Workers Begin Removal of Redwood on Reddy Realty Property





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When Anne Schonfield heard the roar of a chain saw across from her Central Berkeley home yesterday, it wasn't the noise itself she was worried about.

A redwood tree, which Schonfield had once admired, was being cut apart, and there was little she could do.

"It's their right to do it," she said as the cutters took a break.

Like other residents on the 1600 block of Delaware Street, Schonfield was outraged when workers began cutting down the tree on the grounds of a Reddy Realty apartment building.

"The tree was a marvelous asset," said Joyce Keller, Schonfield's neighbor.

The tree, missing many branches yesterday, will be removed because it threatens to further buckle a garage on an adjacent property, said one of the workers, who refused to give his name.

Neighbors said the reasons for the removal did not outweigh what the tree brought to the neighborhood.

"They don't care about nothing here," said James Hall, who lives in the Reddy complex. "That garage was totally destroyed a long time ago."

City of Berkeley forestry supervisor Jerry Koch estimated there are more than 1,000 redwood trees in Berkeley.

Whether a redwood should be cut down is a difficult issue to gauge, but it is not an unheard of occurrence, Koch said.

"Some are cut down every year, and they're cut down for all different reasons," he said.

A person whose garage is affected by a tree is going to have a very different view from someone who admires it, Koch added.

The sheer cost of removing a tree-often several thousand dollars-serves as a deterrent for cutting them down.

Although the tree removal has generated opposition, the project was free to go on without city approval because it is on private property, which is in contrast to Oakland, where property owners must get permits before removing redwoods and other protected trees.

For almost two years, Berkeley has been working to draft a "mature tree" ordinance that would place similar requirements on some property owners, said Lisa Caronna, director of the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department.

The ordinance, which would not apply to single-family homes, would give residents an opportunity to oppose tree removals.

If no one objected, owners could cut a tree down without further hindrance. Objections would mean a more

extensive permit process.

Any tree disputes would still ideally be resolved on a more "neighbor to neighbor" level than by city staffers, Caronna said.

The Berkeley City Council directed city staffers to develop the ordinance after residents complained about not having a say in tree removals, Caronna said.

"Neighbors were very upset," she said.

Caronna said she does not know when a draft of the ordinance will be complete, noting "it has been a long time."

Reddy Realty was unable to comment.

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