What started as a city street improvement project has morphed into a fight over the trees that line the ABC streets neighborhood.
When ABC streets residents first heard that the city was finally repaving their cracked and warped streets, they were pleased. But the $3 million project, which is slated to be finished by the end of the year, also requires cutting down about 220 trees in the area, according to city staff.
“The neighborhood had an extensive amount of sidewalk work and road work that needed to be done,” said Napa’s Deputy Public Works Director Phil Brun. “The goal is to get into an older neighborhood that’s really in need of street paving and also install ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramps and repair failed curbs and gutters and missing links of sidewalk.”
As neighbors noticed last week, the project includes cutting down trees that were planted more than 50 years ago, and that the city said are either unhealthy or are causing problems for the sidewalks.
“Trees have a lifespan, just like people,” Dave Perazzo, the city’s parks, trees and facilities manager, said Tuesday. “These trees we are talking are Arizona Ash, which have a relatively short life span – about 30-40 years.”
Perazzo, who said the area is home to about 600 trees in all, pointed out that older trees are at a risk to fall or become diseased. He said that workers analyzed every single tree in the area before determining which ones would need to be cut down.
But area residents were not pleased with the city’s decision, taping signs to trees last week that were slated to be removed that begged city crews to not cut down the old-growth. Perazzo said the city understood the new trees wouldn’t be as large, offer as much shade or be considered as pretty as the older growth ashes, but pointed out that safety was the city’s main concern.
“Our job is to look out for the best interest of the community,” he said. “We don’t want to leave trees behind that could become a hazard. We’ve done that in other neighborhoods and had trees fall. We don’t remove trees for no reason. Safety is our reason.”
Perazzo said the city will not only replace every single tree it removes, but will also plant additional trees in front of bare residents, as long as the homeowners will commit to maintaining the new trees.
“We need buy-in from the property owners,” he said. “Some say they will be happy to water them, others say they don’t want to. We’re having a tree commission meeting (Wednesday) that we’ve invited some residents to attend.”
Brun said that the city hopes to finish the majority of the project by the end of this year. Perazzo said that the tree planting will occur after the sidewalks and some of the streets have been repaired.
Wednesday’s Tree Commission meeting will occur at 5:30 p.m. in Napa City Council chambers at 955 School Street. For more information on the city’s ABC streets project, visit cityofnapa.org.