Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, June 26, 2015

Three tree tales

Today's Lake Oswego Review has several stories about trees and Lake Oswego's tree codes.  What, besides trees, would get Lake Oswegans this excited?  Can anyone remember the days before tree codes, when trees were the responsibility of the land owner and not something one's neighbors or the city got involved in?

So here we are - looking at trees from 3 different sets of eyes, with City Hall directing the view.

Tree Stories
Often-told tales from Lake Oswego

1.  Fixing Sidewalks
(Letter to the Editor by Sandy Thorsen, Lake Oswego Review, June 25, 2015)
    We did not plant the street trees in front of our home.  We are required to maintain them, which we have no problem doing, but one of the trees is lifting the sidewalk and causing a safety issue.
    The roots are sitting on top on the ground, because a cement contractor used the area to clean his trucks during neighborhood construction.  The roots have nowhere to go, and we believe any tree planted in the location would be affected the same.
    The city was kind enough to come out and grind the sidewalk down, which did help.  But we are not allowed to remove the tree and replace it (we tried that), and in the future we may be liable to fix the sidewalk.
    Why should a homeowner fix a sidewalk problems related by a tree that was not planted by them and cannot be removed?

 2.   Sidewalk Construction on State Street
(Lake Oswego Review, City Notes, June 25, 2015)

    Sidewalk improvements on the west side of State Street between A and B Avenues started last week with tree removal, saw cutting and the demolition of the sidewalks.
    When finished, improvements to the area will include 8-foot-wide ADA-compliant sidewalks, brick accents, landscaping with new street trees, decorative railings and street lights.

3.  Neighbors Unite to Save Trees
First Addition residents say they're concerned about increasing toll development is taking 
(Lake Oswego Review, June 25, 2015, By Cliff Newell)

    Neighbors say the cutting of trees has drastically increased recently in order to make way for large homes, and they beieve something very valuable is being lost.
    "The trees of First Addition are a major asset for our neighborhood," Gustafson said.  Added Andy Clark, "This is a unique place.  There are many trees here that are 100 years old."
   "Are our voices being heard?" asked Cheryl Ogburn.  "We see tree after tree coming down.  Are people making reasonable efforts to preserve trees if they can be preserved?  Is there a set plan for building houses with no consideration for trees?"

The messages in these stories are both contradictory and clear:

 Responsible property owners are prohibited from responsibly by an illogical and rigid City Hall.
2.  The City may remove trees on one side of State Street because of extreme damage to the sidewalks, but Sandy Thorsen cannot.  Neither can the property owner on the east side of State St. preemptively remove the same damaging tree species from in front of their property, even though they have requested to do so and even though the city maintenance department agrees.  City Hall has one set of rules when they want to do something, and private property owners have another.  Will the City assume responsibility for the safety and repair issues caused by damage to infrastructure caused by street trees?
3.  Developers have one set of rules regarding tree removal and average citizens have another.  Developers should be required to follow more restrictions regarding tree removal than existing homeowners in order to preserve neighborhood character, just as they must now follow building design standards to do the same.  The equation is flipped in the wrong direction.  

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