down the tree before incurring $18k in damage to my home and take my chances with the city afterwards.
They clearly are not here to help us - at least when it comes to this.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2015 at 9:58 am

I would love to hear some input from a City Official in this matter. Or maybe they would rather not show up here?


Posted by Get the Facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Get the Facts is a registered user.

Mike Tassano, Deputy Director of Public Works once posted. But other than that, I have never seen any city or government employee text under their own name on this site.


Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 15, 2015 at 7:31 pm

I feel bad for you and if I knew where you lived I would come over and murder your tree for you but you would just get in trouble. The guy across the street just took his tree down and nobody said a word.


Posted by Heritage tree woes
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 15, 2015 at 11:12 pm

"Resident" - the silence from the city is deafening on this forum, but trust me, they have a lot to say when you have an appeals "hearing" with them. The appellant gets 3-5 minutes (although they tell you that you have 10-15 min), and the city, together with their "experts" and attorneys, talk at length, with no limit.

And yes Ed, I would never follow the route I took again. I've lost all respect for this city, because they somehow forgot they are here to serve, not reign. It's fine to protect trees, as long as you realize the main reason they are protected is for the benefit of residents, not in spite of residents. Without residents, there would be no trees - there were no trees to speak of in Country Fair before it was developed.

Ah Jerry - I'm so tempted to give you my address. Haha. You're the best!


Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 16, 2015 at 8:06 am

Well, best of luck to you, and please keep us all posted on the outcome. We could all face the same thing someday.
I think it would be good to "go public" with this as much as you can by cc-ing the mayor's office and heads of any related departments you can think of about this issue.
It probably wouldn't hurt to mention that you've posted this article in the PW and your fellow "townsfolk" are outraged about this.

Maybe if you create a big enough stink it might get the city to relax their stance against you.

Just a thought.


Posted by Billie
a resident of Mohr Park
on Oct 16, 2015 at 10:29 am

As someone who had a year-old ash in my tiny front yard when I moved into my home 25 years ago, I more than sympathize with the original poster. At a minimum, they require special pruning and yearly treatment to avoid sticky aphid residue in the Spring.

These trees were planted in almost every yard on my street; mine has been a double-edged sword. Several years ago my water connection to the city was impacted by roots. That cost a penny to fix. My driveway has been slowly lifting for years. However, its shade helps to minimize my A/C bills and has with minimal watering, somewhat saved my yard during the drought.

Ed's idea is a good one. Your original post laid the issue out clearly and concisely. The only addition I would suggest is including all council members since sometimes one council person will do more than another would to help with other departments.

City Clerk, Karen Diaz <[email protected]>, has always been very helpful to me as a single point of contact in disseminating letters to the Council.

Good luck from all of us ash owners!


Posted by Get the Facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Get the Facts is a registered user.

I had a neighbor move in a few years back, who had a HUGE tree in their yard. Last year they decided to remove a different tree, and called a tree service. The tree person asked if they wanted the huge tree removed as well, and my neighbors replied that they were told it couldn't be removed, the city had said no. The tree person said no problem, they would get it approved. Sure enough, a few hours later, that tree was gone. Clearly this tree company has a connection to the city, and can get anything approved through this connection. And this connection helps them make more money, as they did a big $$ upgrade at my neighbor's house. Maybe try calling some tree companies and see if they can remove it for you, and get the company to get the approval?


Posted by REMOVE THE TREE
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 18, 2015 at 10:49 am

Should have just had it removed, than deal with the city. 50/50 chance you may have heard nothing if you did it right.


Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 18, 2015 at 11:44 am

I have no problem reporting anybody who chops down protected trees.

Member of Sierra Club


Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 19, 2015 at 11:46 am

mooseturd is a registered user.

The next year or two should prove interesting with all the damaged trees from using toxic toilet water and drought.


Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Oct 19, 2015 at 12:02 pm

@mooseturd

As unappealing as it may sound, trees would probably love toilet water with all of its nutrients. As for the drought, it seems that large trees with their deep root systems would be the last to be affected.


Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 19, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Please explain how come anybody wants to "kill" a heritage tree?


Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Rosh Ha Shanah La'llaot is the Jewish "New Year of the Trees".

It's a loving holiday and helps us remember that we must care for trees.

They are a gift and it's important for all of us to remember.


Posted by Gus
a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Perhaps the homeowners with the invasive tree could be reimbursed
for all their incurred expenses by "Cholo" of Livermore.
Perhaps $18K seems fair to him/her. I think when it hits one's
pocketbook to that degree, Cholo might feel differently.


Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 20, 2015 at 6:05 pm

I come from a traditional Jewish upbringing. My mother was particularly devout and I can't imagine ever considering chopping down a tree. I have a deep compassion for nature and I do my part in preserving nature.

If you're so caught up with money, I suggest that you consider discussing your concerns with a Rabbi. Most of the Rabbi's that I've known have a great reverence for nature. They are also very compassionate and will most likely listen to your concerns.

It will enrich your life to consider what a Rabbi has to say.

HAPPY TRAILS! VIVA! GORA!


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