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City Sued For Plan To Cut Lake Merritt Trees - Tribune

The City of Oakland is generally accused of not being politically aware, and here's more proof. When the City advanced this measure, it should have known that -- in an environmentally concious Oakland -- people would be up in arms over a plan to eliminate 224 -- 224 trees!

Folks, there aren't that many trees around Lake Merritt, so the majority would have to come from the park next to Children's Fairyland. That's just not something that should happen. That area is one of the true treatures of the city and is at its best i the summer months as a place to go to get away from it all in the middle of it all.


Oaklanders in battle to save 224 trees
Three file suit against city's renovation plan at Lake Merritt
By Heather MacDonald, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND — Three Oaklanders, upset with plans to chop down 224 trees around Lake Merritt as part of a renovation plan, filed suit against the city of Oakland Tuesday.

The lawsuit claims the Oakland City Council's approval of the plan violated state law by not analyzing the cumulative impacts of removing the trees and deepening the Lake Merritt Channel, and asks an Alameda County Superior Court judge to overturn the decision.

Although the city plans to replace the chopped down trees with twice as many new trees, those "toothpick" trees will not replace the green canopy that now hovers over Lake Merritt, combat air pollution or protect against soil erosion caused by run off, said Gloria Pieretti, a plaintiff and member of Friends of the Lake.

The tree removals are part of an $88.3 million effort to revitalize Lake Merritt, paid for by a 2002 bond approved by voters.
"I never would have voted for (the measure) if I'd known they were going to chop down so many trees," Pieretti said at a news conference in front of a large Monterey pine on the shores of Lake Merritt. Pieretti said it would be cut down.

The lawsuit claims many trees slated for removal contain nests for hawks and other birds of prey, and their removal would result in a loss of habitat.

Lyle Oehler, city project manager, said during an examination in late January that a biologist did not find any nests, either active or inactive, in trees slated to be chopped down.

However, Oehler added, a biologist will examine the trees again just before they are removed, and trees with active nests will be spared until after the nesting season in accordance with environmental laws.

The lawsuit contends the city's studies are flawed.

Steve Bloom of the Sierra Club said the revitalization plan is inconsistent with the spirit of the measure, which was approved with 80 percent of the vote.

"There are only a handful of trees at most that should go," Bloom said. "Thecity should stop treating nature like an inconvenience."

According to city officials, 75 percent of the 224 trees to be cut down will allow

12th Street to be reshaped from a 12-lane expressway into a boulevard safe for cyclists and pedestrians. There are more than 2,900 trees around Lake Merritt, officials said.

"We love these trees, we love this lake," said Ken Pratt, a member of Friends of the Lake. "It's like a member of the family."
The channel widening project would create new tidal marsh habitats and stabilize the banks along the channel and 10th Street.

Alex Nguyen, a spokesman for the Oakland City Attorney's Office, declined to comment because he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit.

The first hearing in the case is set for 9 a.m., Sept. 13 in Department 31, Alameda Superior Court, second floor, 201 13th St.
The project includes plans to narrow Lakeside Drive from four lanes to three, while Lakeshore Avenue on the other side of the lake will be reduced from four to two lanes in an effort to slow traffic and build bike lanes. Three acres of new park land will be created, officials said.

Other changes approved by the council include the closure of the southern-most part of El Embarcadero near the Lakeview Branch Library, while the northern part of the road will be widened slightly to allow for two-way traffic. The change will allow for the construction of a new trail and a plaza, officials said.

In addition, 28 parking spaces will be built on what is now a grassy meadow, while 13 spaces will be added on Lakeside Drive by building a landscaped median.

The parking is needed for a new restaurant to be built at the boathouse after a $12 million renovation. The plan will preserve about half of the meadow, and won the support of most — but not all — of the boathouse's neighbors.

E-mail Heather MacDonald at hmacdonald@oaklandtribune.com.
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