San Carlos closer to cutting down eucalyptus trees

Daily Post Staff Writer

Some 30 to 44 eucalyptus trees along San Carlos Avenue are one step closer to the wood chipper after the San Carlos Planning Commission said it thinks the trees ought to go, however the city council will have the final say next month.

The commission voted 2-1, with commissioners Don Bradley and Angela Pedersen-Harper voting to change city code to allow for the removal of eucalyptus trees dating from the 1890s. Commissioner Shannon Bergman dissented.

Commission Chair David Silberman had to recuse himself from the meeting after one of his neighbors spoke about the trees during the meeting. Silberman lives on San Carlos Avenue, but did not think that any of the trees that could be affected by the city code change were within 500 feet of his house, the threshold for a recusal.

Not a native species

There are 30 or so protected eucalyptus trees along San Carlos Avenue that are believed to have been brought in by one of the first major property owners in San Carlos, Timothy Guy Phelps.

Some of the 10 residents, such as Cara Vonk, Josh Wallace and Sandra Althouse, said because the trees remain from Phelps’ time, they ought to be historic resources, and by cutting them down, the aesthetic of San Carlos will change.

“These are glorious heritage trees, not weeds in the sidewalk,” said Wallace. “Taking all of these trees will have a major aesthetic impact.”

Althouse and Wallace also asked the commission if it was necessary to remove all of the eucalyptus.

Arborist Kevin Kielty, who is on contract with the city, told the commission that eucalyptus trees are dangerous and unpredictable. Kielty previously surveyed a group of eucalyptus trees in Burlingame, and flagged some for removal. But the trees that ended up falling down or getting diseased, he said, were not the ones originally thought to be dangerous.

This echoed some residents’ concerns about the large trees falling, Kielty said. And the trees can weigh about 1,000 pounds per foot.

Tree falls near school

Resident Robert Young, who lives across from Arundel Elementary School, where a eucalyptus fell near the school earlier this year, blocking San Carlos Avenue, said he is in favor of removing the trees. Luckily the tree fell on a day when the children got out of school early, and the tree fell later in the afternoon.

“No one knows when they will fall. If we had lost a life of a youngster, more people would have been here against the trees,” Young said.

Young was one of four residents who spoke out in favor of removing the trees at Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioner Pedersen-Harper said she was in favor of the removal of the trees because “we have an opportunity to correct a mistake that happened 129 years ago” when the trees were brought to San Carlos.

However, all residents and commissioners agreed that the city will need a plan for replacing the trees. Public Works Director Jay Walter said the plan is to replace the trees when the sidewalks along San Carlos Avenue are potentially put in. That plan still has to be approved by the council.

The council is slated to vote whether the trees will remain protected or not at its Oct. 9 meeting.