Friends of El Cerrito Trees

"Promoting an environmentally friendly, beautiful and green El Cerrito"

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Letter of Introduction from Friends of El Cerrito Trees, presented at El Cerrito City Council Meeting, April 9, 2002

Dear El Cerrito City Council, City Manager, and Parks and City Maintenance managers:

We are pleased to announce that the Friends of El Cerrito Trees has been established in El Cerrito, as a community association in partnership with the California Urban Forests Council. This group of citizens is interested in the planting, care, and protection of trees in El Cerrito's public parks, along its streets and on private property. The members of the group are also concerned about related issues of conserving vegetation and stewardship of natural resources for the health, value, and well-being of our communities and environment.

The goals of the group are to:

  • Raise public awareness about the values and the proper care of trees, through educational and outreach efforts;

  • Help protect and conserve diverse trees on public and private property in El Cerrito, and discourage the cutting of healthy trees;

  • Encourage and assist in the planting, care, and maintenance of trees and other vegetation;

  • Support broader environmental conservation and stewardship efforts in El Cerrito.

Members of the group believe that mature trees help to make El Cerrito a pleasant place to live and work, and contribute to beautiful views. The group members recognize that trees have many economic, ecological, health, and aesthetic benefits, including enhancement of property values.

We are eager to work collaboratively with the City staff, the City Council, and with other organizations in El Cerrito that are interested in these issues. We hope to work cooperatively with the City on activities that relate to tree and vegetation planting, care/maintenance, planning, conservation, and education. For example, we plan to provide input and recommendations to the contractor and City Council regarding the current planning for El Cerrito landscape maintenance. We also would be happy to collaborate with PG&E's Safe Tree Program for planting and caring of trees along city streets. The group is open and welcome to all interested individuals who would like to join our meetings and activities.

One of the activities that we carried out during recent weeks was the preparation of a petition regarding El Cerrito's trees, which is attached. 119 people have signed this petition. As you will see the petition expresses support for planting and protection of trees in El Cerrito s public parks, along its streets, and on private property. The people who signed this believe that mature trees help to make El Cerrito a pleasant place to live and work. The signers also urge the City Council to repeal the existing Tree/View Ordinance in El Cerrito, mainly because this ordinance does not protect the interests of the community as a whole. It has not always been effective in resolving disputes among neighbors, and is generally unfair to tree owners and others who value trees.

In sum, the petition urges the City to support conservation, maintenance and planting of trees that benefit El Cerrito's community and environment. We hope this petition will be useful and constructive for the City, in planning processes and to demonstrate citizen concerns and interests.

We would like to clarify several basic principles and recommendations:

  1. Trees are a valuable part of views. They are treasured and appreciated by many property owners and other citizens in El Cerrito, and add to property values in many cases. (Please see the attached articles by Dr. Coder and the National Arbor Day Foundation that document economic and other quantitative benefits of trees for communities.)

  1. We fully acknowledge that if particular trees are determined by a professional certified arborist or scientist to pose a serious hazard or danger to property or to people, they should be removed or trimmed to the point that a hazard no longer exists on private or public property. However, healthy trees are beneficial for many purposes and should be conserved and planted.

  1. As noted above, we believe that the Tree /View Ordinance should be repealed. We believe that if disagreements about trees rise between property owners, the parties should try to resolve the issues together. If they cannot agree, the parties should be referred to one the experienced mediation services in our area. For example, the Berkeley Dispute Resolution Service is a local organization that is effective and experienced in working out solutions agreeable to both sides. Sending disputes to such a service would save time and energy for the City staff, and could prevent legal action against the city. (The costs of such a mediation service would be covered by the parties involved.) In addition, we have found useful information and guidelines about more appropriate tree conservation ordinances that have been used in other cities in the U.S. Some of this information is listed on the website:; in particular, we encourage you to look at the Minnesota's Shade Tree Advisory Committee site.

  1. Regarding the upcoming planning process for tree maintenance in El Cerrito, we suggest the following:

  • Ensure transparency and inclusiveness in the process of gathering information and opinions about the trees and vegetation. All people in the city should be informed of and welcome to the public meetings about this plan.

  • Ensure that any trees that are planted by the City staff on city property are also appropriately cared for and maintained, and specify who are the care-takers or maintenance staff.

  • Trees planted or growing in parking strips and along streets should be allowed to grow more than 8 feet, to ensure that they can become healthy mature trees, so long as their roots are not damaging the sidewalk and they are not posing any hazard. (Currently, maintenance staff often cut them when they exceed eight feet, which can result in major damage to the overall tree health, as well as highly unattractive looks.) Citizens and City staff can also work collaboratively with PG&E to select and plant trees that will not interfere with utility lines.

  • A broad diversity of trees is desirable on both public and private property, to enhance resilience, ecological sustainability, and aesthetic attraction. Either non-native and native trees/vegetation may be appropriate to include in many areas.

We appreciate your consideration of this letter and petition. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the City and other organizations who are involved in the management of trees and other valuable natural resources. Our efforts will help keep our City unique, ecologically-balanced and attractive for all residents, businesses, and visitors.

The Friends of El Cerrito Trees


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